Strong second-half sees Carrickmore safely past Loch Gowna in Paul McGirr Tournament
Paul McGirr U16 Club Champions Tournament: Carrickmore 5-14 Loch Gowna 1-10
An outstanding second-half display of defensive steel and attacking flair saw Tyrone U16 kingpins Carrickmore qualify for the club's first ever Ulster final at any grade in the first semi-final of the Paul McGirr U16 Club Champions Tournament at the weekend.
Cavan's Loch Gowna started the brighter of the two teams with Daire Madden and Conor Casey causing the Carrickmore defence untold problems right from the off.
Madden dispatched an early penalty to the back of the Carrickmore net to give his side an early lead but Carrickmore replied in style when star forward Daniel Fullerton converted a penalty following a foul on Daithi McCallan.
Fullerton proved to be a threat throughout and two points from him put the Tyrone champions in front before Madden knocked three points over, the third a tremendous effort off the outside of the foot as the momentum swung from one side to the other in a high quality encounter.
Casey extended the Gowna lead but, with Brian Conway producing a powerhouse display with a 'Man of the Match' performance in midfield, the game once again swung in Carrickmore's favour.
Points came from Fullerton, Cahir Munroe, Conor Cuddy and Cahir Loughran and were followed by a fine goal from Fullerton who found the bottom corner from the 21-yard line.
Casey tried his best to drag his side back into the game with two fine individual points.
It took a superb reaction save from Colm Eccles to tip over a rasping effort from Cillian O'Reilly to send Carrickmore into the half-time break with a 2-7 to 1-8 lead.
The scene was set for an end-to-end second-half.
But with Seamus Sweeney and Oisin McGurk really stepping up to the mark in the Carmen defence and Conway and Cuddy wrestling complete control of midfield Gowna never got going.
Carrickmore stepped up the intensity in their display.
A converted free from Fullerton and two superb Munroe efforts stretched the lead before James Donaghy put the game firmly in Carrickmore's control when he caught the Gowna defence napping opting to go for goal from a 20-yard free kick.
Fullerton who finished with 3-6 to his name completed his hat-trick shortly after cutting in along the end line with a mazy run before slotting to the back of the Gowna net with his weaker right foot.
The fifth goal aptly came from the hard working Conway and it was just rewards for a player who never stopped from the first minute to the last.
Carrickmore now await the winners of next weekend's semi-final between Burren and Lavey and a repeat of their second-half display on Saturday would certainly give any of their perspective opponents a lot to think about.
The Carrickmore defence put in a great second 30 minutes and this was one thing that really pleased Carrickmore manager Michael Gallagher.
''We're thrilled to have reached our first ever Paul McGirr Final and we couldn't be any happier with our lads today,'' he said.
''At half-time we were probably lucky to be ahead as Gowna were very dangerous on the counter-attack and they had some serious players up front who caused us plenty of bother.
''But at half-time, the lads regrouped and came out with more intent, played more direct, defended tighter, tackled better and were more clinical in the final third.
''They've made a massive improvement in their level of maturity and discipline over the past few weeks.
''Being able to maintain a cool, calm head at the penultimate stage of a provincial championship is a major positive that we'll take out of the game.
''It's been a long journey back to here from last year's semi-final defeat to Kilcoo and on December 2 some of these lads will play their last ever juvenile game.
''How unbelievable of an occasion will it be for them that it happens to be in an Ulster final commemorating the Spirit of Paul McGirr, streamed live on Facebook to a worldwide audience and commentated on by the legendary Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. ''It doesn't get much better than that.''
Carickmore: Colm Eccles, Donall Sweeney, Seamus Sweeney, Michael McElduff, Oisin McGurk, Brian Conway (1-0), James Donaghy (1-1, 1f), Conor Cuddy (0-1), Tiarnan McGarrity, Colum McRory, Cahir Munroe (0-5), Daniel Fullerton (3-6 1 Pen & 2f), Daithi McCallan, Cahir Loughran (0-1) and Lorcan McGarrity.
Subs: Cathair Conroy for McRory, Aidan Loughran for McElduff, Conall McKee for McCallan, Corey Gillen for McGurk.
Loch Gowna: Oisin McConnon, Ciaran Boylan, Cian Hartin, Fionn Hartin, Eoghan Hartin, Ryan Brady , Jack Madden, Cillian O'Reilly (0-1), Tiarnan Madden, Cian Murray, Cormac Brady (0-1 1f), Evan Kane, Daire Madden (1-3 1 Pen & 1f), Conor Casey (0-4), Diarmuid Boylan (0-1).
Subs: Kristian Fakova for Murray, Cian Halton for Kane, Mark Brady for Eoin Hartin
Referee: Martin Higgins