Updated: Dec 10, 2018
Cúchullain's Dunloy 1-04 Wolfe Tones Bellaghy 1-18
A nine-point salvo from Lorcan Spier saw Bellaghy eventually ease through to the Quarter-Final of the Fonacab Ulster Minor Football Tournament at a cool but sunny St Paul's on Sunday afternoon.
The Antrim champions only trailed by three at half time, but in truth it was the Wolfe Tones who almost kicked Dunloy back into the game, hitting numerous first half wides to leave Damian Cassidy audibly seething at half time in the dressing room.
Three points was the closest Dunloy were to get and despite Callum Scullion hitting the opening score of the second half, the Derry men put a further 1-11 on the scoreboeard to run out comfortable winners.
Eoghan McGrath fired over the opening score for Cúchullain's, latching onto a loose pass to fire over from range, but three quickfire points from Lorcan Spier, Paul Cassidy and Conleth McShane saw Bellaghy open up a two-point lead.
At this early stage the Derry side were ripping the Cúchullain's asunder, clipped kick passes finding the raiding Cassidy inside with ease and strong running from McShane and Spier wreaking havoc, but Bellaghy struggled to find the target, hitting three poor wides in quick succession before Pádraig McGilligan was forced into the first save of the match.
Ronan Lee made inroads on the left hand side to the edge of the six yard box, where he saw his initial effort blocked by Cathair McCloskey. Lee collected the rebound but found McGilligan his equal, the Dunloy stopper getting down well to block and clear his effort.
With Cúchullain's attempts at counter attacks floundering in a sea of blue and white on the opposition 45m line, the pressure on their defence was intense, but they stood up well, tackling and hassling, forcing Bellaghy into poor shot choices and ultimately, wides.
McGilligan again turned saviour, parrying a Conleth McShane effort to safety, but the resulting 45 was worked short to Paul Cassidy, who threw a neat dummy before swinging over his second of the afternoon.
The lively Spier followed up with a short-range free before Seaan Elliott's first real involvement in the game yielded a penalty, the Dunloy corner forward hauled down as he dribbled soccer-style into the Bellaghy six-yard box.
Elliott saw his penalty well-saved by Daire McErlean in the Tones' goalmouth, but reacted fastest to the situation, following into poke home the rebound and leave the gap at one point.
Unperturbed, Bellaghy responded. Lee Brady raced through to clip over a neat point, that after some discussion, the referee ruled to be valid, before a Lorcan Spier free ended the half with Wolfe Tones three to the good.
Straight from the throw-in, Callum Scullion took control of the ball, the former Rasharkin man bursting through to finish over the bar with his less-favoured left foot to spark hopes of a Cúchullain's comeback, but it was to be a false dawn, as first Lorcan Spier and then Paul Cassidy hit back in quick succession.
Anthony Smith then converted a close-range free to leave Dunloy trailing by three, but it was to be their last score until the final minutes of the match as Bellaghy suddenly sparked into life.
A hattrick of points from Spier doubled the Wolfe Tones lead, with Ronan Lee adding another following a superb Aaron Crawford block on Paul Cassidy, the kind of score that demoralises an over-worked defence.
Another fine Spier effort from the right wing and a Kealan Friel finish wide on the left followed as Dunloy heads began to drop, and the pressure eased from the shoulders of the Derry side, who underlined their superiority minutes later.
Ronan Lee, who tormented Cúchullain's throughout with his strength and direct running, took off on a raid down the right hand side. Brushing off the fatigued tackles, he drew McGilligan before squaring for Kealan Friel to crash home a goal from point black range with his fists.
The ever-reliable Spier followed by tapping over a free, before his replacement Sean Turner repeated his above half-time exploits to increase the deficit to fourteen points.
Anthony Smith hit Dunloy's final score, shooting low over the crossbar from a free at the other end, the death rattle of a team about to exit the championship, but the final word went to Kealan Friel who showcased his own free-taking ability to restore the fourteen point gap.
With the cobwebs blown off after a lay-off without competitive action, the Derry champions showed a glimpse of their title credentials in the second half and will go again next week against Iniskeen Grattans of Monaghan.
Eunan Cassidy will be delighted that the floodlights will again be lighting up the Bellaghy skyscape this week.
Cúchullain's Dunloy: Pádraig McGilligan, Oisín McErlane, Paddy Kinsella, Cathair McCloskey, Anton McGrath, Aaron Crawford, Ciaran McQuillan, Callum Scullion (0-01), Ryan McFarlane, Daithí McGuigan, Rory Mullan, Eoin McMullan, Eoghan McGrath (0-01), Anthony Smith (0-02f), Seaan Elliott (1-00).
Subs: John Dixon for Oisín McErlane 30', Sean O'Neill for Rory Mullan 42'.
Wolfe Tones Bellaghy: Daire McErlean, Ronan McFaul, Cormac McLarnon, James Diamond, Peter McErlean, Conan Milne, Odhran Lee, Conleth McShane (0-01), Kealan Friel (1-01, 0-01f), Oisín McErlean, Lorcan Spier (0-06, 0-03f), Lee Brady (0-01), Charlie Diamond, Paul Cassidy (0-03), Ronan Lee (0-01).
Subs: Oisín McClafferty for Charlie Diamond 41', Sean Turner (0-01f) for Oisín McErlean 56', Max Stuart for Lorcan Spier 56', Eoghan Lee for Conan Milne 58'.
Man of the Match: Lorcan Spier (Wolfe Tones)
Want to get your logo on our coverage? Visit our Urraíocht | Sponsorship section for more details!