GAA Football

St Patrick's, Rock hammer Dunedin Connolly's in JFC semi-final

Seamus Mulvihill of Dunedin Connolly’s tries to block a shot from Rock’s Niall Mullan during yesterday’s All-Ireland Club JFC semi-final at the Athletic Grounds. Picture: Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

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Junior Football Championship semi-final: St Patrick’s, Rock (Tyrone) 1-18 Dunedin Connolly’s (Scotland) 2-6

ROCK are on their way back to Croke Park for a second All-Ireland Club JFC final on the back of a convincing win over Scottish champions Dunedin Connolly’s at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.

Former Tyrone star Ciaran Gourley rolled back the years with a towering display, while strike partners Aidan McGarrity and Conor McCreesh tormented the British champions’ defence all afternoon.

McGarrity finished with eight points to his name, but it was the creativity of McCreesh that caught the eye on a glorious afternoon for the Red Hand representatives.

Rock manager Adrian Nugent pointed to the influence of the experienced Gourley, who was terrific from start to finish.

“Look at the work of Ciaran Gourley, he has achieved everything in Gaelic football as a club and as a county player, but his work-rate from the first minute to the 60th minute was incredible,” said Nugent.

“And we said at half-time that there want enough of that all over the field.

“We had to get earlier ball into Conor and Aidan, they are the scoring men.”

While McGarrity and McCreesh raised the cheers with their creativity and finishing, the manager lauded the contributions of others who kept it tight at the back and ensured a steady supply of quality possession.

“Sometimes the scoring men get all the credit, but Aidan Girvan, Niall McWilliams, Enda McWilliams, Diarmuid Carroll were putting their head in where you wouldn’t put your foot. And that’s what you need on a day like that.”

A raft of subs also made an impact and underlined the strength in depth of the Rock squad.

“You have to run a bench. It’s not about 15 any more, it’s about 15-plus, and we fortunately have that now. In the past it maybe wasn’t there, but you can take any man from the subs, and you know he’ll do a job for you.”

Centre-back Stephen Mullan was stretchered off, while wing-back Cathal McWilliams missed the game due to injury, but Nugent is hoping both will be fit to feature at Croke Park on February 19.

“Stephen Mullan has just twisted his ankle, so he has three weeks. Cathal McWilliams could have played 30 minutes today, but we decided to hold him.

“The physio said to hold him to the next day, and no disrespect to Dunedin, we decided to do that, plus looking ahead to 2017 in terms of the league in Tyrone, if we lose him for the league, it’s not positive either.”

Dunedin’s energetic start saw them go in front through Francis Molloy and Seamus Mulvihill, but Rock, with McCreesh pulling the strings up front with his vision and creativity, were soon on song.

Aidan McGarrity swung over a couple of points, with McCreesh and Eamon Ward also on target as they eased ahead by 0-4 to 0-3 by the end of the opening quarter.

McGarrity’s snapshot produced a brilliant reflex save from John McAleavy, but the Dunedin ’keeper was badly at fault for Rock’s 19th minute goal, his short kick-out intercepted by Ward, who swapped passes with McCreesh before planting the ball in the net.

The Tyrone men continued to press, with Diarmuid Carroll and McGarrity adding scores as they went seven clear. But the Scottish champions staged a late flourish, and grabbed a goal, full-forward Molloy gathering a long ball from fellow Mayo man to smash home a goal.

Rock led by 1-8 to 1-4 at the break, and stretched the lead out to eight with a productive spell which saw McGarrity, Gourley and Ryan Crilly hit the target.

Midfielders Enda McWilliams and Diarmuid Carroll rose to the challenge, while the ageless Gourley continued to prompt, cajole and probe, inspiring his younger teammates.

McGarrity’s eighth score put the game out of sight, even though skipper Brian McAteer pulled back a late Dunedin goal.

But the St Patrick’s finished with another flourish, Peter Ward and Carroll sealing the deal with well taken points in the closing stages.

MATCH STATS
Rock:
S Donaghy; M McAleer, N Mullan, N McWilliams; A Girvan, S Mullan, C Gourley (0-2); E McWilliams (0-1), D Carroll (0-2); T Bloomer, E Ward (1-1), P Ward; R Crilly (0-1), A McGarrity (0-8, 0-5 frees), C McCreesh (0-2). Subs: L Nugent for Paudie Ward, Peter Ward (0-1) for S Mullan, S Litter for Crilly, M Corrigan for E Ward, C McWilliams for McCreesh
Dunedin: J McAleavy; C Horan (0-1), S Powell, A Moore; R McGurk, M Hanna, B Russell; R Howe, B McAteer (1-0); E Newton, D Keating (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 45), B Parsons; S Mulvihill (0-2), F Molloy (1-1), D Loftus. Subs: S Malee for Loftus, V Moriarty for Howe, A Ward for Mulvihill Black card: Malee replaced by D Keane
Referee: S Lonergan (Tipperary)

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