Kevin Lynch Hurling Club 3-14 St Colm’s Ballinascreen 1-12
Man of the Match Niall Ferris' 57th minute goal sparked an Owenbeg exodus as Kevin Lynch Hurling Club finally struck a killer blow on a determined St Colm's Ballinascreen challenge as they booked their place in the final of the Leadon Timberframe Derry SHC.
Having trailed by two points at the break, Ballinascreen had drawn level mid-way through the second half through an Aaron Kelly score, but an immediate Richie Mullan major appeared to deflate their resistance.
What remained was finally punctured as Ferris pounced on a mistake from goalkeeper Sean McBride to open up a four-point lead with three minutes left on the clock and the Lynch's eventually ran out winning by double that amount.
An early Corey O'Reilly 65 had given Lynch's the lead, but Noel Rafferty levelled on 5 minutes before Odhran McKeever and Paul Cleary traded scores.
Cleary's accuracy was to prove instrumental to the St Colm's challenge throughout the evening and after Eamon Conway had nudged 'Screen in front, Cleary hit his second free to double the lead.
Kevin Lynch's were labouring in midfield, with Ballinascreen getting the better of them in the early stages and after Eoghan Cassidy hit back with a long-range effort, Ruairí McWilliams and Niall Ferris traded scores, only for another Corey O'Reilly free to level the scores at 0-05 apiece after 20 minutes.
A spell of 0-04 without reply for Lynch's saw them gradually settle into the game. Points from cousins John and Richie Mullan preceded a Tiarnan McHugh effort and when Corey O'Reilly hit his third of the afternoon, things were looking ominous for Ballinascreen.
Both sides then had flashes at goal, defences swallowing up Reece McSorley and Corey O'Reilly before Sean Kelly did break free to test the resolve of 'Screen goalkeeper Sean McBride's hurl, but two late Cleary frees saw them trail by only two points at the break.
Niall Ferris opened the second half in inspired form, racing through to short-stick the sliotar over the bar before another O'Reilly free saw their lead doubled by the 35-minute mark.
Cleary again hit back for 'Screen but Ferris repeated his earlier run and finish to nullify the advance and maintain the four=point gap before a moment of ingenuity in the St Colm's attack threw them a lifeline.
The industrious Aaron Kelly pulled clear of a tackle in midfield and sent a long ball towards the edge of the Lynch's square, where Reece McSorley rose highest to flick the ball to Brian Lagan's net.
Kelly then rattled off a score of his own to level the scores, but just as the St Colm's support began to contemplate an upset, Tiarnan McHugh floated a ball over the defence for a galloping Richie Mullan to rifle to the net.
Before 'Screen could draw breath, centre-back Mark Craig tacked on another, but a brace of frees and point from play from Paul Cleary suggested his side were not going meekly into the north Derry night.
In the 57th minute though, Niall Ferris sent them on their way regardless. Sean McBride failed to deal with a high ball into his square and in nipped Ferris, wheeling away in celebration as the sliotar rolled over the 'Screen goal-line.
As the faithful began to exit Owenbeg, substitute Patrick O'Kane plucked a Richie Mullan free from the air and hammered it into the bottom corner to leave seven between them and following Eoghan Gilmore's late dismissal, Corey O'Reilly ended the game with another pointed free.
'Job done' will sum up the evening for Geoffrey McGonagle's side who will relish the opportunity for a shot at a Slaughtneil side that they had on the Ballinascreen ropes last year.
Kevin Lynch’s: Brian Lagan, Niall Smyth, Patrick Kelly, Conor Kelly, John Mullan (0-01), Mark Craig (0-01), Liam Óg Hinphey, Eoghan Cassidy (0-01), Thomas Brady, Corey O’Reilly (0-02, 0-01f, 0-01 – 65), Niall Ferris (1-03), Sean Kelly, Odhran McKeever (0-01), Tiarnan McHugh (0-01), Richie Mullan (1-01).
Subs: Patrick O’Kane (1-00) for Odhran McKeever 45’.
Ballinascreen: Sean McBride, Aidan McGuigan, Johnny McCullagh, Conor McSorley, Eoghan Gilmore, Ruairí McWilliams (0-01), Daire Kelly, John McCloskey, Aaron Kelly (0-01), Noel Rafferty (0-01), Eamon Conway (0-01), Reece McSorley (1-00), Philly McGlade, Ryan Scullion, Paul Cleary (0-01, 0-07f).
Subs: Marty Bradley for Ryan Scullion 40’, Caoilte McAlinden for John McCloskey (BS 45’ – reversed 47’), Charles Gilmore for Eamon Conway 59’.
Referee: Owen Elliott (All Saints’ Ballymena)
Man of the Match: Niall Ferris (Kevin Lynch HC)