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Heartbreak for Banagher as Mullahoran Advance

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

St Mary's Banagher 0-19 Mullahoran Dreadnoughts GFC 1-16*

*Mullahoran win 5-3 on free kicks

Epic is a word that is thrown around carelessly in the nonchalant climate of modern speech, but this 2018 Ulster IFC Semi-Final between Mullahoran and St Mary's Banagher will linger long in the memory of those who witnessed it.

Ninety minutes of frenetic passion. Ninety minutes of heart and determination. Ninety minutes of an absolute refusal to accept defeat. Ninety minutes of breathless, historic, enthralling championship football.

After the tireless Peter Hagan squeezed over an equalising point, Banagher's nineteenth of the match, deep into stoppage time in the second period of extra-extra time, the pitch announcer relayed the information that we would now proceed to Phase 3.

Free kick shootout.

In the end, it was Cavan champions Mullahoran who held their nerve in the lottery to see them through to the Final, but there was a general agreement from those present that it was a cruel way to decide a game in which both sets of warriors had emptied the tank, particularly the Derry side, playing with 14 men for the entire second half of normal time.

The Cavan men were quickest off the mark and Darrel McDermott was called into action for the first time seconds after the throw-in, a strong run from Gavin Brady drawing a point blank save from the Banagher goalkeeper.

In the aftermath, the referee spotted a foul on a Mullahoran attacker and Enda O'Reilly tapped over his first of the evening from close range, before Mark Lynch collected the ball on the 45m line, stepped back and launched a big score between the posts to level matters in the early minutes.

Brian Óg McGilligan then typified the bravery shown in this game, shipping a hit as he took a 50-50 ball before cutting inside and firing over right-footed. The score lifted St Mary's and Tiarnan Moore notched his first point moments later, ending a well-worked move with a neat finish to open up a two-point gap.

Mullahoran then left Darrel McDermott picking the ball out of the back of his net for only the second time in Banagher's entire championship journey, Cormac O'Reilly's industrious work and pass across the six-yard box allowing Philip Brady to punch home and put the Breffni men into the lead.

The sides were level minutes later as a poor Sean Briody kick out fell into the arms of Gavin O'Neill, who slipped it through to Niall Moore who made no mistake, before Tiarnan Moore exercised his electric footwork, dancing through the defenders and dissecting the posts to restore the Banagher lead.

A late change to the Mullahoran teamsheet saw Peter Paul Galligan start in place of Shane Sheils, and Galligan made his mark with a neat point, Cormac O'Reilly finding him in space after good work by Shane Murphy to shut him out.

As the pace increased, Enda O'Reilly scythed a path from the right flank and floated over a score to nudge Mullahoran in front. A Peter Hagan free once again restored parity, before Banagher were dealt a blow as Ciaran Lynch added a black card to the yellow he picked up in the early stages and was dismissed without recourse.

The card seemed to rattle the North Derry men, and McDermott once again turned saviour, preventing Philip Brady finding the net as the play became fractured to the backdrop of rising decibels in the stand. Cormac O'Reilly then brought a breathless half to a close with a free from 30 yards to edge his side back in front.

Banagher had to show patience at the beginning of the second half before Peter Hagan eventually slipped through a gap and was dragged down for a free which Mark Lynch converted to level the score.

Darrel McDermott then produced one of the best saves the Athletic Grounds has ever witnessed. Turning over the ball in midfield, the Cavan men countered and McDermott was left facing three marauding forwards, but as Philip Brady went to pull the trigger, the Banagher custodian launched himself full length and blocked the ball out for a 45.

Cormac O'Reilly nailed the 45 to put Mullahoran back in front and points from Enda O'Reilly, Gavin Brady and Philip Brady saw the Breffni side open up an ominous four-point lead against the fourteen men of Banagher with thirteen minutes remaining.

Once again St Mary's returned to the well, Tiarnan Moore taking a look and firing over from distance, before Declan Mullan and Enda Muldoon sprung the equally electric Conor Feeney from the bench.

Feeney's introduction seemed to lift the Derry men, and points from Mark Lynch and Peter Hagan quickly had them back within a point, before a loose shot into McDermott's arms was worked up the pitch for the Banagher substitute to finish himself and level the match.

As the momentum appeared to swing Banagher's way, Enda O'Reilly ended a counter attack with a neat score and as the Cavan men pushed forward, there were heroic blocks in defence from Sean McCullagh and captain Paul Cartin, before Tiarnan Moore rewarded their tenacity with an equalising point up the other end.

