Coleraine survive second half wobble against Castlerahan to clinch first Ulster senior championship victory
Ulster Senior Club Football Championship quarter-final: Castlerahan (Cavan) 0-11 Eoghan Rua, Coleraine (Derry) 2-11
HALF-time came at the wrong time for Coleraine yesterday. In the closing stages of the first half the Derry men had surged ahead and by the interval the game looked to be in the bag but they came perilously close to throwing it away after a 20-minute second half no-show against 14-man Castlerahan.
Two goals from Colm McGoldrick (one of five brothers in the side) had the Eoghan Rua outfit 2-6 to 0-6 up at the break but their decision to shut-up shop backfired in the second half and plucky Ulster rookies Castlerahan, who had lost David Wright to two first half yellows, battled back to reduce the deficit to a point and set up a grandstand finish.
The Derry champions held their nerve and pulled away to leave clear daylight between the sides at the final whistle and record their first ever victory at this level. Manager Sean McGoldrick was a relieved man afterwards.
“I thought we were going to throw it away,” admitted McGoldrick.
“You hear so many stories of 14-men teams who raise their game… I’m just glad to get through.
“They came back from six points down in the Cavan final so we knew they wouldn’t lie down and the more we missed, the more it helped their momentum but once we got the point it all changed and we got five after it.
“We played so badly in 2010 so it’s great to put in a performance, the players are a bit wiser and they had a different attitude this time.”
If Coleraine over-did the celebrations after their first county senior title eight years ago, it seems their opponents yesterday fell into the same trap this year. After winning their first Cavan title a fortnight ago, the Castlerahan players painted Ballyjamesduff red for a week according to disgruntled manager Donal Keoghan.
“The boys can get here again next year but, if they do, they needn’t party as hard, that’s the big thing,” he said.
“They partied the whole week. I only got them back on Tuesday night.”
Disappointed Keoghan added: “Our first half performance wasn’t good enough.
“Our discipline wasn’t good enough – we lost two players – and we didn’t work hard enough.
“In the second half we went at them and we had the chances. We got it back to a point but with all the celebrating our preparation wasn’t ideal and when we look back on that game we’ll say we left it behind us.”
Given the way his side had battled back in the second half, Keoghan may reflect that his criticism was a little harsh and the Cavan men took an early lead after mobile full-forward Colm McGoldrick had put Coleraine ahead.
Two points from Cian Mackey and another from Sean Brady had the Ballyjamesduff side 3-1 up and Oisin O’Connell hit the post after mix-up between Coleraine goalkeeper Ryan McGeough.
Coleraine stayed in touch thanks to points from Ciaran and then Liam McGoldrick and
Declan Mullan’s score had it level at 0-4 apiece at the end of the first quarter. Casrtlerahan had lost the influential Enda Flanagan to injury and Cormac Daly (black carded for a trip) before Coleraine surged ahead thanks to an inspirational contribution from Barry McGoldrick.
First the former Derry star broke forward to play in brother Ciaran who handpassed across goal for Colm to tap home. Seconds later Barry was back in defence to block David Wright’s goalbound shot and Coleraine took charge from there until the interval.
Gavin Daly and Gavin McWilliams swapped scores before Niall Holly rose highest in midfield to claim a mark and his accurate pass sent Barry Daly galloping down the left wing. The flying corner-back, found Sean Leo McGoldrick who set up another gilt-edged chance for brother Colm and again he didn’t miss.
Wright was sent off for a debatable second yellow in injury-time and Coleraine trotted down the Kingscourt tunnel leading 2-6 to 0-6 and in control.
The first half had been a man-on-man battle but Coleraine retreated behind the ball in the second half and their reactive tactics and some nervous finishing contributed to some avoidable nail-biting for the traveling supporters over the next half-an-hour.
Oisin O’Connell pulled an early point back for Castlerahan as Coleraine struggled to find the fluency that had come so easily in the first half.
“Let’s get going again,” roared a team mentor: “We haven’t started yet.”
But his side couldn’t get the score they need to settle them and Kerry native Shane McSweeney and then Sean Brady left just a kick of the ball between the sides.
Coleraine had acres of space to work in when they did get the ball forward but they couldn’t kill off the Cavan men and points Pauric Smith and Oisin O’Connell (after a pass from Oisin Kiernan in his first game back after recovering from testicular cancer) meant there was just one in it with eight minutes left.
Ciaran McGoldrick’s point finally stopped the Coleraine rot but Ruairi Mooney hit the bar from point-blank range and Castlerahan continued to make the running.
They couldn’t take their chances though and maybe all that partying caught up with them as points from Mark McTaggart, Liam McGoldrick, Ciaran Mullan and Gavin McWilliams saw the visitors home with a bit of spare.
Yesterday’s win will do them a power of good but next up is Monaghan’s Scotstown and manager McGoldrick will need a full hour out of his troops to get past them.
“It’ll be another tough one but at least we’re there,” he said.
“They’re a very strong outfit and all we can do is prepare our best for them. We’ll start preparing for that game now.”
Castlerahan: J Leahy; S Cooney, F Rooney, E O’Connell; P Smith, C Daly, E Flanagan; D Wright, P Smith (0-1); S McSweeney (0-3), O Kiernan, C Mackey (0-2, 0-1 free); O O’Connell (0-2), R Flanagan, S Brady (0-2)
Substitutes: B Ennis for E Flanagan (14), K Cosgrove for F Reilly (38), Shane O’Reilly for Ennis (59), F Flanagan for O O’Connell (63)
Yellow cards: D Wright (18 & 32)
Black card: C Daly (19) replaced by G Daly (0-1)
Red card: D Wright (32)
Eoghan Rua: R McGeough; C Lagan, L McGoldrick (0-2 frees), B Daly; C Mullan (0-1), B McGoldrick, C Lenehan; N Holly, P Daly; R Mooney (0-1), SL McGoldrick, G McWilliams (0-2); D Mullan (0-1), Colm McGoldrick (2-1), Ciaran McGoldrick (0-2)
Substitutes: M McTaggart (0-1) for Daly (39), R Carey for Lenehan (51), E O Conghaile for Ciaran McGoldrick (64)
Referee: C Branagan (Down)