Freak goal swings semi-final Cloughmills's way
AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final: St Brigid’s, Cloughmills (Antrim) 1-14 Keady, Lamh Dhearg (Armagh) 0-12
It took a freakish goal eight minutes from the end, when the outcome was still in serious doubt at 0-12 to 0-10 in favour of the Antrim champions, to put daylight between these teams and make the closing minutes a lot less hazardous for Cloughmills.
James Doherty won possession out on the left sideline about 30 metres from the posts. He sent the sliothar high across the goalmouth. Goalkeeper Joby Burke seemed to have the situation under control as he waited for the dropping ball.
Whether he lost sight of the ball as it came down or the wind caused a deviation in the flight as it descended, he was unable to prevent it from dropping into the net for the only goal of the game.
Cloughmills manager Geoff Laverty was unconcerned about how it ended in the net, stating with a smile: “We’ll take the goal.”
There was absolutely nothing between the sides in the opening quarter, 0-3 each by the 16th minute.
Michael Devlin landed a 50-metre free when Owen Kinney was fouled, Paul Breen responding in kind when Martin Hughes was impeded in the fifth minute.
Michael Devlin and Conor Corvan from frees made it 0-2 each, James Doherty then launching the sliothar between the posts from the 65-metre line in response to a fine point from a Devlin free when Conor Laverty shipped a heavy challenge.
From then until the end of the half, Cloughmills were far more accurate and clinical as they took a five-point lead to the break.
Ryan Conway put Keady ahead in the 19th minute but Michael Devlin, Liam Kearns, James Doherty, Aaron Smiley, Liam Cassley and Geoffrey Óg Laverty reeled off points for an interval 0-9 to 0-4 lead.
Paul Breen pulled back a point from a free early in the second half but Cloughmills responded superbly, Cassley splitting the posts from near the halfway line for 0-11 to 0-5.
However, Keady were in no mood to go down meekly and cut the lead to two points before they were undone by Doherty’s goal.
The Cloughmills manager was fulsome in his praise for the opposition.
“Keady are a very good team, so I am very pleased with the performance of our team. I knew it was going to be a tough, physical battle. We lifted our game big time for this game,” said Laverty.
“It was always going to be a physical game, especially with the ground heavy.
“It was a battle but these guys are experienced now.
“We have trained very hard this year, probably harder than any previous year.
“We have two very good coaches and the players have responded and come on in leaps and bounds. Listen we are very pleased, we are in a good place but as I have said we have won nothing yet.
“Defensively we were outstanding today. We had a gameplan and the players kept to the game plan and we reaped the rewards in the end.”
He added: “It has been our goal for a long time to lift Ulster, so we’re very happy to be back in the final.
‘‘We played and lost to Fermanagh champions Lisbellaw in the 2012 final.
“It has been four years of waiting to get another chance but we know that Eoghan Rua will be another massive game for us. It is another 50-50 game.’’