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Gallant in defeat

St Patrick’s Maghera 5-7 St Paul’s Bessbrook 1-9

It will be of little consolation to St Paul’s to be labelled as gallant losers, but such was the case as they fought on very gamely after they were left with a mountain to climb some 20 minutes into their second MacRory Cup Final appearance, as they trailed their previous conquerors St Patrick’s, Maghera 4-4 to 0-4 after 20 minutes.

A blistering start when they found the net three times in the opening twelve minutes paved the way for their victory but great credit has to go to a St Paul’s side who made a game of it as they outscored the hot favorites 1-5 to 1-3 for the remainder of the game, which ended 12 scores to 10, just a pity that 5 of the 12 were goals. It might have been a lot closer were it not for Maghera goalkeeper Sean Cassidy who, not for the first time in this competition, saved his team’s bacon with an outstanding save. With the game down to a six point margin and St Paul’s in the ascendency Cassidy made a brilliant save to deny Ryan McSherry a goal in the 50th minute which was a pivotal moment in the game, as the 14 time champions regained their composure to go on to become the Danske Bank MacRory Cup champions for the 15th time in their illustrious history.

St Paul’s hopes of a first title were on the back burner as early as the eighth minute as they trailed 2-2 to nil before Niall Magennis opened up their scoring account as team captain Jarlath óg Burns added another well taken point sixty seconds later. Maghera inside forwards Francis Kearney and Shane McGuigan wreaked all the early havoc as they opened the scoring after only twenty seconds through Kearney, who then set up full forward McGuigan to fire home a 3rd minute goal, leaving the Bessbrook challenge reeling and it was on the ropes after eight minutes as McGuigan pounced for goal number two after a shot from Kearney had been blocked on the line.

The Derry lads replied in emphatic style to the two Bessbrook points in quick succession with a third goal as Kearney fired low into the bottom left hand corner of the net past keeper Michael Murphy. Paul’s midfielder Damian O’Hagan added his sides third point but moments later Kearney twins Patrick and Francis combined to enable Paddy Quigg find the roof of the net for his team’s fourth goal. St Paul’s joint leading scorers Liam Kerr and Shea Loye added a couple of points as their team totted up wide number 5, before Maghera finished the half strong as Oisin McWilliams pointed and that man McGuigan closed the first half scoring with their fourth point to give them a 4-4 to 0-5 interval lead.

St Paul’s through their second half performance proved to everyone that they were worthy finalists, as they tried everything they knew to get back into the game, but were up against a physically imposing experienced side who knew how to defend a winning margin. With absolutely nothing to lose, St Paul’s manfully set about getting a foothold in the game and restoring wounded pride in the jersey. Liam Kerr and Shea Loye had early points before a blistering run from Conor Magennis saw him offload for Loye to find the roof of the net. Maghera stunned the early onslaught replied with points from McWilliams and McGuigan which were cancelled out by points from Loye and Kerr to leave it a six point game. St Paul’s revival was halted by the Cassidy goal save and the growing influence of Patrick Kearney. My Man of the Match, the superb McGuigan took his personal haul to 2-4, all from play with the last point of the game. As the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion, 3 minutes into injury time Conall Darragh coolly tucked a penalty into the bottom left hand corner of the net after he had been brought down by a defender.

St Paul’s progress in this most prestigious competition since they made their bow 3 years ago has been phenomenal and it will surely be a case of third time lucky when they get back to another final in the near future. For now the Bessbrook boys will bemoan their poor start but can be immensely proud of themselves for not capitulating in the face of adversity and making their opponents fight all the way for their victory.

St Paul’s Bessbrook: M Murphy; C Magennis, D Loye, C McDonnell; E McCabe, R Gaskin, C Clarke; J Og Burns (0-1), D O’Hagan (0-1); R Keenan, N Magennis (0-1), A Boyle; L Kerr (0-3, 2f), S Loye (1-3, 1f), R McSherry.

Subs: S Finnegan for Keenan, J Durnin for O’Hagan, R Hughes for N Magennis

St Patrick’s Maghera: S Cassidy; O McKeever, P Turner, K Feeney; P McCormack, S Downey, C McAllister; C Glass, J Doherty; P Kearney, P Quigg (1-0), O McWilliams (0-2); C Darragh (1-0, pen), S McGuigan (2-4), F Kearney (1-1).

Subs: T Walsh for McKeever, D McPeake for Quigg, M Mullan for McWilliams, C Mulholland for McAllister, F Higgins for P Kearney

Referee: M McNally, Monaghan.