Rian O'Neill stars as St Colman's, Newry reach MacRory Cup final
ST Colman's, Newry are through to their first Danske Bank MacRory Cup final since 2011 after a deserved six-point success over MacCormack Cup winners St Ronan's, Lurgan at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
After a close opening 10 minutes, during which the sides shared half-a-dozen points, it was St Colman's who took control, with Rian O'Neill producing a man-of-the-match performance.
The Crossmaglen man weighed in with half-a-dozen points in the first half and every time that he gained possession he caused panic in the St Ronan's defence as they established a 0-9 to 0-4 advantage.
St Ronan's did have the first score of the second period but when they had Kevin McAlinden straight red-carded in the 47th minute any hopes that they had of a comeback faded.
The winners defended as if their lives depended on it as they didn't give their opponents a sniff of the goal that they badly needed to reignite their challenge.
O'Neill opened the scoring after only 35 seconds from a free, but St Ronan's levelled matters in the fourth minute with a superb effort from play from wing half-back Adam Loughran.
O'Neill then hit a brilliant effort from play that went over via the post before he was involved in a score from Jack McCartan.
St Ronan's, though, then enjoyed their best spell of the half as Tiernan Kelly hit a brilliant point despite being under pressure, before Kevin McAlinden equalised from an acute angle.
They failed to score for another quarter-of-an-hour, though, as St Colman's took control. Aaron Gribben pointed from play and that was quickly followed from a long range O'Neill free.
St Ronan's were then dealt a blow when they lost keeper Eoghan Mulholland to a black card, with O'Neill knocking over the resulting 13-metre free.
St Ronan's midfielder Conor Turbitt ended their barren spell but that proved to be their last score of the half.
In the 28th minute, Cian McConville got in behind the Lurgan defence but he blasted over the bar when a goal was on the cards.
O'Neill knocked over another placed ball before Eoghan McDonnell fired narrowly wide of the left hand post with a goal chance.
Fittingly that man O'Neill had the final say of the half with a spectacular point from distance.
Aodhan McConville opened the second half scoring for St Ronan's from a close range free but that was as good as it got for them.
Cian McConville replied for the winners before Aaron Gribben weighed in with a beauty from play with the outside of his boot.
Six points divided the sides at that stage and with McAlinden receiving his marching orders there was no way back for St Ronan's.
O'Neill kicked his only score of the second half before McConville teed up midfielder Conor O'Neill to split the posts.
Full-back James McAlinden joined the attack to register for St Ronan's and Kelly added two late frees but the night belonged to St Colman's, with substitute Eoghan Byrne getting their last score.
St Colman's, Newry: M Magill, L Brown, S McCarthy, C Killen, F McElroy, M Branniff, P Fegan, C O'Neill (0-1), R Garvey, J McCartan (0-1), R O'Neill (0-7, 5f), E McDonnell, M McCreesh, C McConville (0-2, 1f), A Gribben (0-2); Subs: E Byrne (0-1) for McCreesh, C McCartan for Gribben, J McKee for Brown
St Ronan's, Lurgan: E Mulholland, J Haddock, J McAlinden (0-1), A Mulholland, R McConville, S McAlinden, A Loughran (0-1), B McCambridge,
C Turbitt (0-1), R Meehan, T Kelly (0-3, 2f), J Haughey, K McAlinden (0-1), J Lenehan, A McConville (0-1, 1f); Subs: E McConville for Mulholland (black card),
O Smyth for R McConville, L Monteiro for Haughey, O Magill for Meehan, O Magee for A McConville
Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone)