2009 U14 A FC FINAL
Conor Convery kicked three unanswered points in the last five minutes to ensure Glen held off a superb Ballinascreen challenge at Celtic Park, writes Cahair O'Kane.
It was a superb effort from a Ballinascreen side who, while there on merit, were the moon and his wife’s underdogs as they took in every pre-match word that Tony Scullion had to offer.
The words almost worked. They’re only U14s these lads, but the effort that both sides put in to try and close down the huge space afforded to them was colossal.
But ultimately, Glen just had that bit more power. Everyone is looking at this Watties team as one for the future. But it’s a dangerous thing to do sometimes, to look at a successful U14 team and assume they’ll make it at senior.
Glen, however, look like they have the makings of a side that will be around for a long time. So many underage teams are successful because they have two or three bigger players who are able to bully the rest.
And fair enough, Stevie O’Hara kicked two huge scores in the second half, from 40 yards. Points that no-one else on the field could have scored.
But Ballinascreen weren’t going to allow themselves to be bullied out of the game. Slaughtneil didn’t allow themselves to be bullied out of the semi-final. Glen needed to find their other characteristics.
They did. Of the 50 minutes, Glen owned at least 35 of them. Against the wind in the first half, they dominated the opening 12 minutes. Problem was that they had nothing to show for it.
Ballinascreen had two attacks in that opening quarter of the game, but their very first gave them a head start that they squeezed the life out of, but ultimately found wrestled free.
Paul Gunning, Glen’s brilliant centre-back, look to have had the danger sewn up. But he collided with his own goalkeeper and the ball ran free for a disbelieving Dermot McKenna to tap home as the two Glen men lay prone.
It’s the kind of luck you need. Certain things during the game just suggested it was to be Ballinascreen’s day, especially when Tommy Convery’s right-footed drive from eight yards cannoned off the post to safety just seconds after the goal.
Ballinascreen looked hungrier. Their semi-final win over Magherafelt didn’t quite take the wind out of them the way Glen’s incredible, dramatic late win over Slaughtneil did. Lest we forget, that was a replay, and they scored two goals in the final minute to break their rivals’ hearts.
‘Screen tackled ferociously. Glen had all this horse power in the form of Convery, McKenna and O’Hara, but they had no room to gallop.
The better side in the first half led at half-time. Ballinascreen might not have had the most of the ball, but when Glen had it, they put a barrier around their goal. Ryan Wilson’s 14th minute point made it 1-1 to 0-0, and every time ‘Screen broke, they caused bother. Conor McAuley was showing well, while Sean Doyle was driving at every chance from midfield.
But Glen were dominating in midfield, forcing the St. Colm’s lads back, and it seemed as though it would be a matter of time. But it wasn’t.
Doyle added a lovely point after scores at the other end from Tomás McKenna and Conor Convery. Dermot McKenna might have had a second goal but could only get the room to poke it over the bar from eight yards after a superb team move.
Glen might have registered the final score of the half through Cahir Glass, but at 1-3 to 0-3 down at Joe Mulholland’s half-time whistle, they knew they were in a game.
The bit was between all 30 sets of teeth as the second half began. No quarter asked, it provided the atmosphere, the intensity and the excitement of more than most senior championship games. The kind you can’t take your eyes off.
It wasn’t blessed with score upon score. They were hard to come by, which was why Stevie O’Hara became such an important player for Glen.
In two minutes, he kicked two massive scores from the 45’ to make it 0-6 to 1-3. In between, Dermot McKenna hit the post for ‘Screen. The omens had gone in at the break and painted themselves green and gold.
Paul Gunning gave nothing away defensively, and then capped his performance by popping up to put Glen in front for the first time after 44 minutes. But Conor McKenna’s free closed the gap again and sent us in to the final five minutes with extra-time on the cards.
The wind was at Glen’s backs. The expectancy stopped blowing back in their faces and Convery’s cool head saw him register three points on the spin to give them their match-winning lead.
But even that wasn’t it. Possession wise, if Marty Mulgrew’s shot had come inside the post, it would probably have been harsh on Glen. But for sheer effort, Ballinascreen deserved to see it hit the net.
It wasn’t to be. Ciaran McCloy watched it sail into the fencing behind his Brandywell goal and there was no more time.
GLEN: Ciaran McCloy; Conor Glass, Cahir McCabe, Conor McDevitt; Cahir Glass (0-1), Paul Gunning (0-1), Cathal Mulholland; Tommy Convery, Tomás McKenna; Conor Convery (0-4), Stevie O’Hara (0-2), Oisin Hegarty (0-1); Pearse Flanagan, Danny Tallon, Jack Doherty.
BALLINASCREEN: Ryan McGuigan; Mark McAuley, Jack English, Barry Grant; Ronan Murphy, Stephen McKee, Sean Donnelly; Darren Rafferty, Sean Doyle (0-1); Conor McAuley, Johnny O’Hagan, Ryan Wilson (0-1); Marty Mulgrew, Conor McKenna (0-1), Dermot McKenna (1-1)
REF: Joe Mulholland (Moneymore).
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