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Published on November 2nd, 2016 | by admin

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Antrim Minor Football County Final

Antrim Minor Football County Final

Dunloy 2-13 1-11 ST Brigid’s

Dunloy bridge 39-year gap to claim a historic double county championship wins.

So, after the final that never was the previous Sunday it was now show time for the Antrim Minor Championship football final with the venue Ahoghill on a fine Friday night. Dunloy were unchanged from the team that was scheduled to line out at Corrigan park the previous Sunday.

The teams had met once previously this season on the very 1st league game with Dunloy winners that day but both teams had a few new faces from that game at the start of April. The man in the middle was Eamon McAuley from Cargan.

So the perfect way to start a final is with a score and that is exactly what happened for Dunloy. From the throw in Decky Smith patted the ball down to his midfield partner Keelan Molloy. A fantastic ball from Molloy picked out Seaan Elliott who left the St Brigid’s defence in his wake as he rounded the full back and nailed the ball to the bottom corner of the net. Dunloy and Elliott were up and running after only 11 seconds.

St Brigid’s could not get to grips with Dunloy forwards especially the movement of Fergal Dillon. He was involved in the next 2 scores of the game a fine individual point from the right-hand side after rounding his man then a few minutes later he was in on goal after a fine pass over the top by Eoin O’Neill and although slipping at the vital moment he still had the composure to keep the ball and hand pass while he was on the ground to the on-rushing Aaron Crawford who calmly slotted over the bar.

There was 10 minutes gone before St Brigid’s registered their 1st score which was a long range point from play by corner forward Peter Webb. The score now read Dunloy 1-02 0-01 St Brigid’s. Dunloy then registered the next two points and fantastic scores they were. First up Molloy who looked like if he had lost control of the ball out near  the side line but with a flick of the left foot without breaking stride he scooped it up in to his hand and slotted the ball over the bar from over thirty yards. It was then over to Elliott, after a foul out the field near the St Brigid’s dug out the corner forward placed the ball on the ground took a few steps back and kicked the ball straight between the posts. That was his 1st point form forty plus yards it wouldn’t be his last.

Dunloy then extended their lead further when Dillon was fouled on the edge of the box. Conal ‘Coby’ Cunning got on the score sheet as he slotted the ball over the bar. A free something like the one that knocked Creggan out in the 1st round and just like then there was no mistake. St Brigid’s then registered the next 2 points both from Webb one a free and the other a well taken score from play.

Then disaster struck for Dunloy. A mix up in defence seen the ball break kindly to Joseph Finnegan who riffled the ball past Frankie Cochrane from 21 yards. So, after 20 minutes and playing all the football Dunloy were shell shocked and their lead was only 2 points.

Coby then extended Dunloy’s lead with another well taken free but St Brigid’s were starting to find their feet and scored the next 2 points. A fine individual score from James Smith and another free from Webb had the gap at the minimum with 5 with 1st half minutes left. Then came the turning point as St Brigid’s pilled on the pressure the ball broke inside the Dunloy 13-yard box and it looked like the St Brigid’s forward would get on to it but keeper Frankie Cochrane raced of his line and cleared it to safety. A few passes later it was with Elliott and as he went to turn he was crudely took out by the on-rushing St Brigid’s defender, a tackle that had everyone worrying about Elliott’s further involvement in the game and about his own personal wellbeing. After a good 5-minute delay, he dusted himself down, stepped up and put the resulting free from over forty yards like his previous free and it was straight over the bar. This score gave Dunloy the boost they needed and a further Molloy free gave them a well-deserved 3-point lead at the break on a score line of 1-08 – 1-05.

Dunloy knew a strong start to the second half was crucial and they got it almost instantly. Keelan Molloy picked the ball up in midfield and as he released the ball into the forward line he was took out off the ball. The second poor tackle of the game, and like with Elliott in the 1st half there was worry on the faces of all in green and gold but they were not to worry too long as Molloy got back to his feet, a little worse for wear but good to go. This was the end of the game for St Brigid’s wing half forward Phelim Lennon he received a black card for the tackle. Coby put the resulting free between the posts and the lead was 4.

