Steelstown lift Ulster Intermediate Championship on historic day in Owenbeg

Ulster Intermediate Football Championship Final

Steelstown Brian Ogs 0-06, Moortown 0-04

It was ugly; it was horrible........ and it was bloody brilliant!

Steelstown Brian Ogs are the 2021 Ulster Intermediate Football club champions after an afternoon which will be written into the folklore of the Ballyarnett club. The game was forgettable, the outcome unforgettable and after 34 years waiting for one taste of championship success, the Brian Ogs have two in two months and will now go forward to represent Derry and Ulster in the All Ireland Club series at the end of January.

Steelstown players celebrate their Ulster GAA Football Intermediate Club Championship Final win over Moortown at Owenbeg . (Photo: George Sweeney)

But that's for next week. This one is all about celebration and the Brian Ogs deserve every plaudit after showing a different side to their game in a tense, tactical final that became a battle of wits against a difficult opposition who tried to frustrate them into submission.

This was a new challenge for Hugh McGrath's young side and one which they struggled with for long periods but when they refused to panic, eventually wearing Moortown down and once the finally levelled the game at three points apiece with nine minutes left, there was only going to be one winner.

Cahir McMonagle hit five of Steelstown's points, including that crucial equaliser but it was the introduction of substitutes Emmet Deane and especially Gareth Logue that eventually turned the tide in the city side's favour. Where once, Steelstown's play had been slow and predictable, Logue's pace and direct running suddenly opened the game up and Moortown didn't know how to handle him.

Logue won breaks, won frees and created the space from which his team-mates finally found their feet. Fellow substitute Deane was also pivotal, scoring one and providing an injection of strength and power just when the Tyrone legs were beginning to tire.

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Steelstown captain lifts the Ulster GAA Football Intermediate Club Championship trophy at Owenbeg. (Photo: George Sweeney)

It was yet another illustration of the Steelstown strength in depth and meant the ugliest of games got the fairytale every in blue and yellow could only dare about minutes earlier.

The first half was a turgid affair, Moortown content to bring 14 men inside their own 45 and Steelstown lacking the creativity and speed to pierce the well manned Tyrone defensive unit.

Too much of the Brian Ogs' play was slow with lateral passing playing directly into Moortown hands. Gone was the pace and direct running which had unhinged Donegal champions Cloughaneely and Monaghan's Donaghmoyne.

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Some of that could be attributed to nerves but credit had to go to Moortown whose game-plan worked well in the opening half. It was never going to make it a spectacle for the 4,000 strong crowd in Owenbeg but it did it's job. Well, to a point.

Steelstown players celebrate their Ulster GAA Football Intermediate Club Championship Final win over Moortown with manager Hugh McGrath at Owenbeg. (photo: George Sweeney)

The problem for the Tyrone men was it was a game-plan based on Steelstown making mistakes and becoming frustrated. After posting the big scores they had in previous games, that frustration was evident for long periods with erratic shooting and poor decisions. That allowed Moortown to build a first quarter 0-3 to no score lead but those would be Moortown's final scores for 43 minutes, substitute Con Heron fisting their only point of the second half on 59 minutes.

By that time Steelstown had ground their way into a deserved two lead and when the game was in the balance and a ball needed to be won with only one between them, it was Logue who picked up his fourth break in 10 minutes to start a move which eventually ended with McMonagle shooting the insurance point and the decibel level in Owenbeg almost taking the roof off.

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It's not the first time in this Ulster run that Hugh McGrath's changes have proved critical and he and Raymond Tracey deserve huge praise for ensuring their team didn't fall into a well laid Moortown trap.

The opening quarter told us everything about the arm wrestle that was to follow. Moortown had their match-ups we researched with al the Brain Ogs' danger men being detailed company that would probably have followed them to the bathroom had they gone.

Conor Quinn ensured Brian Ogs captain Neil Forester didn't have his usual impact while both Donncha Gilmore and Ben McCarron had quiet games by their high standards. One man Moortown couldn't keep quiet though was Diarmuid Baker who stick continues to rise with yet another brilliant display that earned him man of the match honours.

The early stages saw Steelstown time and again wash up against the Moortown defensive wall while the Tyrone side first tow attacks brought two Peter Devlin frees and a two point lead. Devlin, operating as a lone man inside increased that advantage to three with a well taken mark and it wasn't until the 32st minute that McMonagle eventually got Steelstown off the mark with a nice score from the right.

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Guilty of over playing at times, Steelstown were making no inroads inside which prompted the introduction of Morgan Murray at half-time with and the Steelstown intensity certainly increased after the break.

There were still signs of impetuous shooting but Steelstown retained possession better to ensure Moortown were living off scraps and chasing ball, a fact which eventually caused the Tyrone men to tire slightly on a heavy pitch.

A definitive moment arrived on 45 minutes when the excellent Brian McLernon saw his shot strike the Steelstown post and rebound away to safety with his side still 0-3 to 0-2 up. Moortown needed that lifeline at that point and instead it was McMonagle who levelled minutes later.

With Logue at the heart of evewrything now, suddenly the Steelstown men were moving quicker across the pitch with Deane shooting over a lovely fourth to put Steelstown ahead for the first time before a McMongle free stretched that lead to 0-5 to 0-3.

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The title was within reach now but Heron's point had the nerves jangling again, especially with four added minutes signalled. Deane hit one wide but McMonagle had been the one Steelstown forward to hold his nerve all afternoon and his fifth of the day sealed the deal.

Steelstown were Ulster champions and the story doesn't end there.....

Steelstown scorers: Cahir McMonagle (0-5, 2f), E Deane (0-1)

Moortown scorers: Peter Devlin (0-3, 2f, 1m), Con Heron (0-1),

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Steelstown: Eoghan Heraghty, Oran Fox, Kevin Lindsay, Diarmuid Baker, Donncha Gilmore, Jason McAleer, Eoghan Concannon, Oran McMenamin, Ryan Devine, Shane O'Connor, Neil Forester, Ben McCarron, Mark Foley, Cahir McMonagle, Eoghan Bradley. (Subs) Morgan Murray for M Foley, HT; Gareth Logue for R Devine, 48mins; Emmet Deane for E Concannon, 51mins (blood sub);

Yellow cards: E Concannon, 27mins; R Devine, 41mins; B McCarron, 44mins;

Moortown: Colm Spiers, Pauric O'Hagan, Michael Devlin, Connor Quinn, Conor McVeigh, Christopher McGuigan, Brian McLernon, Tarlach Quinn, Blaine Ryan, Sean Kelly, Peter Devlin, Karl Hagan, Shaun Conway, Ryan Kelly, Lee Kelly. (Subs) Con Heron for L Kelly, 42mins; Shea Lawn for P O'Hagan, 59mins;

Yellow cards: P Devlin, 48mins; T Quinn, 55mins; C Quinn, 63mins;

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Referee: Conor Dourneen (Cavan)