Eoghan Rua giant killing run ends as Middletown cap thrilling comeback

Middletown (Armagh) . 0-19Eoghan Rua . . . . . . . . .1-13Nine first half wides in their total of 13 proved costly for a battling Eoghan Rua team who were huge underdogs against Armagh senior champions, Middletown, at Celtic Park on Sunday.

Eoghan Rua’s Colm McGoldrick was on target against Armagh champions Middletown in Celtic Park on Sunday.
Eoghan Rua’s Colm McGoldrick was on target against Armagh champions Middletown in Celtic Park on Sunday.

The Coleraine team left nothing on the field in a thrilling encounter. The Armagh side, who finished stronger, only took the lead for the first time with seven minutes to go when impressive sub Ben Toal sent over the point of the game.

With four minutes of regular time left it was level when Leo Passmore’s

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free went over but Dean Gaffney, the Armagh county player, proved their star man with 10 pointed frees, a couple of them fortunate, but his accuracy was commendable.

Possibly the reason Eoghan Rua tired in the closing stages was the sheer intensity they put into their game. With the slight breeze behind them they were much the better team in the first half with their 1-10 to 0-9 lead not reflective of their domination. By playing the game at such a high tempo players tended to be hasty in their finishing and clear cut chances were wasted.

The defending in this period was superb with captain Ruairi Mooney, Ciaran McGoldrick and Pearse Dallas closing down space for the favourites. Keeper Kevin McCarry’s massive puck outs put pressure on the visitors back line where Niall Holly, Colm McGoldrick and Dara Mooney were outstanding.

Straight from the throw in Colm McGoldrick put the Derry champions in front and the lead was quickly doubled by Dara Mooney as they swarmed all over the hot favourites. Paddy McBride replied for Middletown but in the fifth minute Holly robbed goalie Fintan Woods and sent the ball low to the net from an acute angle.

Dean Gaffney and Sean Og McGuinness snapped up chances at the other end but a well struck free by Leo Passmore left Eoghan Rua 1-3 0-3 in front after 14 exhausting minutes though their lead should really have been five or six.

Another Passmore free was cancelled out by Gaffney and as the two continued to convert frees Eoghan Rua led by 1- 5 to 0-5 after 25 minutes.

Then a brilliant point from Sean Leo McGoldrick was followed by another from brother, Colm, and with a 1-7 to 0-5 lead hopes were high that the Coleraine men were on the way to another shock victory.

A rather fortunate free was converted by Gaffney only for Passmore to reply with a monster point from play before Nathan Curry, also from distance, left a goal between the teams. In the 31st minute Dara Mooney left Eoghan Rua 1-9 to 0-8 in front at the break!

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Late call up Paddy McBride closed the gap to a goal seconds after the restart but the Eoghan Rua lead was quickly back to four when Holly sent over from a tight angle.

In the 34th minute a Passmore free looked to have been just inside the post but, after hesitation by the umpires, it was given wide.

A free from close on 100m by Gaffney left the score 1-10 to 0-10 as Eoghan Rua still looked good enough to get the result.

Colm McGoldrick and Pasmore missed chances to stretch the Eoghan Rua lead but by now they had shot 13 wides. Entering the final quarter there were signs of tiredness creeping into in the Coleraine limbs as two Gaffney frees and a wonderful point from corner back Kevin McKernan levelled the game for the first time at 0-13 to 1-10.

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Substitute Ben Toal and another Gaffney free looked to have put Middletown on the road to victory but there was still a kick left in the North Coast men.

First, Lorcan McMullan picked up the ball in midfield and cut through for a brilliant point. Then, in the 56th minute, Passmore punished a foul on Holly who had to leave the field briefly with an injury earlier. His brief absence for a blood injury was badly missed for his physical presence.

At 1-12 to 0-15 it was in the balance but Middletown now looked to have a bit more left in the lungs. Gaffney edged them ahead and in a response Colm McGoldrick had an effort saved by impressive goalie Fntan Woods. As the game went into four minutes added time Nathan Curry and Ben Toal made it a three point game.

A foul on Lorcan McMullan gave Eoghan Rua a close in free but Passmore’s effort cleared the bar.

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The deadly accurate Gaffney, with his 10th successful free, had the last say and Eoghan Rua’s giant killing run had come to an end. They had lost the game but they can be proud of their efforts this year, efforts which have seen them rise from junior to become a strong intermediate team.

Eoghan Rua scorers: Leo Pasmore (0-6,5f), Niall Holly (1-1), Colm McGoldrick and Dara Mooney (0-2) each, Sean Leo McGoldrick and Lorcan McMllan (0-1) each.

Middletown scorers: Dean Gaffney (0-10f), Paddy McBride and Ben Toal (0-2) each, Sean Og McGuinnes, Kevin McKernan, Odhran Curry, Nathan Curry and Ryan Gaffney (0-1) each.

Eoghan Rua: Kevin McCarry, Barry McGoldrick, Pearse Dallas, Ciaran McGoldrick, Ruairi Mooney (capt), Ciaran Lagan, Aidan Boyle, Sean Leo McGoldrick, Lorcan McMullen, Dara Mooney, Colm McGoldrick Adam Kerr, Leo Passmore, Kosta Papachristopolus, Niall Holly. (Sub) Paddy Burns.

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Middletown: Fintan woods, Kieran McKernan, Paul Gaffney Paddy McBride, Pauric Hughes, Shaun Toal, Tiarnan Nevin, Pedar McBride, Odhran Curry, Dean Gaffney, Nathan Curry, Paudie Lappin, Ryan Gaffney, Cathal Carville, Sean Og McGuinness. (Subs) Ben Toal, Paudie McGuigan.

Referee: Colum Cunning (Antrim).