Comeback kings Clann Eireann book Ulster semi spot after overcoming Kickham's Creggan
Ulster Club Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Kickham's Creggan (Antrim) 0-17 Clann Eireann (Armagh) 2-14
THE devil-may-care heroes of Clann Eireann wrote another glorious chapter into the club's history books by recording a fantastic debut win in the Ulster Club Championship yesterday after sharing an extra-time thriller with Antrim champions Kickham's Creggan at Corrigan Park.
Deep into stoppage-time of normal time, Tiernan ‘TJ' Kelly, one of the emerging stars in Armagh, struck an awesome equalising free to send this quarter-final into extra-time where there was only going to be one winner.
Kelly produced a magnificent individual display as the Armagh champions out-lasted their rivals in over-time and will now debate an intriguing semi-final with Derrygonnelly of Fermanagh in 13 days' time.
Tommy Coleman's side are making a habit of crafting dramatic comebacks. Six points down to Crossmaglen in the county final last month, they blitzed the south Armagh men in the final quarter.
Yesterday, they gifted the Antrim champions a six-point half-time lead and needed every second of the second half to get back on level terms before going through the gears in extra-time to demoralise their opponents.
“Every team in this competition has won their county championships, they're used to winning, they're good teams and good players so you don't want to be playing anywhere else,” said Kelly afterwards.
“It's a higher standard than playing in your own county. In fairness to Creggan, they had a great year. They were the same as us, they hadn't won a county championship in a long time so they probably celebrated hard like we did.
“But it was time to flick the switch again and get back working. Why shouldn't we kick on now?”
Super sub Ruairi McDonald struck a superb 44th minute goal that proved Creggan's momentum breaker and the inspirational Daniel Magee raised Clann Eireann's second green flag of the day just before the end of the first period of extra-time to put the Lurgan men 2-11 to 0-14 ahead
Creggan made a decent fist of the second period of extra-time but by the end they were running on empty and referee Paul Faloon, who handled the game expertly, blew his final whistle to send the Clann Eireann supporters into orbit.
“It was a long, tiring game, a lot of running,” said Kelly. “Creggan set up well around the middle and they don't allow you to kick the ball in. At this time of year conditioning definitely comes into it. And, thankfully for us, towards the end of the game we had a bit more left in the legs."
Kelly, who made a favourable impression with Armagh in 2021, was one of many leaders in the Clann Eireann ranks. But he warned his team-mates they can no longer afford to be giving the opposition a head start on them.
“I don't know if it was a bit of rust because it was three weeks from our last game," said Kelly.
Just as they did against Crossmaglen Rangers, Clann Eireann boss Tommy Coleman decided to abandon his sweeper system after the break and they duly outscored Creggan 2-12 to 0-9 in the second half and in extra-time.
“We knew they would set up defensively and that they were big and strong around the middle, so you have to go in numbers to break them down. Everything we talked about doing in the first half we did the opposite. It could have been the break, it could have been a different style of football but the first half just wasn't good enough and we can't afford to do that in the next round."