SCHOOLS GAA: Late blitz settles St. Columb's nerves against Downpatrick
St. Columb's College 6:10, St. Patrick's, Downpatrick 3-11
St. Columb’s College Year 9s continued their welcome habit of finishing strongly to claim an Ulster Colleges Corn Colmcille semi-final spot with an impressive Quarter-final victory over St. Patrick’s, Downpatrick.
The Buncrana Road boys had already served notice of their attacking talents during excellent Group C wins over Carrickmacross and Cookstown, results that were secured by scoring blitzes in the final 10 minutes of what were previously close games.
Those victories saw St. Columb’s top Group ‘C’ and although Downpatrick had finished third in Group ‘A’, the down school’s group included ‘bit hitters’ such at St. Eunan’s, Bessbrook and Knock, so St. Columb’s knew they faced huge challenge at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena, Cookstown.
St Columb’s started with the with wind advantage and Niall McGonagle soon opened the scoring with direct ball served on plate from half-back Callum Deery. This was soon followed by an eye catching score from Eamon Óg Feeney following a mazy run and an outrageous a dummy that sent two Downpatrick defenders off in the wrong direction. Two more scores from Oran McMenamin and James McLaughlin left St Columb’s with a four point lead.
Downpatrick registered two scores to narrow the gap and could have scored the first goal only for a great block by full back Kealan McLaughlin. Team captain Shea Browne responded with a lung bursting 60 yard run to find himself one-on-one with the Downpatrick net minder but his low effort was saved by the outstretched foot of the keeper. The resulting 45 did however create the first goal with an creative chip to Feeney and return pass to McMenamin finding the Downpatrick net.
Downpatrick pinned St. Columb’s into their own 45 for next 10 minutes resulting in two scores before McGonagle exploded into life again, making the Downpatrick net bulge with a thunderous shot from 15 yards. The resulting kick out found Tiarnan O’ Conor whose quick vision found McGonagle who in turned hooked the ball over the bar for a half-time lead of 2-06 to 0-04.
St Columb’s manager Michael McLaughlin’s half time change of Ciarán Curray for Curley at midfield paid an immediate dividend, as Curray won the throw-up, powered up the field and found Tiarnan O’ Connor in space, O’ Connor duly obliged with his trusted left foot and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner.
This should have signalled the end of the contest with St. Columb’s 11 points up but two quick points began the St Parrick’s fight back before Oran McMenamin scored a free.
This would be St Columb’s final score for 10 minutes as Downpatrick hit 2-03 with the local side in danger of suffering a melt down.
Still two points up but sensing the danger, Mr McLaughlin and Mr Trainor went to their bench and the changes had the desired effect. Caolan Hargan replaced Shields, Donncha Gilmore switched to corner back, Tiaran O’Connor to half back and Feeney to half-forward.
Team Captain, Shea Browne, scored and outstanding individual effort, mirroring his run in the first half. However, this time, he found the net and it was followed by a point from Ciarán Curray, and another goal from James McLaughlin. Shea Browne capped a fine individual performance with the final goal to send a relieved St Columb’s College into the last four with McLaughlin paying tribute to his players.
“They could have panicked and folded when St Patrick’s came back at us,” explained the St. Columb’s manager, “There is nothing worse in sport than to see a commanding lead disappear. However, we have spoke about how football at this age group swings with goals and how teams will always come back, so mentally, they understand, that when this happens you stick to what works for you and to their credit they did that.”
St Columb’s College scorers: Niall McGonagle 1-3. Oran McMenamin 1-3. Shea Browne 2-0. Eamon Óg Feeney 0-2. James McLaughlin 1-1. Tiarnan O’ Connor 1-0. Ciarán Curray 0-1.
St Columb’s College: Ben O’Kane; Conor Gartland, Kealan McLaughlin, Jack Shields; Callum Deery, Padhraig Nelis, Donncha Gilmore; Shea Browne, Oran Curley; Tiarnan O’Connor, Oran McMenamin, Ronan McAleer; James McLaughlin, Niall McGonagle, Eamon Óg Feeney. (Subs) Ciarán Curray for O Curley. Caolan Hargan for J Shields.