Sun 16th Nov
St John’s Ulster adventure came to
an end against the very capable Derry champions,
Lissan, in a open and entertaining encounter
in Sunday Ulster semi-final. This St John’s
team did so much to lift the community’s
spirits after the destruction of out clubhouse
but there was no room for sentiment at the
newly refurbished Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
St John’s were first off the mark with
a Gerard McAnulty point but Lissan equalised
with free from 19 year old Patrick Coey. St
John’s don’t have total monopoly
on talented young players as Coey finished
top scorer on the day with five points to
Lissan’s Captain Gerard Donnelly was
first to pick up a yellow card when he tripped
Ronan Kelly. Damien Murray pointed the resultant
free. Stephen McCrory pointed a free to re-establish
parity before Lissan missed a chance to go
ahead as half-back Ronan Laverty fired wide.
St John’s went ahead when Conor Burns
pointed after being fed by Gerard McAnulty.
This score was sandwiched between yellow cards
St John’s might have extended their
advantage when Damien Murray’s free
drifted across the face of the goals. A Derry
defender got his hand to the ball but couldn’t
hold it. As the ball broke a St John’s
foot flashed at the half-chance but fired
wide. It was a good first ten minutes for
St John’s and their supporters.
Lissan then enjoy superiority for few minutes
and were rewarded when points from Kevin O’Hagan
and Patrick Coey brought the sides level again
at the quarter-way mark. There was a lesson
to be learnt from Coey’s point –
a foul was given against St John’s,
perhaps harshly, in the middle third. No real
danger, one might think, but while St John’s
argued the ball was delivered quickly to Coey
for the easiest of his five scores. St John’s
nosed ahead again with Damien Murray pointing
an easy free when Gerard McAnulty had been
pulled down at the edge of the parallelogram.
Then, with ten minutes left in the first
half, St John’s received their second
yellow card – unfortunately both were
for Cathal O’Connor who then made the
walk to the sideline. Lissan took advantage
of their numerical advantage with three unanswered
scores before the break. First Stephen McCrory
equalised when his free just crept over. Conor
Burns pulled off a superb block to deny one
Lissan advance but he must have been fuming
seconds later when the possession he had won
was given away with a poor pass. Ronan Laverty
capitalized by sending over a point from distance.
As the game ticked into injury time St John’s
again surrendered possession easily in centre-field
and were punished when Damien Coey pointed
from the 45m line.
There was still time for Lissan’s numerical
advantage to be cancelled before the break
as Micahel McCracken picked up his second
yellow. The last action say St John’s
drop a long ball into the danger area but
the referee blew up for a square ball infringement
and for half-time.
The second half began with another yellow
card. The referee showed nine yellows in the
first half and another three in the second
– a statistic that does not reflect
the spirit of the game.
A Patrick Coey free increased Lessan’s
advantage but this was cancelled out by Eugene
O’Boyle’s point. Gerard McAnulty
played a very significant role in this score
as he won possession towards the right hand
touchline and set up the chance.
As Ciaran Loane’s kickout drifted into
centre-field Lissan suffered a serious blow
as midfielder Damien Coey landed awkwardly
after competing for the ball. After lengthy
treatment on the field he was stretchered
off to be replaced by Niall Convery. This
enforced change may have disrupted Lissan’s
chemistry, or they may have been getting the
upper hand anyhow – either way St John’s
dominated for the next ten minutes. Ryan Gibney
dropped a free into the mix and St John’s
had a couple of scrambled half-chances before
Ryan Flanagan was fouled. Ryan Gibney had
no bother with the free and so reduced the
margin to one.
But although St John’s continued to
dominate and to hold Lissan in their own half
they were unable to capitalise on their control.
The one point margin remained, despite St
John’s best efforts, though Lissan’s
must also be credited for their best defensive
efforts. Then of course the inevitable happened
– after this long period of St John’s
dominance Lissan broke forward and Patrick
Coey doubled the margin. Almost immediately
it happened again, this time with Kevin O’Hagan
writing his name on the scoresheet. Two minutes
later Patrick Coey’s free increased
the margin to four.
Lissan were revived by these scores and went
on to get the next three, to give six unanswered
score in total. Stephen McCrory got two of
those, with assistance from Patrick Coey and
Kevin O’Hagan got the final Lissan score.
With two minutes of normal time remaining
Lissan led by double scores, 14 to 7.
But there were six minutes to be added and
St John’s grasped this lifeline willingly.
For those precious minutes they threw everything
they had at Lissan. Damien Murray pointed
a free, Ryan Flanagan tapped one over and
St John’s then had the ball in the net
as Gerard McAnulty reacted quickly to fire
a free home after a defensive foul. But it
was too quick for the referee, who demanded
a retake – this time with the Lissan
team lined out across the goal-line. “Fortune
favours the brave” - Gerard McAnulty
went for goal from 13m and the green flag
was waved. Now there were two points in it
and anxious glances were being cast at wrists.
St John’s drove forward but couldn’t
get sight of the posts as Lissan dug in determinedly.
As a free drifted wide St John’s final
hopes drifted away. The referee called for
time on the kick-out. Lissan will contest
the Ulster final. St John’s will lick
their wounds, and their young team will come
back stronger in 2009.
St John’s: Darren McMullan; Cathal
O’Connor, Dan Marmion, Declan Burns;
Michael Flynn, Ronan Kelly, Donal Burns; Joe
Savage, Ryan Gibney (0-1, 1f); Eugene O’Boyle
(0-1), Conor Burns (capt, 0-1), Conor Flanagan;
Ryan Flanagan (0-1), Damien Murray (0-3, 3f),
Gerard McAnulty (1-02). Subs Conor McCombe
for Donal Burns (26), Brian Fitzpatrick for
Eugen O’Boyle (51), Conor Braniff for
Michael Flynn (25), Ciaran McCann, Jonathan
Addis, Sean Kelly, Declan Brennan, Michael
Flanagan, Daniel O’Boyle.
Lissan: Ciaran Loane; Barry McRory, Oran
Donnely, Barry McGarvey; Peter Canavan, Gerard
Donnelly (capt), Ronan Laverty (0-1); Kevin
O’Hagan (0-3), Damien Coey (0-1); Shane
McGlone, Ciaran Donnelly, Stephen McCrory
(0-4, 2f); Peter McGlone, Patrick Coey (0-5,
3f), Darren Donnelly. Subs Michael McCracken
for Gerard Donnelly (16), Niall Convery for
Damien Coey (33), Daniel McGlone for Peter
Canavan (57), Eamon McElduff for Ciaran Donnelly
(58), Stephen Conway, Kevin McElduff, Charles
McCann, Ciaran McRory, Niall McKenna.