Despite conceding two early goals, St Paul’s kept their cool to emerge comfortable winners in this highly enjoyable all County Armagh derby at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday.
Much of the damage had been addressed by the half-way stage when the deficit had been sliced to two points. The South Armagh contenders with Jarlath Og Burns calling the shots at midfield dominated the second period outscoring their opponents 1-9 to 0-2.
The real game changer arrived immediately after the break with Aaron Boyle’s 33rd minute goal which had the Bessbrook lads ahead for the first time since Liam Kerr’s converted free after 30 seconds.
Kerr, from the St Mary’s club in Burren was man of the match pocketing 0-8, 0-5 from play. Others to stand out in what was basically a team effort were Ryan Gaskin and Shea Loye, the latter landing a number of exquisite points from distance.
The first half introduction of Conor Clarke also help steady the St Paul’s boat. St Ronan’s in their first year in the competition started with all guns blazing and Eunan Walsh’s two goal salvo had them 2-1 to 0-1 ahead after 12 minutes.
The Bessbrook goal was charmed in these early stages and the Lurgan outfit could easily have raised a few more green flags.
However, St Paul’s remained focused and the link-up play of Burns and Gaskin was central to their recovery as they outpointed the opposition 0-7 to 0-5 before the short whistle, courtesy of Kerr (3), Gaskin 2), Loye and Boyle.
St. Ronan’s had to wait 23 mins to score their second point, a fine effort from goal- grabber Walsh and two more minors were added per Conor Mc Conville and Kevin Mc Alinden leaving them 2-4 to 0-8 ahead at half- time.
Boyle’s early three- pointer on the resumption handed St Paul’s the momentum and entering the final quarter they were 1-14 to 2-5 in control, Kerr and Loye unerring on sight of target.
Despite the best efforts of Barry Mc Cambridge, Conor Mc Conville, Pat Brannigan, Kevin Mc Alinden, Aodhan Mc Conville, and Eunan Walsh, St Ronan’s were now struggling yet refused to throw in the towel.
Indeed the victors were made defend at their tenacious best in the closing ten minutes but the outcome was never in doubt despite the loss of the inspiring Burns through injury.
Three late unanswered scores from Ryan Mc Sherry, the scintillating Kerr and and Loye booked St Paul’s their second MacRory Cup final date with St Patrick’s, Maghera on St. Patrick’s Day.
St Paul’s – M Murphy, R Mc Guinness, D Loye (0-1), C Mc Donnell, E Mc Cabe , R Gaskin(0-2), C Magennis, J Og Burns, D O’ Hagan, R. Keenan, J Durnin, A Boyle (1-0), L Kerr (0-8,0-3 frees), S Loye (0-5, 0-1 free), R Mc Sherry (0-1).
Subs – C Clarke for Mc Guinness, R Mc Cann for Mc Sherry, R Hughes for Burns (injured)
St Ronan’s – R Conway, J Mc Alinden, B Mc Camridge, S Mc Alinden, J Haddock, R Owens, P Brannagan, C Mc Conville (0-2 frees), J Lenehan, C Mc Donald, K.Mc Alinden(0-1), O Magill (0-1), A Mc Conville(0-1), E Walsh (2-1), C Turbitt.
Subs – A Loughran for S Mc Alinden, R Meehan for C Mc Donald.
by Joe McManus
First goal of the Semi-Final
Photos by John Merry