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In The Irish News - Feb 9 1998: Pascal McConnell heroics see Omagh CBS past St Patrick's, Downpatrick in quarter-final clash

Future Tyrone goalkeeper Pascal mcConnell was the hero for Omagh CBS

THREE brilliant saves by Omagh CBS ‘keeper Packie McConnell in the final five minutes denied luckless St Patrick’s, Downpatrick in this highly competitive and entertaining MacRory Cup quarter-final at wind-swept Crossmaglen.

The towering McConnell saved from Paul McAlinden and then Karl Oakes, while in the dying minute he advanced to save from Ruairi McGrattan. McGratten went for a goal when a point would have drawn a game that finished 1-10 to 1-9 in Omagh's favour.

On the balance of play, Omagh CBS just about deserved their victory. They made a brilliant start, led by seven points at half-time and then fought a rearguard action against the breeze in the second.

Omagh, with the breeze, were ahead by 1-6 to 0-2 after 12 minutes, having led by 0-5 to 0-0 after five minutes.

Aidan Lynch, a lively full-forward, lobbed over two points as did Stephen O’Neill from frees, with Darragh McAleer getting one.

The vital goal came from Aidan Lynch. Sean Gormley seized on a poor Downpatrick clearance and placed Lynch, who raced in to find the net.

Two pointed-frees by Cormac Murphy and one from Colm Savage gave Downpatrick some hope. Omagh came back with two O’Neill points before Murphy was again on the mark with two frees, and the Tyrone school led by 1- 9 to 0-5 at half-time. John Turley and Tony McCormack exchanged points early in the second half. But that score proved to be Omagh’s last.

It became a battle between the Omagh defence and the wasteful Downpatrick attack. It was midway through the half before Cormac Murphy pointed a Downpatrick free. With 10 minutes remaining, Oakes opened the Omagh defence but with only the keeper to beat he shot wildly over the bar.

Five minutes from time the game was poised on a knife-edge. A Cormac Murphy ‘45’ was dropped by the Omagh keeper and McGrattan poked the ball to the net.

But McConnell redeemed himself with that great double save. Two minutes later Chris Ferris left a point between the sides before McConnell rescued Omagh with that brilliant diving save from McGrattan to deny Downpatrick a replay.

Omagh CBS: P McConnell; P Kelly, M Magee, S Corey; K Meenagh, F Quinn, K McCartan; S Gormley (0-1), S Kelly; T McCormack (0-1), S O’Neill (0-3), C Kelly; D McAleer (0-1), A Lynch (1-2), C Donaghy (0-1).

Subs: M O’Doherty for P Kelly; B Colton for D McAleer.

St Patrick’s Downpatrick: P McAlinden; B Donnelly, C Savage (0-1), B Gracey; P O’Hare, E McElroy, C Murphy (0-6); A Carville, C Ferris (0-1); R McGrattan (1-0), P Kelly, H McGrath; J Turley (0-1), K Oakes (0-1), C Keaveney. Sub: C Hanna for J Turley

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CLIFTONVILLE called bluff at the weekend and left Ports manager Ronnie McFall and his side, trailing in the championship run-in.

Reds manager Marty Quinn claimed his charges were without the services of injured duo Stephen Small and skipper Mickey Donnelly, before the weekend’s top of the table premier league showdown at Solitude.

Midfielder Donnelly and defender Small emerged at 3.00pm to the delight of the home fans, the latter offering a man-of-the-match performance, as the Reds went four points clear of Portadown’s pursuit.

According to manager Quinn, however, it was two men off the pitch who helped Cliftonville to three league points.

Barry O’Connor’s sixth minute lobbing of Ports keeper Tim Dalton, proved a worthy match winner for the home side. “Okay, there was a bit of leg-pulling in the team news before the game,” said Quinn.

For a while though I was genuinely fearing the worst because I was told to forget about Small and Donnelly playing.

“The two had treatment on the night before the game and took pain–killing injections.

“Had it not been for the committed work of our physio Brendan Lynch and team doctor John Campbell, there’d have no chance of the lads playing.

“As it turned out, both played very well and have got over the physiological barrier of their injuries.”

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