Thursday, 29 September 2011

Swatragh see off Moneymore

Intermediate Championship Semi Final – Swatragh 1-10 Moneymore 0-11


With ten minutes to go, this semi final was very much in the melting pot.  Moneymore led ‘The Swa’ by a point.  Their championship meeting earlier in the season was a different scenario, Swatragh won convincingly.  This time it was very much a dogfight, one that could have gone either way.  With the game in the balance, it was time for an impact man.  Against Steelstown Ruairi Convery was an inspired introduction from the bench.

On Saturday, Swatragh started with Convery at full forward.  After his fisted first half goal, the Moneymore defence got to grips with his aerial threat.  Swatragh needed a change of direction and in the twentieth minute they sent out Seamus Kearney to warmup.  This was their fresh impetuous.  A minute later they sent out Johnny McKeefry to join him. 

For the next five minutes Kearney watched with frustration as he was informed no substitution could be made until a natural break in play.  So after one of the longest ever warm-ups, they both entered the fray.  Very often the impact man will score with his first touch.  Not in this case. 

With Swatragh lacking composure, Kearney helped steady their attack.  With the game entering stoppage time he had a hand in Eugene O’Kane’s point to put Swatragh ahead.  After Stevie O’Neill had kicked an equaliser it looked like a replay.  Two minutes into injury time Swatragh had another attack, again Seamus Kearney was involved, he played in youngster Conor McAtamney for a point that eventually broke Moneymore’s considerable resolve.

Speaking after the game, manager Artie Kearney paid tribute to substitute Kearney’s input.  “Seamus Kearney has a proven record, he is a great footballer.  He is now in the fire brigade and is fit for his work, is fit for us and a good man to bring on”.

I asked if he thought his team panicked during the second half when the game was going away from them.  “We sort of keep digging the results out.  We have good players, sometimes they make mistakes that can cost you but they just kept plugging away.  We didn’t panic.  If you panic sure you’re in trouble then.”

Kearney played down the impact made by young guns Conor McAtamney and James Kearney in the closing stages.  “It’s a team effort and the men who came in brought a wee bit into it as well.  The changes we made probably mixed Moneymore up a bit and give us a bit of a lift”

On the other hand Moneymore were devastated.  They saw the finish line in sight, but were left dejected at the final whistle.  After the game their manager Paddy McGuckin and Artie Kearney had mutual respect for each other.  “You’d be disappointed if you were a Moneymore man, they really worked hard there.  They wanted that one [victory], they have been pushing for a while now”, was Kearney’s view of his opponents.

Despite jersey numbers, Moneymore started with Stevie O’Neill on the ‘forty’, with Mark O’Neill at midfield, Shane Barton went to full forward, with Paudie O’Neill out to wing forward.  During the game Barton and Paudie O’Neill switched roles at different times.

In the midfield sector Mark O’Neill and Christy Young probably shaded the exchanges, helped with Paudie and Stevie O’Neill on the breaks.  Later in the game Mickey Friel, James Kearney and Conor McAtamney made some telling catches for the Davitts. 

Moneymore’s defence did a reasonable job for the majority of the game, but will be disappointed that Ruairi Convery wasn’t challenged when punching the goal.  They crowded him out for most of the second half, but this game will have brought on his match fitness considerably ahead of the final. 

In the first half Moneymore drove with purpose from the back, but failed to open up Swatragh for a goal chance; Adrian Gavin possibly having a half chance but took a point just before half time

Eugene O’Kane’s free taking was a big help to Swatragh as well.  Conor McAtamney proved a great outlet for Swatragh with his direct running, he finished the game with 0-2, but with a bit more composure he could have scored more, but that will come with experience. 

Swatragh could have made it a different game at the start of the second half, but against the breeze they didn’t work the ball into scoring areas.  This spell could have proved costly if Moneymore had built on their two point lead with twelve minutes to go.

Conditions were perfect in Bellaghy for this semi-final, the game had a brief delay due to extra time in the U14 final and cup presentations.  When the ball was thrown in, Swatragh started with a bang.  a direct ball to Sean McNicholl who rounded Kevin Vallely and dissected the posts with a fine left footed effort.

Despite Swatragh competing well around the middle, in the next seven minutes, Moneymore hit three unanswered points to go 0-3 to 0-1 ahead. 

A probing ball by wing back Daniel Jackson, was picked up by Barry Doherty who was fouled and Paudie O’Neill tapped over the free.  In the fifth minute, Paudie O’Neill made a run, passed to Mark O’Neill for a point.  A minute later Stevie made it three in a row for the O’Neills with a well taken score.

Swatragh then replied with the first of Eugene O’Kane’s six points after James Kearney was fouled.  A minute later Swatragh had a goal chance.  After a surging run, Conor McAtamney blasted goalwards, but his shot was excellently saved by Stephen Barker at the expense of a 45, but Sean McNicholl was off target with his kick.

In the eleventh minute Cathal McQuillan was narrowly wide after good approach play.  Moneymore were driving out from their defence, with their support game serving them well, but they failed to retain possession in their attack with the final ball.

Soon the game was level, Sean McNicholl was fouled, the free was moved forward for dissent and Eugene O’Kane made it 0-3 each.    Swatragh had the breeze, but were not moving the ball forward and any ball directed to Ruairi Convery was played out to the corner and wasn’t effective enough.