St Brigid’s were next to trouble the score board a long range point from Ethan Carleton had it back to 3. With the game, still in the balance Dunloy needed the next score and they got it through Conal Cunning.  After picking the ball up on the right-hand side he weaved his way in past a few defenders and curled over a brilliant score this time with the left foot. St Brigid’s were hanging in there and Carleton knocked over a free to keep in touch.

Fergal Dillon was still causing havoc in the St Brigid’s defence and came close to scoring again but for a good block by the defender forcing the ball over the end line. The resulting 45 by young Seaan Elliott put Dunloy 4 points up again as just like the previous 2 long frees it soared over the bar to one of the loudest roars of the game.

The next two scores came from the Belfast club with the talented Smith getting his second score before Oran Boyle opened his account. 2 points had cut the gap to 2 with ten minutes remaining on a score line of Dunloy 1-11 1-09 St Brigid’s. A second goal for Dunloy would seal the deal and it duly arrived from Keelan Molloy. After having to sustain some St Brigid’s pressure the Dunloy defence held firm and moved the ball forward, it came to Molloy who unleashed a shot from 35 yards towards the post which deceived the goalkeeper and it flew over his head into the top corner. Did he mean it? The Dunloy support didn’t care! With that left foot anything is possible. This put Dunloy up by 5 with 25 2nd half minutes played.

Carleton replied with a free for St Brigid’s to try and keep them in touch but not for long as Dunloy sealed the deal with the score of the game. Decky Smith picked the ball up in midfield burst through a few tackles and like Molloy in the 1st half he seemed to lose control of the ball but without breaking stride and a flick of his right foot he scooped the ball up ran past the last defender and scored a point from a very tight angle. A fitting score for the man who destroyed Creggan in the 1st round before injury ruled him out until the final. That score finished St Brigid’s and Dunloy could have added 2 more goals before the end. Firstly, after a great solo run by O’Neill he was bearing down on goal and was stopped in his tracks by the covering defender, Coby dispatched the resulting free and the Dunloy lead was 6. There was no let-up from Dunloy and from the next attack O’Neill was away and gone again he unselfishly hand passed it to the on running Coby who saw his shot skim the post on the way past. This would have been well deserved if the ball had found the net as he had ran St Brigid’s all over the place since the ball was threw in and was nearly unplayable. The final score came in stoppage time for St Brigid’s. The ball was kicked in high and flicked on by Finnegan and only for a fantastic save by Cochrane in the Dunloy net he would have had his 2nd goal but had to settle for a point. From the resulting kick, out the whistle blew and the celebrations started. What an occasion and what a team.

To win a championship at any level you need all your players to perform and Dunloy certainly had 15 that performed.

In nets Frankie Cochrane who was carrying a visible knee injury never put a foot wrong he raced off his line to save a certain goal near the end of the 1st half, his kick outs were accurate and when called upon at a crucial stage late on pulled off a fantastic save.

The corner backs Anton McGrath and Conor Kinsella had very good players to deal with and deal with them they did. Kinsella is as good a man marker in the county and is also capable of playing anywhere else on the pitch a huge talent and McGrath who is still an U16 he oozes class and is sacrificed in corner back because he plays it so well  but at  his own age group you could see him in full forward he is one to watch out for in the future. Lee Scott was a machine in full back coming out with the ball or scattering defenders out of his way whatever it took to keep the ball away from Cochranes net a massive hour from the number 3.

Sometimes they don’t get enough credit do these wing backs Ewan Dixon and Chrissy McMahon. Throughout the championship run and for the full hour in the final these 2 constantly broke up attacks for the opposition and started attacks for Dunloy. They might not grab the headlines with the scores but without them Dunloy would be in bother. Massive shift from both 5 and 7 they worked nonstop for the hour and gave the rest of the team the confidence to mount attacks as they knew their defence would always be on top at the other end. Captain Cathair McGuigan wasn’t happy at half time with his own 1st half performance but he composed himself and put in a shift 2nd half this just shows the class of the player and there was no better man to proudly lift the trophy about his head at the end a well-deserved moment for him as he has been a rock all year in the defence. His speech at the end was something else with a reference to a certain Derry pundit the closing line.

