Foreglen hold off Loughlin's Greenlough comeback to make semi-finals
McFeely Group Derry Intermediate Football Championship semi-final
Foreglen 1-11, Greenlough 1-08
A game of two halves produced only one winner as Foreglen advanced to the Intermediate semi-finals courtesy of a superb first half display in Celtic Park on Saturday.
The O'Brien's were simply brilliant in the opening half, hitting 1-08 and conceding only Stephen Bradley's free as they built a 10 point interval lead that appeared to render the second half meaningless as a contest. Indeed had Foreglen scored one of two other gilt edged goal chances they also created in that one sided 30 minutes then the match would have been done and dusted. Yet even without those, it looked like the O'Brien's had already done enough as the short whistle sounded such was Greenlough's poor opening half.
St. Oliver Plunketts however, still had one ace to play in the form of their No. 18 shirt, filled on the bench by county star Niall Loughlin who had been troubled by a back injury. Staring down the barrel and despite clearly not being fully fit, Loughlin answered his club's call and his introduction transformed a game which had previously been a Foreglen procession to the last four.
The Derry forward had hit 1-01 inside six minutes and suddenly the whole dynamic of the game was changed, Foreglen suddenly looking nervous as legs began to tire in the closing stages. Greenlough's second half saw them hit 1-07 to Foreglen's 0-3 but those three points were enough to get the O'Brien's over the line. Greenlough did have it back to two points with five minutes to play but the experience of players like Mark McCormick and Oisin Duffy proved crucial as Foreglen successfully ran down the clock after Darren O'Kane clinching point.
The tense finale was a world away from the champagne football of Foreglen's opening half which exploded into life with 1-02 from Mark McCormick inside nine minutes. The big midfielder already had two points and seen Kevin O'Connor send a great goal chance inches wide when O'Connor's '45' dropped on to the bar and invitingly into his path. McCormick didn't need asking twice!
From there, Foreglen almost scored at will, the excellent Cahir O'Connor, Liam O'Hara, Kevin O'Connor, Liam Downey, Kevin Dunne and McCormick again hitting some great scores and it looked plain sailing. Loughlin's appearance changed that totally, 1-08 to 0-01 becoming 1-09 to 1-03 inside the opening nine minutes of the second half and Greenlough visibly grew in confidence after a first half which had seen them hit five wides and give countless ball away in promising conditions.
Now though there was a menace but their cause wasn't helped by a red card for substitute Conor Mullan for lashing out at Liam O'Hara as the pair tussled for the ball after Mullan had done well to force a '45'. Despite being a man down, Greenlough kept coming and when Patrick Feeney hit a huge score for 1-10 to 1-08, the impossible comeback looked possible.
Foreglen have been down this championship track plenty of time before though and where other teams might have faltered, the O'Brien's dug deep with O'Kane's point ensuring the win. In the end it was tighter than it probably should have been but championship games are for winning. Greenlough were left with a 'what if' over Loughlin but Foreglen had done enough.
Sunday’s evening draw at Owenbeg following the senior semi-finals handed the O’Brien’s probably the toughest possible last four clash when it paired them with championship favourites, Drumsurn in a game set for next Saturday in Owenbeg at 5.00pm. The second semi-final between Castledawson and Glenullin will take place 24 hours later, also in Owenbeg.
Foreglen will go into that last four tie as underdogs, a tag they won’t be too unhappy about though Drumsurn are unlikely to make the mistake of underestimating the O’Briens, especially in championship football.
And so the most open of the Derry football championships was down to four clubs with still a case to be made for any one of that quartet. Foreglen won’t be favourites but that will barely raise an eyebrow among this group of players who have developed that happy habit of knowing what it takes to win championship games. They will need every inch of that experience next weekend against a Drumsurn team building up a head of steam at precisely the right time but those are odds that will suit the O’Brien’s. Roll on next Saturday!
Foreglen scorers: Mark McCormick (1-04, 3f), Cahir O'Connor (0-1), Kevin O'Connor (0-1, 1f), Liam Downey (0-2), Kevin Dunne (0-1), Liam O'Hara (0-1), Darren O'Kane (0-1),
Greenlough scorers: Niall Loughlin (1-3, 1f, 1 '45') Stephen Bradley (0-3, 3f), Brian McCallion (0-1), Patrick Feeney (0-1),
Foreglen: Eoghan Duffy, Paul O'Kane, Sean O'Connor, John Duffy, Liam Downey, Oisin Duffy, James O'Kane, Darren O'Kane, Mark McCormick, Liam O'Hara, (11), Kevin Dunne, Cahir O'Connor, Tiarnan O'Connor, Kevin O'Connor, Caolan O'Connor. (Subs) Eunan McFeely for J O'Kane (inj), 23mins; Conrad Sheerin for S O'Connor, 52mins; Jonathan O'Dwyer for K Dunne, 58mins; Shea Watson for C O'Connor, mins;
Greenlough: Christopher Maguire, Joseph Kearney, Paul Quinn, Jamie Kennedy, Conall Erlean, Martin Kane, Martin McPeake, Christopher Lynn, Jack McCann, Ruairi Henry, Brian McCallion, Saoirse Lagan, Stephen Bradley, Patrick Feeney, Christopher Kearney.
(Subs) Niall Loughlin for J McCann, HT; Conor Mullan for M Kane, HT; Lorcan Convery for C Lynn, 40mins; Christopher Lagan for R Henry, 49mins;
Referee: Ciaran O'Connor