Crosserlough GFC (An Cabhán) 3-07 St Brigid's (Aontroim) 3-10
An early purple patch in which Antrim champions St Brigid's hit 1-05 without reply proved enough to see them through to the Semi-Finals of the Bank of Ireland Ulster U21 Football Tournament in a windswept Creggan this afternoon.
A late screamer from Shane McVeety reduced the deficit to three, but in truth the Malone Road side had been in control from early in the game, their intense and precise tackling in advanced positions forcing turnovers that were converted by their slick forward line.
The Crosserlough management were alert to the danger of a mauling early on and introduced Tommy Boylan, the substitute firing home two goals to drag his side back into the game, but a wind-assisted St Brigid's largely played the second half on their terms.
The Breffni champions began the game brightly, James Smith catching the throw-in and driving straight at the Biddies defence to tap over the opening score inside a minute, before the quick ball to Patrick Lynch paid dividends, the talented full-forward throwing a neat shimmy before floating over to double the lead on 3 minutes.
Crosserlough continued on the front foot, but the Antrim champions quickly adapted to the danger, Patrick Finnegan dropping back from midfield to cut out a number of balls headed in Lynch's direction, before Peter Henvey broke through to open the Belfast side's account.
With the next attack, Henvey rattled home the afternoon's first goal, James Smith fielding a high ball from Daniel Foster and feeding Henvey who finished neatly to the corner of the net.
Spurred on by the goal, St Brigid's hit a further 0-04 without reply, a hattrick of James Smith points and a flashed effort from John Blaney seeing their side extend their lead to six before a 17th minute Patrick Lynch free broke their dominant spell.
Peter Smith then hit his side's fourth point in unusual fashion, his sideline kick dropping beyond St Brigid's full back Conor King and bouncing in front of an indecisive Toner, only for the ball to hit the ground and bounce over Toner's crossbar.
Just as it looked like Crosserlough might weather the storm, St Brigid's hit them with a second goal. A haphazard kick out from Anthony Smith in the Cavan champions' goal was eventually won by the Antrim men and a lobbed Ethan Carleton pass was flicked to the net by the agile John Blaney.
Peter Webb then weaved his way through to register his first of the afternoon before the Breffni men mounted a comeback in the final five minutes of the first half.
A long ball towards Lynch caused havoc in the St Brigid's defence, the Crosserlough forwards lining up for a pop on goal and after the ball had pinballed around off various blocking arms, substitute Tommy Boylan took control and fired low to the Biddies' net.
Peter Smith then added another point for the Cavan men to leave four between them before seeing it cancelled out by Henvey up the other end, but as the game entered stoppage time Patrick Lynch raced along the St Brigid's end line and squared for Boylan to net his second since coming off the bench and leave two between the sides at the break.
Peter Webb opened the second half scoring with a neat free wide on the right before James Smith tapped over from close range to see the St Brigid's lead increase to four, but a brace of points from Stephen Smith and Patrick Lynch cancelled out the early Saffron efforts.
Webb once again then found some space in front of the pavilion and clipped over a measured effort as St Brigid's worked hard to keep Crosserlough at arm's length, before a goal from the returning Rory Brolly looked to have sealed the game.
A sweeping St Brigid's move saw Brolly in space down the right hand side and he took off on a strong run, holding off his man to hone in on goal and slot the ball past the advancing Smith to leave the gap at six points.
The drama was not quite over though and there was time for Shane McVeety to hammer home the score of the game, using his advantage to let fly from outside the 20m line and into the top left hand corner of John Toner's net.
Crosserlough fought well to get back into the game and responded well to the early St Brigid's onslaught. In Cavan, the grade has already changed over to U20 and so the Breffni side are conceding a year's experience to many of today's opponents.
St Brigid's march on though and have set up a Semi-Final tie with near neighbours and fierce cross-county rivals Carryduff. With many of the two sides having been well-acquainted at school, they will know each other well enough to deliver a potential classic of a match in the last four.
Crosserlough GFC: Anthony Smith, John Cooke, Patrick O'Reilly, Conor Lee, Micheal Smith, Conor Rehill, Nathan Gallagher, James Smith (0-01), Eoin Smith, Brandon Boylan, Shane McVeety (1-00), Stephen Smith (0-01), Sean Briody, Patrick Lynch (0-01, 0-02f), Peter Smith (0-02).
Substitutes: Eddie Devereaux Gilsenan for Conor Lee 17', Tommy Boylan (2-00) for Nathan Gallagher 20', Emmett Boylan for Sean Briody 41', Cian Boylan for James Smith 41', Conor Lee for Eddie Devereaux Gilsenan 60'.
St Brigid's: John Toner, Henry McGuigan, Conor King, Daire McGarvey, John Morgan, Daniel Foster, Brogan Austin, Peter King, Patrick Finnegan, Peter Webb (0-03, 0-01f), John Blaney (1-01), Michael Cummings, Ethan Carleton, James Smith (0-02, 0-01f), Peter Henvey (1-02).
Substitutes: Shane Moran for Brogan Austin 30', Frank McCormack for Henry McGuigan 40', Rory Brolly (1-00) for Ethan Carleton 48'.
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tír Eoghain)
Man of the Match: Peter Webb (St Brigid's Belfast)