Fr.Rocks back at top
For the second time in four years Cookstown Fr Rocks have been crowned Ulster Club Intermediate champions following a thrilling extra time victory over Down champions St Peter’s of Warrenpoint, writes Seamus Donnelly.
The game swung one way and then another before a John Gilmore goal in extra time gave the Fr Rocks the cushion they needed to squeeze past the resolute Down team.
John McKeever’s side looked to be cruising to victory midway through the second half before a great fightback from the Down men saw them grab what seemed to be a winning lead with a couple of minutes left in normal time.
In spite of having Barry Hughes with five minutes remaining, a late point from substitute Jason Quinn forced extra time - just as hope had appeared to be lost for the Fr Rocks.
Extra time was just as dramatic with Gilmore’s punched goal proceeded by not one but two sending offs for Warrenpoint in the two minutes between the goal and the interval.
With a two-man advantage the second period of extra time was only a matter of seeing time out as Cookstown piled on points and misery for Warrenpoint.
Warrenpoint had begun brightest of the two teams racing into a 0-2 to no score lead in the opening 3 minutes of the contest with Ross McGarry twice on target.
McGarry, a star with the Down minor and St Colmans MacRory Cup teams over the last couple of seasons, would prove to be a thorn in Cookstown’s side throughout - with his accuracy from placed balls a particular nuisance to the Fr Rocks.
Cookstown soon responded to the Warrenpoint blitz with two quick points of their own, John Gilmore beginning what would be a good day for him with a brilliant point from the right wing.
A foul on Barry Mulligan a minute later allowed Owen Mulligan to tie the scores up from a free after 6 minutes.
Gary Morgan got his side’s first score from play in the 14th minute when a goal looked on, bringing to an end a period of poor shooting from both sides, Fr Rocks particularly to blame.
The point stunned the Fr Rocks into action and they equalised shortly afterwards Mulligan scoring after a foul on the lively James McGahan.
McGahan got a great point from all of 40 metres from play in the 17th minute to give his side their first lead of the day.
A McGahan and McGarry swapped frees, McGarry’s point coming after Cookstown keeper had made a brilliant save from Ryan McAleenan.
Then came a Cookstown goal, John Gilmore collecting a Barry Mulligan ball before turning on the edge of the square, holding off his man and firing low into the St Peter’s net.
McGarry got a late free to leave the score 1-5 to 0-5 at the break.
Cookstown replaced full back Stephen Monaghan at half time with Mark O’Connor taking his place in the full back line as John McKeever tried to find a way to contain McGarry and at the start of the second half he seemed to have some joy.
The young full forward did convert a free three minutes in to the half to narrow the gap to two points before Cookstown struck for goal again.
Owen Mulligan who was having a quiet game by his own high standards supplied James McGahan with a brilliant pass, before McGahan turned brilliantly and ran towards goal.
The St Peter’s rearguard seemed to have McGahan closed down well but somehow the young Cookstown attacker smuggled the ball low through a thicket of legs and into the bottom corner of the Warrenpoint goal.
McGahan’s goal changed the complexion of the game with Cookstown trying to protect their 5 point lead and Warrenpoint throwing bodies forward trying to get back into the game.
A Gabriel Smith point settled the Down champions again although McGahan cancelled this point with a converted free.
A brilliant Ross McGarry point from play reduced the gap to four points once again, before St Peters got the goal they desperately needed.
A barrelling run and shot from influential midfielder Ryan Mallon produced a great save from Marty Rea but he could do no more than parry the ball sideways into the path of Gabriel Smith who sidefooted into the Cookstown net.
McGarry pointed another free to tie the scores before adding his 8th point of the game to give Warrenpoint the lead with just a matter of minutes remaining.
When Cookstown had Barry Hughes sent off moments later for a second yellow card making the Fr Rocks task appear even harder.
As the game entered injury time all seemed lost but up popped the determined Jason Quinn to fire over coolly at a time when it would have been very easy to lose his cool to send the game into extra time.
It was Gilmore again who was a thorn in the side of Warrenpoint in extra time as he conjured up a goal and a point to give the Fr Rocks a dominant lead.
Gilmore got on the end of an Owen Mulligan free-kick to punch passed the stranded Warrenpoint keeper.
Warrenpoint’s challenge all but ended when Ruairi Cowan and substitute Shea Curran received their marching orders, Curran receiving a deserved straight red from Padraig Hughes after a heavy hit on David Hughes.
It was plain sailing from then on with the Fr Rocks outscoring Warrenpoint 0-5 to 0-1 in the second period of extra time.
Impresive Cookstown now advance to the All-Ireland semi-final in January and they will be a hard team to topple.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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