Hurling and camogie

Middletown's defiance sees them edge out Eire Og in extra-time to book place in Ulster final

Middletown's Shaun Toal in action against Carrickmores' Seamus Sweeney and Anthony Crossan in Saturday's Ulster Club SHC semi-final at the Athletic Grounds Picture: Seamus Loughran

Ulster Club IFC semi-final: Middletown 3-19 Eire Og 2-20 (aet)

MIDDLETOWN’S defiant refusal to contemplate defeat earned them a place in the Ulster Club IFC semi-final as they came from behind to edge out Tyrone champions Eire Og in an extra-time thriller.

The Armagh men trailed by six points while playing into the wind in the second half, but grabbed two late goals to rescue the dream.

The Gaffney brothers, Ryan and Dean, hit the net, and a 1-11 haul from the latter completed the perfect day at the Athletic Grounds as they squeezed home to set up a meeting with Liatroim in the decider.

Middletown had the wind in their backs, but it was the Tyrone men who made the move at the end of the opening quarter, striking for the game’s opening goal, a clinical Cormac Munroe finish that capped the creative industry of Seamus Sweeney and Sean Og Grogan.

But Gaffney was getting his eye in, steering a free between the posts, with Nathan Curry landing a couple of monster scores from inside his own half.

Both sides defended heroically, with Paul Gaffney, Paddy McBride and Tiarnan Nevin standing tall for the Orchard champions, while Dermot Begley was a colossus at the back for Carrickmore, along with Jarlath Kerr and Oran McKee.

Dean Gaffney, one of four brothers in the Na Fianna side, had four converted frees to his credit by the halfway stage, but his side trailed by two points at the turnaround, 1-7 to 0-8, for Eire Og had their own long range free specialist in Begley, with Conor Grogan and Liam Armstrong also on target.

Middletown grabbed a goal inside the opening minute of the second half, Ryan Gaffney latching on to Peadar McBride’s long delivery to hit the net, but the Tyrone side responded with a Sean Og Grogan goal, much of the credit going to Munroe, whose persistence turned over possession.

They forged ahead with a handful of Begley conversions, and a couple of neat scores from substitute Ruairi Slane, and were six points clear going into the final ten minutes.

But Middletown displayed all their experience, with Ryan Gaffney, Cahal Carvill and Dean Gaffney getting to the heart of the matter with some big plays, and it was Ryan Gaffney who got in behind the last defender to net from Marty Moan’s lofted pass in the 56th minute.

And they grabbed a third goal in stoppage time to drag themselves back from the brink, Dean Gaffney’s long range free deceiving everyone to go all the way to the net.

There was still time for Aidy Kelly and Dean Gaffney to trade scores, and still deadlocked at 2-16 to 3-13, they headed for extra-time.

Begley’s 70 metre free pushed Carrickmore into a three points advantage, but two scores from substitute Ben Toal had them level.

A point behind at the turnaround, Middletown had another challenge to seize, and they did so, with two Dean Gaffney scores bringing his tally to 1-11, and pushing his side over the line.

Middletown: F Woods; K McKernan (0-1), P Gaffney, P McBride, M Maguire, S Gaffney (0-1), T Nevin; P McBride, O Curry; D Gaffney (1-11, 0-10 f), N Curry (0-2), P Lappin; R Gaffney (2-0), C Carvill (0-1), S Og McGuinness (0-1).

Subs: B Toal (0-2) for McGuinness, M Moan for Lappin, D Carvill for Toal.

Eire Og: C McElhatton; S Sweeney (0-1), J Kerr, A Crossan; D Begley (0-7 frees), O McKee, SP Begley; C Grogan (0-2), A Kelly (0-1); B McGurk (0-1), J Kelly, C Munroe (1-1); D Rafferty, S Og Grogan (1-0), L Armstrong (0-4, 3f).

Subs: R Slane (0-3) for SP Begley, S Kerr for Crossan, SP Begley for J Kerr.

Referee: J Connors (Donegal)