Eire Ogs 4-11 Creggan 1-15
PROVINCIAL glory is now just one step away for the Carrickmore hurlers after a brilliant first half performance gave them the perfect platform to seal this emphatic victory over their Antrim opponents in the semi-final of the Ulster Intermediate Hurling Club Championship at Owenbeg on Saturday.
Victory puts the Eire Ogs into the provincial decider for the first time since 2015. They did it in style, too, with a five point victory which owed much to a quartet of great goals in the opening period.
An absolutely sensational personal tally of those four goals from the full-forward Sean Og Grogan enlivened the Eire Ogs challenge in the first half of this clash. He rifled to the net in brilliant fashion to help the Carrickmore side into a commanding interval lead. Carrickmore will now proceed to play Middletown of Armagh in the Ulster Final on the weekend after next. The evidence produced here suggest that they will be strong contenders to claim a first title at this level.
It was almost too good to be true for the underdogs in those opening stages. But it didn’t happen by chance as their direct style, teamwork and accuracy proved to be a fruitful mixture that yielded the dividends where it mattered most.
Swapped points between Conor McCann for Creggan and Oisin Daly for the Eire Ogs got things going. Then, the Eire Ogs really found their form, as Anthony Crossan, Dermot Begley, Ruairi Slane and Justin Kelly all upped the tempo.
Goal number one for Sean Og Grogan arrived in just the third minute. He won possession from a Bryan McGurk pass, rounded his marker and then fired a low hard shot to the net. Now was the time for the Eire Ogs to consolidate that positive start and they did so emphatically, even though Creggan responded courtesy of Conor McCann.
From then on, it was all the Eire Ogs. Points in quick succession from Conn Sweeney and Ruairi Slane consolidated their advantage, before the second goal arrived from Sean Og Grogan. It was a carbon-copy of the opening goal, with the full-forward once more rounding his marker before firing home.
That left them 2-3 to 0-2. However, they had to keep things steady as Conor McCann accuracy from frees continued to keep Creggan in contention. He registered two points, and they soon enjoyed a revival of their own.
Kevin Rice boosted their confidence with a sideline cut. Moments later a great catch from Ethan Carey-Small saw him pass to Conor McCann, who laid the ball off to Kevin Rice. He subsequently hit the net to suddenly put the tie right back in the balance.
The score was now 2-4 to 1-5, and the Eire Ogs once again extended that lead. The full-back dropped the ball, and Sean Og Grogan was waiting to capitalising, firing first time to the net. That left Carrickmore 3-4 to 1-5 ahead and they weren’t finished yet.
A real flourish to the finish of that half left them in pole position. Points courtesy of Conn Sweeney and Dermot Begley kept them going, and then Sean Og Grogan registered the fourth of those fabulous four goals.
This time he doubled overhead on a ball from Oisin Daly to leave them 4-7 to 1-7 ahead. Conor McCann and Oran McCann did increase the Creggan total, but it was the Eire Ogs who were best value for that big half-time lead.
Three points from Dermot Begley immediately on the resumption saw the Eire Ogs go 10 points ahead. Now the task for them was to maintain that momentum and ensure that Creggan weren’t allowed to gain a foothold to stage a revival.
Good defending from Dean Rafferty, Jonathan Munroe and Anthony Crossan kept Carrickmore on top. But they still had to ensure sustained Creggan pressure as the Antrim champions tried to cut the deficit.
A pointed sideline-cut from Kevin Rice and a brace courtesy of Conor McCann increased their tally entering the final quarter. But the big question was whether or not they could begin to really put the pressure on the leaders as the closing stages approached.
Tiarnan McLarnon made the score 4-10 to 1-13, and suddenly the issue was right back in the balance. However, Carrickmore were battling well and the efforts of Aidan and Justin Kelly, Conn Sweeney and Bryan McGurk meant that the kind of turnaround needed for Creggan to find their way back was looking increasingly unlikely.
But the Eire Ogs remained resolute and snuffed out any even slim chance of Creggan slipping through. It ensured that two late points from Liam McCann served only to increase the total but made no difference to the final outcome which saw the Eire Ogs progress with confidence to their first final in almost a decade.
Sean Og Grogan 4-0, Dermot Begley 0-6 (6f), Conn Sweeney 0-2, Ruairi Slane 0-1, Aidan Kelly 0-1, Oisin aly 0-1.
Conor McCann 0-9 (5f, 1 ’65), Kevin Rice 1-2, Liam McCann 0-2, Oran McCann 0-1, Tiarnan McLarnon 0-1.
Conor McElhatton, Michael Kelly, Oran McKee, Dean Rafferty, Anthony Crossan, Dermot Begley, Jonathan Munroe, Bryan McGurk, Ruairi Slane, Conor Grogan, Justin Kelly, Conn Sweeney, Cormac Munroe, Sean Og Grogan, Oisin Daly. Subs Aidan Kelly for M Kelly (half-time), Seamus Sweeney for O Daly (50), Tony Hughes for A Crossan (56), Enda Grimes for J Kelly (60).
Cormac Rice, Aiden Maguire, Aiden McKeown, Jake McAteer, Sam Maguire, Kealan McCann, Liam McCann, Sean Duffin, Ruairi McCann, Morgan Nelson, Kevin Rice, Oran McCann, Thomas McCann, Conor McCann, Diarmuid Mulholland. Subs Ethan Carey-Small for D Mulholland (14), Tiarnan McLarnon for A McKeown (38).
Referee: James Connors, Donegal.
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