St Killian’s dramatic cup final victory

St Killian’s Garron Tower 3-7 St Mary’s Belfast 0-14

St Killian’s Garron Tower bridged a 21-year gap when they came from behind to grab a late victory over St Mary’s CBS Belfast in last week’s final of the BT Foresters’ Cup at Quinn Park, Ballymena.

The Belfast boys went into the game as hot favourites, but St Killian’s who were backed by the breeze in the opening half had the better of things on the scoreboard and led by 1-6 to 0-6 at the break, the goal coming from corner-forward Sean McCann following good work by Christy McNaughton who accounted for four of his side’s six points.

As the second-half got under way a goal advantage didn’t appear to be nearly enough for the Tower lads and with St Mary’s dangerman Conor Johnston starting to influence the game the Belfast side edged two points clear by the fortieth minute, three of the points coming from Johnston.

In truth St Mary’s could have been further ahead had it not been for the heroics of St Killian’s team captain Paddy Burke who hurled magnificently during the second-half.

Despite falling behind, Burke’s heroics started to influence his team-mates and they regained a foothold in the game when corner-forward Ryan Delargy finished off great work by centre-forward Corey Beggs by drilling a low shot to the St Mary’s net.

When Sean McCann added a point less than a minute later to put the Tower two clear you could see the tempo of the St Killian’s play visibly rise. Johnston was still highly influential at the other end however and two points from the St Mary’s captain and one from full-back Eamon Shannon put the Belfast boys a point ahead with ten minutes still to play.

They had chances to increase that advantage but Burke’s heroics and some fine goalkeeping by Patrick Abram kept the gap at just one.

St Mary’s still looked favourites to hold on for the win but St Killian’s full-forward Christy McNaughton, who had been quiet during the second period, won possession in the final minute of normal time and scored a cracking goal to put his side two clear again with time almost up.

The Tower fans had to endure a few anxious moments before the celebrations got under way as St Mary’s won a twenty metre free in injury time, but with the deficit of two points Johnston was forced to go for goal and a packed goal line stopped his shot before Ryan McIlroy brought the ball clear of danger to the sound of the final whistle.

A great victory for the Tower, their first in this competition since 1991 when the team, contained names like Robert Paul Laverty, Brendan McSparran and Padraig ‘Mariner’ McIlwaine, who coincidently is now vice-principal at the North coast college.

St Killian’s : Patrick Abram, Aiden O’Neill, Cathal McKillop, Ronan McKillop, Stephen Walsh, Paddy Burke, Hugh McNeill, Don Whelan, Nial McNaughton, Ryan McIlroy, Corey Beggs, Dylan McLaughlin 0-1, Sean McCann 1-1, Christy McNaughton 1-4, Ryan Delargy 1-0.

Subs: R O’Connor 0-1 for R McKillop, C Leech for R McIlroy.

St Mary’s : D McMenamin, C Walsh, E Shannon 0-1, S Gaskin, C Hanna, G Walsh, P Mervin, G Kelly, N Earley 0-1, S Shannon 0-2, C McVeigh 0-1, L McLarnon, D Murphy 0-3, F Greene, C Johnstone 0-6.

Referee : T McIntyre