ULSTER GAA: Rock make history after hat-trick of Junior titles

Ulster Junior champions, Rock!
Ulster Junior champions, Rock!

Rock 1-12 Blackhill 0-14

Rock became the first Tyrone club to win three Ulster football titles when they edged past Monaghan champions, Blackhill, in a tense affair that required extra time to decide at Pairc Esler on Sunday afternoon.

There was little between the sides throughout but with normal time running out Rock held a two point lead. Blackhill though refused to accept defeat and after they had closed the gap to the minimum, their midfielder Dermot Daly held his nerve to convert a free with the last kick of the game to force extra time.

In the opening minutes of extra time an Aidan McGarrity goal appeared to have put Rock in control but they were forced to fight a rear guard battle in the closing stages when an outstanding block from former Tyrone defender Ciaran Gourley denied Blackhill a replay.

Rock midfielder Diarmuid Carroll - who was superb throughout - opened the scoring after only 20 seconds with a shot that went over via the bar. Wing half back James Daly levelled matters following a surging run but at the end of the opening quarter the Tyrone champions led 0-3 to 0-2 following a McGarrity brace.

Hugh Byrne then levelled matters before Colin Woods put the Monaghan champions in front for the first time and it was they who led 0-5 to 0-4 at half-time.

A sharp turn and finish from Woods put Blackhill two clear on the restart before Conor McCreesh responded with his first score of the afternoon. McCreesh then knocked over two frees from out on the right wing to leave Rock 0-7 to 0-6 in front going into the final quarter. Woods levelled matters but it was Rock who were looking the better side with McCreesh and McGarrity both converting frees.

Blackhill had Hugh Byrne sent off for a second yellow card offence with a minute of normal time left to play and them trailing 0-9 to 0-7. Corner back Aaron Kenny reduced the deficit before that pressure kick from Dermot Daly sent the contest into extra time.

Within 60 seconds of the start of extra time McGarrity cut in from the left wing to land a superb point and two minutes later, the same player fired low to the net after collecting a pass from McCreesh.

Rock looked to be in complete control but points from Woods and Andrew Burns kept Blackhill in touch. By the turnaround Rock were leading 1-12 to 0-11 thanks to efforts from Carroll and McCreesh.

Rock though failed to add to their tally in the second period of extra time as the Monaghan men came roaring back. Woods, Tommy Geehan and Anthony Courtney all hit points and suddenly the gap was down to the minimum again.

That’s when Gourley produced that great block and in a frantic finish Woods was straight red carded as Rock held on to make history.

Rock - Seamus Donaghy, Mark McAleer, Niall Mullan, Niall McWilliams, Cathal McWilliams, Stephen Mullan, Ciaran Gourley, Diarmaid Carroll, Enda McWilliams, Tommy Bloomer, Eamon Ward, Conor McCreesh, Ryan Crilly, Aidan McGarrity, Padraig Ward. Subs – Aiden Gervin for Eamon Ward, Peter Ward for Niall Mullan (black card), Eamon Ward for Padraig Ward, Padraig O’Neill for Carroll

Scorers – Aidan McGarrity 1-5, Conor McCreesh 0-5, Diarmaid Carroll 0-2

Blackhill – Michael Shevlin, Aaron Kenny, Donal Courtney, Thomas Courtney, Tommy Geehan, Ryan Courtney, James Daly, Anthony Courtney, Dermot Daly, Jason Finnegan, Philip Donnelly, Ciaran Courtney, Michael Geehan, Darren Woods, Colin Woods. Subs – Pauric Murphy for Michael Geehan, Andrew Burns for Darren Woods, Martin Comiskey for Murphy, Tony Forde for Kenny (black card)

Scorers – Colin Woods 0-5, James Daly 0-2, Dermot Daly 0-2, Aaron Kenny 0-1, Tommy Geehan 0-1, Anthony Courtney 0-1, Hugh Byrne 0-1, Andrew Burns 0-1

Referee – Dan Mullan, Derry