Steelstown through to semis with late winner

February 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Steelstown 2-11 Greencastle 1-13

60 MINUTES came and went at Páirc Bhríd on Sunday afternoon with Steelstown trailing all the while.

Chances came and chances went as Tyrone’s Greencastle looked set to move two points clear at the top of Group A in what was their final game of the Ulster League.

But, having already disposed of the challenges of Slaughtneil and Ardara, Hugh McGrath’s charges took a sure belief into this top-of-the-table showdown which carried right into what was a climatic extra time.

With two minutes to spare, with the visitors tiring, Eamonn Donnelly latched onto a Gavin Scallon diagonal ball, swivelled onto his right foot and fired low beneath the goalkeeper to edge the Óg’s in front for the first time in the game.

With more changes to the starting line-up, with the rescue mission coming courtesy of two further subsitutes, the Ballyarnet men laid down a big marker as they snatched victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat and saw out a nervy end to build even more momentum on what is currently an undefeated season.

With a squad shorn of the services of Marty Dunne, Michael Moore, Eamon Gibson, Conor McGoran, Stephen Cleary, and Liam Heffernan, the Steelstown management watched on as the depths of their panel staked massive claims.

Eoghan Heraghty was solid beneath the posts and executed expert kickouts all afternoon.  Only a suspiciously square ball goal had the beaten of him and it was the solitary difference by the end of a first half characterised by strong opposition running, and delightful James Jackson play.

The full forward racked up 0-4 in all but laid in his partner-in-crime Dan Jackson with a genius left footed ball over the top which invariably ended in the back of the net.

Upon the restart though, Brian Óg’s smelled blood.

Darren McDaid took supreme control of the middle third, Neil Forester was hoovering up breaks like they were going of fashion, and the Óg’s overran their adversaries for fun.

Mickey McKinney carried on his tremendous form with some energetic running and delicious passing and, despite the scoreboard hesitant to reflect the balance of play, the screw was turning and that three point half time deficit was wilting.

As the home side moved up the gears, McDaid came tearing through the centre and sliced wide in what was a red alert warning the visitors never heeded.

No sooner, the midfielder was charging through again and doubling up on his first half monster score before adding a third, a carbon copy of the second.

Brian Devine replaced the injured Daniel Jackson and the lively full forward took things on another level as he won possession with ease and gave his side a crucial out every time.

The same boy could so easily have won it when he was inches from converting Eamonn Donnelly’s low pull across goals but, eventually, the latter came good when he rifled home in extra time to condemn Greencastle to their first defeat and send Steelstown on their merry way into the tournament’s final four with a game to spare.

Steelstown now sit two points clear at the top of Group A but, with Greencastle having played all their games, Belcoo are their nearest rivals and sit three adrift of the Óg’s.

An away trip to Fermanagh next week concludes the group’s fixtures.

Steelstown: Eoghan Heraghty; Shane O’Connor, Paul O’Hea, Tony Ling; Neil Forester, Ryan McCloskey, Oran Sweeney; Darren McDaid (0-3), Kevin Lindsay; Conán Doherty, Ruairi McKeever (0-2), Mickey McKinney; Dan Jackson (1-2), James Jackson (0-4), Aidan Cleary

Subs: Ryan Devine for Sweeney (40), Brian Devine for Dan Jackson (45), Gavin Scallon for McKeever (45), Eamonn Donnelly (1-0) for James Jackson (52)