Early season victory for Steelstown

February 3, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Steelstown 0-11 Slaughtneil 0-9

STEELSTOWN Brian Óg’s got their Ulster League campaign off to a flier when they edged out Derry rivals Slaughtneil on Sunday afternoon.

On Cathal Corey’s debut game in charge of the Emmet’s, the Kildress man and his squad were given a hostile welcome at Páirc Bhríd as the Ballyarnet men laid down a good marker over last year’s county finalists.

The home side settled first when a Stephen Cleary free set them on their way but Slaughtneil weren’t long in clawing in front when Paul Bradley – finally free from injury – split the posts twice at the other end.

The mammoth presence of Paudie McGuigan was causing problems for Steelstown around the middle but the visitors couldn’t punish Hugh McGrath’s outfit in a first half with a strong breeze blowing at their backs.

A frighteningly strong full back line of Tony Ling, Paul O’Hea, and Kevin Lindsay offered little change to the frustrated Slaughtneil attacks and, complimented by Neil Forester at number six and some expert sweeping by Mickey McKinney, the maroon jerseys were consistently held at an arm’s length.

Gradually, the hosts found their footing on the heavy February pitch and, as Slaughtneil reverted to type and dropped deep their two wing half forwards, Eamon Donnelly and Ryan McCloskey grew more influential as the Steelstown backs pushed right into opposition territory.

The Emmet’s took a one point advantage in at the break but, immediately at the restart, things changed.  They changed drastically.

With the gale now in favour of the city men, half time substitute Ryan Devine caught the throw-in, found Logue in the full forward line, and Dan Jackson did the rest.  For the next 15 minutes, it was all Steelstown as the blue and gold went at their adversaries ruthlessly.

Darren McDaid, putting in a man of the match shift, seemed to be attracting the size five wherever he went and Jackson, Logue, and Cleary were serviced religiously with weighted balls.

Logie was sharp, he was darting to the wing, holding first time and drawing fouls for Stephen Cleary to effortlessly dispose of.  Two from the very depths of the left wing had Steelstown 0-11 to 0-8 clear with 10 minutes to spare.

But, all at once, the pendulum swung and Steelstown stopped.

Slaughtneil pushed and pushed but they couldn’t break the Óg’s barrier.  Defenders tackled, attackers retreated, and a force field was set up around the hosts’ defensive dome.

But answers were needed.  In a period where McGrath’s side underwent a litany of testers, a level of maturity shone through far removed from the developing years where a lead like Sunday’s might well have been lost in the closing stages.

The one time the barrier was broken, Mickey McKinney was at hand to punch clear beneath the posts and, just when it looked like Padrig Kelly had worked an opening, Darren McDaid hurled his body in front to produce a goal-saving block.  Corey’s men were restricted to a point and Steelstown hung on.

Steelstown: Martin Dunne; Kevin Lindsay, Paul O’Hea, Tony Ling; Ryan McCloskey, Neil Forester, Eamon Donnelly; Eamonn Gibson, Darren McDaid; Daniel Jackson (0-3, 0-2f), Stephen Cleary (0-7, 0-5f), Michael McKinney; Gareth Logue (0-1), James Jackson, Aidan Cleary

Subs: Ryan Devine for Gibson (HT), Ciaran Flanagan for Dan Jackson (44), Paul Ferris for James Jackson (47), Conan Doherty for Logue (50)