As the game entered four added minutes, Mullahoran were reduced to fourteen men as Sean McKeogh received a second yellow, but the Breffni side had one last chance to finish the tie, Darrel McDermott again denying Cormac O'Reilly as he bore down on goal to send the game into extra time.

With both sides back to the full complement of fifteen, it was Mullahoran who struck first, Enda O'Reilly collecting from Shane Sheils to point before Tiarnan Moore brought Banagher level again.

Peter Hagan's cultured left foot then forced his side in front, before sheer determination from Tiarnan Moore forced a turnover on the right flank and Gavin O'Neill provided the finish.

The delirium in the stand was reaching fever pitch, but as the first period stoppage time was drawing to a close, Shane Sheils fired over to leave the minimum between them as they entered the second period.

It took until midway through the second period for Mullahoran to draw level, Philip Brady again the outlet as he created space in the forward line to equalise. Mark Lynch then stepped up to nudge his side ahead again with a trademark no-nonsense finish between the uprights, before Shane Farren opened up a two-point gap with two minutes left.

It was Mullahoran's turn to visit the well and they returned with a full pail, Enda O'Reilly tapping over a free before the seemingly indefatigable Philip Brady popped up again to send the game into a second round of extra time.

Sean Briody was called into action early on, Tiarnan Moore stinging his palms with a close range effort, but it was Shane Sheils who hit Banagher on the counter, galloping through a tired defence to fire his side ahead, before Philip Brady doubled the lead from twenty yards.

Despite a thunderous Matthew Hynes hit, Darragh McCloskey showed bravery to offload the ball to Shane Farren, and his courage was rewarded as Farren swept the ball home to leave Banagher trailing by a point as the teams broke for half-time in the 85th minute.

With the tension unbearable, and the PA system announcing lost purses and traffic issues to add to the drama, the final period saw Mullahoran defending like rabid dogs as Banagher desperately tried to work an opening.

With the glow from the embers almost extinguished, Peter Hagan finally found a gap, getting on the end of an extensive passing move and guiding the ball between the uprights to send the match to a historic free kick shooutout.

An eerie hush descended on the Athletic Grounds as one by one, the sacrificial lambs were offered. Both teams linked arms in front of the stand to watch the drama unfold, but it was the men in blue and yellow who were celebrating at the end.

A devastated Niall Moore saw his shot land wide of the posts, and it was left to Cormac O'Reilly to slot the winner in front of a captivated audience from all four competing teams gathered in the stand.

The drama was supreme, but the method surely cruel. Having served up the game of the season in Armagh, both teams will feel that a replay would have been the fairest way to decide the outcome of the game.

Banagher have a lot to celebrate despite ending an incredible season in heartbreaking fashion, but rules are rules and Mullahoran deep down won't be concerned as they prepare for an Ulster IFC Final meeting with Naomh Éanna of Antrim.

St Mary's Banagher: Darrel McDermott, Shane Murphy, Ruairí McCloskey, Oisín McCloskey, Paul Cartin, Sean McCullagh, Darragh McCloskey, Brian Óg McGilligan (0-01), Mark Lynch (0-03, 0-01f), Gavin O'Neill (0-01), Peter Hagan (0-03, 0-01f), Ciaran Lynch, Niall Moore (0-01), Shane Farren (0-02), Tiarnan Moore (0-05).

Subs: Conor Feeney (0-01) for Niall Moore 49', Mícheál Anderson for Darragh McCloskey 54', John Lynch for Shane Murphy 64', Stefan McCloskey (ET), Niall Moore for Stefan McCloskey 85'.

Mullahoran Dreadnoughts GFC: Sean Briody, Callum Mussi, Tadhg McGahern, Paul Brady, Cian O'Reilly, Matthew Hynes, Colm O'Reilly, Killian Brady, Gavin Brady (0-01), Peter Paul Galligan (0-01), Enda O'Reilly (0-04, 0-02f), Sean McKeogh, Raymond Lynch, Philip Brady (1-04), Cormac O'Reilly (0-02f).

Subs: Fionnán O'Reilly for Paul Brady 49', Shane Sheils (0-02) for Gavin Brady 54', Patrick Brady for Philip Brady 58', Paul Brady (ET), Philip Brady for Fionnán O'Reilly 70', Liam Wilson for PP Galligan 78' BS, Gavin Brady for Cormac O'Reilly 87'.

Referee: Niall McKenna (Muineachán)

Man of the Match: Darrel McDermott (St Mary's Banagher)

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