McGURK ARCHITECTS SHC QUALIFIERS
Ballinascreen 2-16 Swatragh 1-15
Michael McMullan at Celtic Park
IT took three injury time points from Reece McSorley, Aaron Kelly and the impressive John McCloskey before Ballinascreen took control of Monday night’s qualifier game at Celtic Park.
With the game in the mix in the last five minutes Ballinascreen missed three gilt-edged chances to seal the game. Swatragh took heart and came back into the game and with 61 minutes on the clock, trailed narrowly - 2-13 to 1-15.
Swatragh raced into an early three point lead but a 15th minute goal from Aaron Kelly levelled the sides 1-3 to 0-6. With Michael Kirkpatrick in unerring form, the Davitt's were 0-10 to 1-8 ahead by half-time.
Ten minutes after the break, John McCloskey finished off a move involving Philip McGlade and Sean McBride - McCloskey's goal opening up a 2-11 to 0-11 lead.
Kirkpatrick slammed a close range free to the net minutes later, to bring The 'Swa back into contention and they looked like getting at least a draw until 'Screen's late rally.
THE KIRK SHOW
Swatragh were missing their talisman Ruairi Convery but Michael Kirkpatrick stepped up to the mantle. He scored 0-9 of Swatragh’s first-half total, including two sideline cuts.
Kirkpatrick set his tone for his first-half performance, with a free from the far ‘65’ after just 38 seconds. Swatragh started the game with great intensity, were first to every ball and in Michael Kirkpatrick, they had a source of scores from all angles.
‘Kirk’ struck over a sweetly struck sideline ball to double the scores. Swatragh were defending stoutly with Conor Quinn and Malachaí O’Hagan, with goalkeeper Conor O’Kane as safe as houses in goals with a series of catches on the line over hour.
Fintan McGurk scored a third point before Paul Cleary got ‘Screen off the mark after five minutes. Paddy Bradley broke down a Ballinascreen attack and Kirkpatrick fired over from long range.
Midway through the half, the game changed. A long ball from Brendan Herron was brilliantly controlled by Aaron Kelly who turned and crashed his shot across Conor O’Kane to the net – to level the game 1-3 to 0-6.
John McCloskey and Reece McSorley added points to put ‘Screen ahead. Even though they lost Eugene McGuckin to injury, Swatragh continued to play with purpose. Manager Danny McGrellis was urging his side to push up at every opportunity and Kirkpatrick scored at will to narrow the gap at half-time.
Half-time: Ballinascreen 1-8 Swatragh 0-10
Aaron Kelly’s used his pace to the show the Swatragh defence a clean pair or heels and strike for an early point after the break.
For all the application and passages of hurling Swatragh put together in the first-half, it was ‘Screen who began to take a hold in the game.
Kieran Conway began to break down attacks and at midfield John McCloskey was starting to exert an influence with his direct play.
Six minutes into the second-half, Conor O’Kane was called on to save from Paul Cleary after a pass from Aaron Kelly. Cleary converted from the ‘65’ to open a four point gap.
Four minutes later, the drama continued. Philip McGlade passed to Sean McBride and his cross found John McCloskey on the run and the ‘Screen midfielder struck to the net from close range.
Eoghan Quinn replied with a point and moments later Michael Kirkpatrick stood over a close range free. Trailing by five points, there was still 15 minutes to go, but Kirkpatrick was in red-hot form. He was always going to go for a goal and he drilled low past a packed line of defenders on the line. It was game on once again.
‘Screen went 11 minutes without a score and squandered three points in the process – they were beginning to wobble.
Two more frees from Kirkpatrick and Swatragh trailed by the bare minimum (2-13 to 1-15), as the clock ticked into injury time.
Aaron Kelly passed for a John McCloskey point to break the Swatragh momentum. McCloskey setup Reece McSorley for a point. When Conor O’Kane went long from the puck-out, Kieran Conway stood strong at centre-back to stop Swatragh’s attack and at the end of the counter-attack Aaron Kelly sped away for the insurance point.
Ballinascreen: Gareth Haskins, Aidan McGuigan, Johnny McCullough, Peter Lagan, Paul Burns, Kieran Conway, Eoghan Gilmore, Rory O’Kane, John McCloskey (1-2), Reece McSorley (0-3), Philip McGlade, Brendan Herron (0-1), Paul Cleary (0-7, 1 ‘65’, 4f), Aaron Kelly (1-3), Sean McBride.
Subs: Conall O’Kane for S McBride (48), Dean Flanagan for B Herron (54).
Swatragh: Conor O’Kane, Malachaí O’Hagan, Conor Quinn, Niall O’Doherty, Eugene McGuckin, Patrick Turner, Cahal McQuillan, Fintan McGurk (0-1), Paddy Bradley, Sean Martin Quinn, Declan McGuckin, Eoghan O’Kane (0-1), Fintan O’Kane, Michael Kirkpatrick (1-13, 9f, 2 sidelines, 1 pen), Sean Francis Quinn.
Subs: Cahal Quinn for E McGuckin (26), Tommy McCloy for Fintan O’Kane (39).
Ref: Adrian McGilligan (Drumsurn).
In Monday's other game at Owenbeg, a goal from Ciaran Mackle helped Kevin Lynch's to a 1-17 to 0-10 win over Lavey.
The draw for the SHC semi-finals took place on Monday night. Ballinascreen will play Ulster champions Slaughtneil in the last four with Kevin Lynch's to face neighbours Banagher.
SHC Semi-Finals – Saturday, September 2
Kevin Lynch’s v Banagher
Slaughtneil v Ballinascreen
Saturday, September 16
IHC Final - Lavey v Swatragh
JHC Final - Na Magha v Coleraine
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