Ulster Under 21 Championship Quarter-final: St Patrick’s 2-10 Donaghmore 1-5
Cullyhanna made what now seems to be our annual trip north to Creggan, county Antrim on Sunday to contest the quarter final of the under 21 Ulster championship. Recent forays into this competition have not lasted as long as we would have liked and the team and management were clearly determined to ensure a longer campaign in 2016. That sense of urgency was evident right from the throw in and it took merely 21 seconds for St Pat’s to assert their dominance. A long punt forward by Phelim Savage was collected by Aodhan Conlon who displayed admirable vision and accuracy to pick out Phelim McArdle with a perfect pass in a move which ended in McArdle forcing the ball to the net for a vital Cullyhanna breakthrough. That major score was followed by an Aidan Nugent point 4 minutes later but despite dominating the early stages, Cullyhanna struggled for further scores with the difficult conditions no doubt playing their part.
Eighteen minutes had elapsed before St Pat’s added their tally as Jason Duffy kicked the first of an excellent individual series of points. Donaghmore finally managed to grab a foothold in the game 20 minutes in, kicking a brace of points to reduce the deficit to three. With five minutes remaining in the half, an excellent crossfield pass from Aodhan Conlon allowed his namesake Shane to kick a fine score. Donaghmore responded with a point of their own but the latter stages of the half belonged to Cullyhanna as Jason Duffy grabbed the game by a scruff of the neck, exhibiting great strength to win possession and kick a point on the turn before a magnificent catch from the same player allowed him to fire over another score. That left five points between the sides at the break, a fair reflection on the exchanges though Cullyhanna’s wastefulness in front of goal meant an air of edginess remained amongst the St Pat’s supporters.
Such concerns proved to be unfounded however as Cullyhanna emerged from the break in much more accurate form, kicking four points in the third quarter to put themselves firmly into the ascendancy. Corner forwards Aodhan Conlon and Aidan Nugent were responsible for this purple patch, both managing a brace of scores with Nugent’s second successful effort of the half a particularly outstanding point. Donaghmore did respond with two points of their own in the 3rd and 16th minutes of the half but still trailed by 7 with 10 minutes remaining. That turned out to be as close as the Tyrone side were to get as St Patrick’s put the game to bed when Jason Duffy latched onto a long ball from Phelim Savage before switching possession to Aidan Nugent. Nugent arrowed towards goal and transferred to his cousin Connor who produced a thundering shot which flew into the corner of the Donaghmore net. That left the St Pat’s lads ten points clear with the game understandably petering out from that point. Cullyhanna did save the best for last however with Jason Duffy capping off a fine individual performance with what was undoubtedly the score of the game as he kicked a majestic point with the outside of his right foot. Donaghmore’s late goal was little more than a footnote as Cullyhanna ran out comfortable enough winners on a scoreline of 2-10 to 1-5.
This was an excellent team performance as a very fit and committed Cullyhanna outfit produced some high quality passages of play in conditions which were hardly conducive to free flowing football. Aodhan Conlon’s tireless efforts up and down the pitch were rewarded with the host club’s man of the match trophy whilst Aidan Nigent and especially Jason Duffy were constant dangers to Donaghmore’s defence with Conor Connolly and Shane Conlon also producing fine displays. It is great to see this side flourish in the provincial competition and whilst tougher tests no doubt await, this superbly well managed squad have every chance going all the way in this tournament.
Starting XV: James Carragher; Sean Og Irwin, Francis O’Rourke, Cathal Donnelly; Conor Connolly, Phelim McArdle (1-0), Paraic Brecknell; Phelim Savage, Shane Conlon (0-1); Gary Mackin, Gareth Mackin, Connor Nugent (1-0); Aodhan Conlon (0-2), Jason Duffy (0-4), Aidan Nugent (0-3) Subs Used: Sean Connell, Kevin Hoey
Article Credit to St Patricks Cullyhanna PRO – Paddy Savage