Late drama as St. Columb's College defeat Loreto College in MacLarnon Cup

The St. Columb's College panel who defeat Loreto College in their Mac larnon Cup, Group D clash at Celtic Park on Wednesday.
The St. Columb's College panel who defeat Loreto College in their Mac larnon Cup, Group D clash at Celtic Park on Wednesday.

2019/20 Danske Bank Mac Larnon Cup, Group D

An afternoon that started with an impeccable minute’s silence for the late Oran Boyd, ended with his St. Columb’s College team-mates providing a fitting finale to their friend in a thrilling Mac Larnon Cup, Group D encounter in Celtic Park.

A post match congratulatory tweet from the Buncrana Road college read, “Today was for you, Oran” and it certainly felt as if the popular Slaughtmanus player, who tragically passed away last week after a brave battle against illness, was uppermost in the thoughts of every St. Columb’s player on a day they refused to accept defeat.

But boy, did they come close to it!

Trailing almost exclusively from the fifth minute to the 60th, St. Columb’s had to survive a missed Loreto penalty deep into injury time when Ben Dillon dragged his shot wide after the city boys had fought their way back to level.

That remarkable recovery saw James McQuillan’s side hit seven scores without reply and keep Loreto scoreless for the final 14 minutes of a pulsating second half.

And with the sides level and Dillon’s penalty having scraped the Celtic Park posts’ paint work, the stage was set for someone to be a hero. Shea Browne accepted the role but only after Cahir McMonagle dragged his team to the edge of victory.

The young Steelstown player was superb all afternoon but uncharacteristically wayward from a couple of late frees that could have proved critical. That might have shaken some players but McMonagle didn’t hide. Instead he won the subsequent 64th minute Loreto kick-out and set about weaving his way through three tackles to set up Browne for a point that decided a classic.

This was victory by determination. Forget tactics, formations and master-plans - this was a team staring down the barrel and pulling itself back from the brink in 10 enthralling final minutes.

Indeed, for long periods the Derry City school had been second best to a well organised and efficient Loreto team whose counter-attacking style caused St. Columb’s problems all afternoon. But when needs must, the character of the likes of McMonagle, the excellent Donncha Gilmore, Naoise O Mianain, Browne and Jude Og Moore carried the College through.Difficult windy conditions didn’t help the players but Loreto were in charge from early on after Shane McElhinney had shot St. Columb’s into the lead.

And Loreto’s opening score was a major one as a quickly taken free sent Ben Dillon through to punch over the advancing Adam Harrigan. The superb Dara Mooney tagged on a point and from there St. Columb’s were chasing.

Jude Og Moore and Keelan O’Kane reduced the deficit to one at 1-1 to 0-3 but every time the College closed, Loreto found the necessary response as Dillon and Emmet Morrison pushed the visitors out to 1-03 to 0-03.

From there to half-time it was tit-for-tat, Loreto taking advantage of a College kick-out that didn’t always function as it should and the College unable to get enough decent ball into their dangerous full forwards.

The College did however outscore Loreto 0-5 to 0-2 in the final 10 minutes of the opening half, a prelude to the dramatic finale that would ensue after the interval as the teams turned around with Loreto 1-08 to 0-9 in front.

Shea Browne’s point inside 14 seconds of the restart looked the catalyst for the onslaught and it was - just not at the end expected as Loreto hit scores through Lorcan McMullan, Dillon and Conor Mullan to lead 1-11 to 0-10 five minutes in.

McMonagle stopped the rot with a point before setting up Jack Boyce for a brilliant low finish into the corner of the net that had St Columb’s in front for the first time since their opening point.

Their lead was brief though as Dillon and substitute Ronan Close put Loreto back in front and two minutes later it looked game over when Ballerin’s Kosta Papachristopolus got up above Harrigan to punch a high centre into the St. Columb’s net.

Further scores from Mooney, McMullan and Papachristopolus made it 2-16 to 1-12 with 10 minutes left and the game looked over. Indeed, it would have been had Harrigan not superbly saved from Odhran McLarnon.

The College weren’t finished though as a superb Jude Og Moore point lit the blue touch paper. Suddenly, the College’s short passing game was finding runners everywhere. O’Kane, Padraig Nelis, Shane McElhinney, Browne and McMonagle (2) all split the posts and the sides were level.

The penalty was clear cut for a foul on Mooney after he sold a lovely dummy but Loreto didn’t accept their chance to win it.

When McMonagle offered Browne the same opportunity, there was only one outcome which sets up a group defining tie against St Pius’, Magherafelt.

St Columb’s scorers: Jack Boyce (1-0), Cahir McMonagle (0-7, 4f), Shane McElhinney (0-2), Jude Og Moore (0-2), Keelan O’Kane (0-2), Liam Connolly (0-2), Aidan Cutliffe (0-1), Shea Browne (0-3), Padraig Nelis (0-1).

Loreto scorers: Ben Dillon (1-4, 1f), Kosta Papachristopolus (1-1), Dara Mooney (0-3, 1f), Emmet Morrison (0-1), Michael Og McKeown (0-1), Lorcan McLullan (0-4), Conor Mullan (0-1), Ronan Close (0-1).

ST COLUMB’S COLLEGE: Adam Harrigan; Ryan McCloskey, Naoise O Mianian, Padraig Nelis; Mark McGilligan, Shane McElhinney, Keelan O’Kane; Donncha Gilmore, Shea Browne; Tiarnan O’connor, Cahir McMonagle, Aidan Cutliffe; Jack Boyce, Jude Og Moore, Liam Connolly.

(Subs) Reece McLaughlin for M McGilligan, 35mins; Aaron McDuff for A Cutliffe, 40mins; Michael Moore for Ryan McCloskey, 47mins; Matthew Stephenson for J Boyce, 50mins.

LORETO COLLEGE: Leo Passmore, Cathair McCloskey, Charlie Dempsey, Eoghan Gormely; Eoin McKeever, Conor Mullan, Odhran McLarnon, Cillian Calvert, Emmet Morrison, Lorcan McMullan, Dara Mooney, Michael Og McKeown, Ben Dillon, Kosta Papachristopolus, Conn Kilmartin.

(Subs) Fionn Calvert for C Calvert, HT; Ronan Close for C Kilmartin, HT; Cathal Bradley for M Og McKeown, 62mins.

REFEREE: Damian Harkin