Jarlath Og Burns stars as St Mary's get off to Ryan Cup flyer against Queen's
HE GAA Senior Football League Division One Group B: Queen’s University, Belfast 0-13 St Mary’s University College, Belfast 3-14
IT was a night for catching the eye as the Ryan Cup got under way at The Dub last night, and it was St Mary’s who had a clutch of star performers in a straightforward win over their Belfast rivals.
Leading the charge for the Ranch was Jarlath Og Burns, wearing six on his back but roaming here there and everywhere - prompting, probing, slowing the game down and injecting pace when it was called for.
He also bagged a couple of goals and a point. Not a bad night’s work.
Burns was not alone either as St Mary’s took the game by the scruff in the first half, dominating the Queen’s kick-outs and attacking incisively.
Clonduff’s Stephen McConville showed some touches of real class on the way to landing seven points, so much so that the electronic scoreboard eventually gave up the ghost, with Ryan Coleman also catching the eye.
“Believe it or not, that’s the first game we’ve had together this year,” said Ranch boss Gavin McGilly, who has taken over the role with the senior footballers since Paddy Tally took the Down job.
“With a combination of club championships, lads involved with club relegations and stuff like that, we’ve had to be fair to them and let them work away with their clubs.
“We tried to get a couple of challenge matches organised but it just didn’t work out.”
It certainly didn’t look as though it was the first time they had shared a field, although they were up against a Queen’s side also still finding its feet under new boss Shane Mulholland at this early stage of the season.
There’s a long road yet before Sigerson, Mulholland knows that better than most having been involved with Queen’s under Anthony McGrath in the past, and he will have taken heart from some of last night’s performances.
The ability of county stars like Derry’s Niall Keenan and Fermanagh's James McMahon are already well known, but the former Down forward will have been pleased with Ruairi Campbell, firing over two points as he raided from deep.
And the forward pair of James Smith and Daniel Guinness showed what they are capable of at times, particularly in the second half, with Smith in particular recovering from a shaky start to shine in the Queen’s losing effort.
Burns’s first goal of the night three minutes in helped steady the Ranch as he burst between Keenan and McMahon before calmly slotting underneath Andrew Hasson.
St Mary’s grew in confidence from there, controlling most sectors and dominating the Queen’s kick-out at stages in the first half.
Some inspirational McConville scores helped them to a five point lead at half-time, 1-8 to 0-6, and they moved through the gears after the break.
Another burst from Burns, this time along the endline, put them seven ahead and the game was all but up when substitute Aaron Boyle finished a nice move in the 46th minute.
Two minutes later Burns found the net again, rising highest to fist the ball home to cap an impressive all-round performance before being withdrawn with a niggle 10 minutes from the end, as St Mary’s saw out a deserved victory.
“Jarlath Og’s a talented footballer, this is the level he’s at here now - he’s got to see can he move on to the next level. That’s really where he should be aspiring to,” added McGilly.
“There’s something really refreshing about watching football like that, just letting lads play off the cuff. A lot of people would’ve enjoyed some of the scores taken there tonight.
“Over the last few years, with the level of players involved in Ulster club, the Ryan Cup has been a trialling process for a lot of universities. Queen’s were down a few men tonight as well.
“It does give the opportunities then for lads to go and take their chance who mightn’t normally get in there. You could see there tonight, there’s a few boys have shown they’re up to this level.”
Queen’s: A Hasson; N Keenan, R Campbell(0-2), C McCloskey; N Rafferty, J McMahon, R Connery; D McKeever, E Deane; D Guinness (0-2), J Smith (0-6, 0-3 frees), C O’Neill; D Larkin (0-1), C Breen, N Courtney (0-1). Subs: S Leneghan for Larkin (43), C Cullen (0-1) for Rafferty (43), J McCann for Connery (45), N Allison for McKeever (45)
St Mary’s: B McKinless (0-1, free); C Stinton, J Hannigan, K Mallon; C Byrne, J Og Burns (2-1), L Rafferty; R McCusker (0-1, free), L Devlin; A Duffy (0-1), S McConville (0-7, 0-1 free), R McSherry; P Gunning, R Coleman (0-2), C McConville (0-1). Subs: A Boyle (1-0) for Stinton (HT), R Lundy for Burns (50), D McKinless for R McCusker (55)
Black cards: R McSherry (57, replaced by C McKinney)
Referee: P Faloon (Down)