In the 17th minute, a Moneymore attack broke down, play was directed to Eugene O’Kane who held off his marker Gareth O’Neill and kicked a great score to edge Swatragh ahead.  The lead lasted a mere three minutes, Barry Doherty was fouled in the corner, Stevie O’Neill dropped the ball across to the centre, Christy Young fielded well after a magnificent leap, was fouled and Paudie O’Neill had the easiest of kicks to make it 0-4 each.

When Swatragh again took a lead it was a fine Ruairi Convery effort form the wing, after Conor McAtamney fielded well from Stephen Barker’s kick-out.  The point for point trend continued, but the source of Moneymore’s equaliser was an unlikely one, corner back Gareth O’Neill with the left foot into the breeze.  This should have drove Moneymore on, points from corner backs are meant to be inspirational.

The next play saw the game’s only goal.  Once again Conor McAtamney proving the outlet for the defence, Diarmuid Dillon up supporting him, recycled the ball inside, the kick forward was a measured one towards the square and Ruairi Convery fisted to the Moneymore net.  Swatragh had another half chance for goal, but Stephen Barker was quickly out in front of Sean McNicholl and danger was averted.

Both teams missed chances to get on the scoreboard, with Adrian Gavin hitting the last score of the half.  Conor McAtamney then had chance, but took the wrong option when a fisted point would have been valuable.

In the first six minutes of the second half Swatragh had four attacks, one was a missed free, the second was a high ball punched clear by ‘keeper Barker, a third saw Swatragh blew up for too long and the fourth was a wayward shot when a better placed man was on.  Added with the missed one before half time Swatragh could have been four clear at this stage.

However, a long and well struck Mark O’Neill point  for Moneymore in the sixth minute cut Swatragh’s lead to the bare minimum, 1-5 to 0-7.  Three minutes later the sides were level, Stevie O’Neill played the ball over the top to Adrian Gavin, but Swatragh goalie Mick O’Kane swept up well behind his defence, being fouled in the process.  His kick was won by Stevie O’Neill who used his pace to draw a foul and Paudie O’Neill brought the sides level.

Moneymore’s positive spell continued.  Swatragh defender Diarmuid Dillon adjudged to have taken too many steps in the 11th minute and Paudie O’Neill was on target again from a free. For the next five minutes, there was no score, two balls into the Swatragh defence were broken down and swept up by an alert Moneymore defence. 

When Moneymore substitute Richard Scullion was fouled, it was the left foot of Stevie O’Neill this time who put Moneymore two in front, with twelve to go.   At this stage the next score was going to be a crucial one.  An overlapping run by Sean McMaster, now at wing back, setup Conor McAtamney for his first point of the day and Swatragh were back in it, their first score in 24 minutes.

With four minutes to play, a speculative shot from Ruairi Convery was well tipped onto the post by Stephen Barker, on the rebound there was a Swatragh free and Eugene O’Kane brought the sides kevel, 1-7 to 0-10.  Stevie O’Neill missed a chance from a free to put Moneymore ahead again.

With normal time up, James Kearney won possession for Swatragh. He passed to substitute Seamus Kearney who weighed up the options before recycling possession to Eugene O’Kane who kicked a brilliant point from the wing, and Swatragh had their noses in front.

With three minutes of stoppage time to play, there was time for a twist yet.  Mark O’Neill worked a free short to Johnny Taylor, then brought Daniel Jackson into the play who was fouled and Stevie O’Neill kicked the free between the posts and looked to have forced a replay.

Swatragh had other ideas though, with Mickey Friel breaking the ball at midfield, Conor McAtamney played a ball to Seamus Kearney, took the return and kicked Swatragh ahead again, 1-9 to 0-11.  Possession at this stage was crucial from the kick-out, Barker directed his kick away from Mickey Friel, but Conor McAtamney who made a great catch on the wing was fouled.  Eugene O’Kane’s sixth point of the game put them two up and virtually sealed the game.

The next kick-out was won by Swatragh’s James Kearney and that signalled the end of the game.  It left Swatragh into a final meeting with Craigbane and Moneymore dejected, with thoughts of what might have been.

After the game I informed Artie Kearney that Craigbane would be their final opponents, I asked him for his thoughts.  “We’re just going to go and play Craigbane, we’re not going to start thinking about what Craigbane is going to do, we’ll just think about our own game”, replied a satisfied Swatragh boss.

Swatragh: Mick O’Kane, Hugh Martin Turner, Sean McMaster, Declan McGuckin, Philip Mooney, Ryan Dillon, Diarmuid Dillon, Michael Friel, James Kearney, Conor McAtamney (0-2), Cathal McQuillan, Robbie McWilliams, Sean McNicholl (0-1), Ruairi Convery (1-1), Eugene O’Kane (0-6, four frees).
Subs: Seamus Bradley for Philip Mooney (48mins), Seamus Kearney for Cathal McQuillan (56mins), Johnny McKeefry for Sean McNicholl (56mins).

Moneymore: Stephen Barker, Gareth O’Neill (0-1), Ryan Barker, Kevin Vallely, Johnny Taylor, Paul Scullion, Daniel Jackson, Mark O’Neill (0-2), Christy Young, Barry Doherty, Stephen O’Neill (0-3, two frees), Paudie O’Neill (0-4, three frees), Adrian Gavin (0-1), Shane Barton, Gerard Diamond.   
Subs: Richard Scullion for Gerard Diamond (37mins), Stephen McGurk for Adrian Gavin (41mins).

Referee: Mervyn McAleese (Drum)

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