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Eoghan Rua pass the test of Ballinascreen with flying colours

Coleraine goalscorer Colm McGoldrick watches the ball hit the net despite the efforts of Phillip McGlade and Ryan Scullion of Ballinascreen during the Derry Senior Football Championship semi-final at Owenbeg on Sunday Picture by Margaret McLaughlin. 
From Steven Doherty in Owenbeg

O’Neills Derry Senior Football Championship semi-final: St Colm’s, Ballinascreen 0-9 Eoghan Rua, Coleraine 1-11

COLERAINE have returned to the Derry football final for the first time since 2015 after a comfortable five-point win over Ballinascreen at Owenbeg.

The 2010 winners had been weighed down with the favourites’ tag having knocked out champions Slaughtneil in a mid-week replay, but more than lived up to that pre-game billing with an impressive performance built on athleticism and pace. But for Niall Holly’s 22nd minute goal, the opening half was the nervous, low scoring contest many expected. The wind and the cold negated any hopes of fast free-flowing game as both sides shadow-boxed in the early exchanges to see who’d blink first.

Ruairí Mooney opened the scoring for Eoghan Rua, but two Benny Heron points, the first from his left foot, the second from the right, edged Ballinascreen just ahead. Ciarán McGoldrick pulled the sides level soon after before a Shane Mulgrew free left it 0-3 to 0-2 to the ’Screen. Unfortunately for Liam Bradley’s side, it would be another 17 minutes before they’d work the scoreboard again. Coleraine, by contrast, hit four of the next five scores, including that all-important Holly goal, to take a four-point lead into the break.

After the interval, Coleraine gradually took control. Niall Holly and, in particular, Ruairí Mooney, drove their side on with umpteen raids forward. That pair found ample support from the Daly brothers, Paul and Barry, alongside the relentless Ciaran Mullan, whose athletic and pacy runs drove a dagger into the heart of the Ballinascreen defence.

Gavin McWilliams hit a fine brace, before Mooney completed his hat-trick of points as Eoghan Rua pulled away. Colm McGoldrick nailed two frees before Ciarán Mullan capped off a fine individual performance with a point in the 55th minute as the 2010 winners looked home and hosed. However, at 1-11 to 0-6 down, Ballinascreen made a raft of substitutions, decided to go route one and manufactured two goal chances. Benny Heron blazed one shot over the crossbar, while Niall Holly, superb all game, acrobatically saved another shot off the line in injury-time. They finished strongly with three late points, but it was too little, too late.

“We’re just really pleased to be in the final,” said Eoghan Rua manager Seán McGoldrick. 

“It’s a great boost for the players – they’ve worked very hard. We knew it was going to be tough. We’ve struggled with Ballinascreen over the years and they’ve had the Indian sign over us.”

McGoldrick acknowledged that a freak goal from his side in the 22nd minute proved to be the key score of the contest: “It was very fortuitous the way it went in,” he said of Holly’s long ball that evaded everyone and ended up in the net. 

“It was a very close game when the goal when in and it took the pressure off us. It gave us a bit of a lead we could protect in the second-half.”

Looking forward to the county final against Lavey, McGoldrick said: “I look on these games as all 50/50, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing.”

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