The midfield area of the pitch was completely controlled by Keelan Molloy and Decky Smith. Molloy not only terrorised St Brigid’s going forward but also tracked back for the full hour. He assisted the 1st goal and he scored the 2nd and he knocked over 2 points as well one of them a fantastic point form play. This was as complete a display as you are likely to see by a player at any level and another example why without doubt he is  the best minor footballer in Antrim closely followed by a few of his team mates in the green and gold.  One of them is Smyth, after breaking his collar bone against creggan game time has been limited for him but you wouldn’t have known it as he ran St Brigid’s in to the ground for the full hour, he never stopped if it wasn’t linking up going forward he was running back. The point he got near the end summed him up as most were dead on their feet he bombed forward started a move and finished with a sublime point. 10/10 from the classy number 9

The wing half forwards of Liam McCann and Aaron Crawford were immense. McCann would put his head in where most wouldn’t putt their foot and has so much class a dummy in the 2nd half that fooled most of the crowd never mind the St Brigid’s defender one of many moments of magic from him put that with work rate like his and you have a fantastic footballer great hour from him. Crawford at the start of the year was originally the goalkeeper but after some outstanding displays at his own age of U16 outfield it was decided he was too good and was needed out the pitch. The work this man puts in is second to none and he plays the covering sweeper role as good as anyone, when needed he knows where the posts are as he showed in the 1st half. In stoppage time at the end of the game he literally couldn’t run but still hopped back down the pitch to try and get into position to help his defence. Serious display from this young man.  Conal ‘Coby’ Cunning pulls the strings his accuracy and vision with passes short or long are a joy to watch and he has the ability to kick points with both feet  so how do you mark that? You can’t… St Brigid’s found this out as he terrorised their defence and when Dunloy needed to dig deep he was back in his own full back line helping out. Scored 0-05 with some of them crucial frees and a super score from play it was a fantastic hours work from this multi-talented young man one of the brightest prospects in the game he has some future ahead of him.

In the Full Forward line Fergal Dillon, Eoin O’Neill and Seaan Elliott never stopped making runs and causing havoc. Dillon was the perfect target man everything stuck to him like glue and he was involved in so much. This was a complete display by the full forward he was constantly fouled as the St Brigid’s defence just couldn’t deal with his presence, strength or pace. He certainly shone on the big occasion fantastic stuff. O’Neill just back from an ankle injury which was a worry for management that he wouldn’t play was brilliant he doesn’t stop he runs all over the place not giving defenders a chance to mark him. He was a great out ball option as everything that went near him was held on to and some of his distribution was brilliant he caused problems for the full hour in a complete display all this considering he was not 100% and St Brigid’s were lucky he wasn’t. Elliott finished with 1-03, still an U16 he was immense form the 1st minute when he found the net he had set the tone for the day. Not only dizzying defenders with his pace and quick change of direction but having the ability to kick the ball over the bar from over forty yards off the ground is something else. The tackle near half time would have ended many a players final but this wasn’t to be the case for this young man he got back to his feet and scored the resulting free from near the side line before a smile in the direction of the opposition just to let them know he wasn’t been stopped. Dunloy have a real talent in Seann Elliott and the rest of Antrim that didn’t know this before Friday night will certainly know now.

There was no man of the match for Dunloy as its not fair to choose just 1 out of the 15 players as each and every one of them played their part in bringing this 39 year wait till an end. Anthony McQuillan’s team had done what no team had done in near 40 years and along with Sean Doherty, Dominic Dillon and Declan Mc Garry the pride on his face was clear to see as six years of work he had put in with this age group had paid off in the best possible way as Dunloy can now be called ANTRIM MINOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS 2016.

The support on the day like all the championship run was unreal and hopefully that will follow the team as they move on to the ulster club minor football championship with the draw to take place on Saturday 29th October. Some big names in the draw but this group of players doesn’t fear anyone they are the kings of Antrim and it’s now time for Ulster.

 

  1. Frankie Cochrane
  2. Conor Kinsella
  3. Lee Scott
  4. Anton McGrath
  5. Chrissy McMahon
  6. Cathair McGuigan (Captain)
  7. Ewan Dixon
  8. Keelan Molloy (1-02)
  9. Decky Smith (0-01)
  10. Liam McCann
  11. Conal Cunning (0-05)
  12. Aaron Crawford (0-01)
  13. Seaan Elliott (1-03)
  14. Eoin O’Neil
  15. Fergal Dillon (0-01)


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