Naomh Éanna (Aontroim) 0-18
Bredagh GAC (An Dún) 0-16
A double whammy of points from Ryan Bogue and Cormac Ross at the beginning of the second period of extra time finally broke the Bredagh resolve to see them through to their first ever Ulster IHC Final this afternoon in Hannahstown.
The north Belfast men had a commanding lead at half-time, with a Bogue sideline the pick of their scores, but Bredagh had stayed in touch against the breeze. With the tables turned in the second half, the Down men responded, Ronan Costello coming to life to hit 0-03.
As the game entered three added minutes Sean McGourty’s point levelled the score and after two late Cormac Jennings frees dropped frustratingly wide for Naomh Éanna, the game moved into extra time.
Ian Galway repeated the Bogue trick but gradually the Hightown side exerted control, a John McGoldrick free levelling before the quickfire points from Bogue and Ross finally saw off Bredagh.
The opening quarter was strewn with errors as both teams struggled to find their rhythm but a 3rd minute Donal Hughes point and an Ian Galways free had them two up after five minutes.
Cormac Ross responded by stepping out of a tackle and firing over and John McGoldrick then opened his account for the afternoon to draw Naomh Éanna level at 0-02 apiece with ten minutes gone.
Galway nudged Bredagh back in front from a placed ball, but a delectable Ryan Bogue sideline from 45 yards out on the right was followed by a neat Eddie O’Connor dummy and finish to see Naomh Éanna take the lead for the first time in the game on 20 minutes.
Further points from Joe Maskey and Cormac Ross extended the Hightown lead before Malachy Scullion broke the ball to Cormac Hughes who slotted between the sticks to keep Bredagh in touch.
Naomh Éanna had recovered from their shaky start however and pulled clear with a brace of McGoldrick frees and a Cormac Jennings effort to end their wind advantage with a cosmetic if unconvincing six-point lead.
Simon Wilson sprung Sean Hughes from the Bredagh bench at half-time and he had an early impact, slipping the ball to Ronan Costello for the corner forward to reduce the gap to five, but the Down men were pegged back by a Ruairí Donaghy score almost immediately.
Naomh Éanna then spurned a goal chance, Bredagh ‘keeper Eoghan Donnelly reacting well to turn a ground pull from McGoldrick away to safety and after Oliver Breen shot wide from the resulting 65, Ian Galway capitalised with a neat free at the other end.
Martin Curran then had to be alert to stop a goalbound Ronan Costello effort, tipping it around the post with his left foot as Bredagh looked to push on with the wind at their backs. Galway landed the 65, only for McGoldrick to render it void with a free of his own.
With the action fragmenting slightly, the goal briefly opened up for Naomh Éanna once again. Goalkeeper Donnelly came a long way to deal with a high ball and needed the assistance of Tom McGuckin, who scooped the ball away with his feet to clear.
Ian Galway then traded frees with Cormac Jennings before the south Belfast men found some momentum. Another Galway free was followed quickly by a brace from Ronan Costello, the second of which ended a full-pitch counter attack after McGuckin brought the ball clear from his full-back line.
Bredagh were rampant now with buoyed optimism and after Sean Hughes reduced the deficit to the minimum, Sean McGourty levelled matters on 57 minutes.
Manus Mullan nudged a relieved Naomh Éanna back in front but as the game entered added time, Sean Hughes showed great composure, collecting the ball in the corner and racing across goal until he found a runner, McGourty again pointing to send the game to extra time.
A howl of sleet greeted the start of extra time and as it abated, Ian Galway launched over a sideline from a similar position to that of Bogue in the first half to send his side into the lead, but a reintroduced John McGoldrick responded two minutes later to level from a free.
There was then controversy as Mark Donaghy’s long-range effort was chalked off, umpires having been overturned by the referee and Naomh Éanna ended the half with McGoldrick pulling a free wide of the posts.
Two minutes into the final period of extra time, the once again outstanding Cormac Ross launched over a long-range score to give them the lead, before quick-thinking from Ryan Bogue saw him play a one-two with McGoldrick and swing over to double the lead.
The scores roused Naomh Éanna rather than deflated Bredagh and the Down men hit back again through Sean Hughes to leave one between them, but the Hightown men remained composed as a frantic Bredagh onslaught followed.
A Killian Jennings score in the dying seconds finally ended their resolve and there was both delight and relief at the final whistle as the club sealed their place in an Ulster final for the second year running.
It will be fellow Antrim ACHL Division 2 side Eoghan Ruadh next for Naomh Éanna after the Dungannon men defeated Keady Lámh Dhearg in Páirc Esler this afternoon and the two teams will know each other well.
They go back over the mountain to Hightown safely into the Ulster Final.
Naomh Éanna: Martin Curran, Niall O'Connor, Rían Gillen, Ruairí Diamond, Cormac Ross (0-02, 0-01f), Mark Donaghy, Joe Maskey (0-01), Ryan Bogue (0-01, 0-01 – sideline), Ruairí Donaghy (0-01), Philly Curran, Manus Mullan (0-01), Eddie O'Connor (0-02), John McGoldrick (0-05f), Matthew O'Hare, Cormac Jennings (0-01).
Subs: Killian Jennings (0-01) for Matthew O’Hare HT, Oliver Breen for Eddie O’Connor 35’, Ruairí Crummey for John McGoldrick 47’, John McGoldrick for Oliver Breen 63’, Matthew O’Hare for Cormac Jennings 80’.
Bredagh: Eoghan Donnelly, Matthew McAreavey, Tom McGuckin, Danny Robinson, Chris Ferry, Oran McFlynn, Declan McCartney, Ian Galway (0-05f, 0-01 – 65, 0-01 – sideline), Sean McGourty (0-02), Cormac Hughes (0-01), Donal Hughes (0-01), Niall McFarland, Joe Hanrahan, Malachy Scullion, Ronan Costello (0-03).
Subs: Sean Hughes (0-02) for Malachy Scullion HT’, Emmett Trainor for Joe Hanrahan 49’, Joe Hanrahan for Ian Galway 75’.
Referee: Aidan Ferguson – Erne Gaels (Fear Manach)
Man of the Match: Ryan Bogue - Naomh Éanna