Carrickmore Eire Óg and Fermanagh champions Lisbellaw served up a cracker of a contest in the Ulster Intermediate Championship quarter final before the Tyrone champions emerged 2-23 to 2-18 winners at Pairc Cholmcille Carrickmore on Saturday afternoon.
Lisbellaw will look back on this one with considerable regret having led for long periods of the game and looked set for victory with time almost up and three points clear. However they fell to a sucker punch of a last minute goal and failed to recover from that during the twenty minutes of extra time.
The Fermanagh champions opened the scoring with a Luca Mc Cusker free but points from Aidan Kelly, Oisin Daly, Liam Armstrong and Dean Rafferty put Eire Óg in a strong position with eight minutes gone. Mc Cusker and Bryan Mc Gurk swapped points to make it 0-5 to 0-2 for the home side as the intensity of the contest increased.
On fifteen minutes Lisbellaw hit the net when Sean Corrigan flicked a Mc Cusker delivery past the helpless Conor Mc Elhatton in the Eire Óg goals. Buoyed by this score Lisbellaw began to dominate possession and added further points through goal scorer Corrigan and Mc Cusker to lead 1-4 to 0-5. Justy Kelly then clipped over a superb point from play to reduce the gap to one.
With so little between the sides every ball was competed for intensely. Points from Daniel Teague and Ciaran Corrigan stretched the visitors’ lead to three before a Dermy Begley free reduced the deficit to two with three minutes of the opening half remaining.
Luca Mc Cusker appeared to have restored the three point differential but referee Tarlach Conway over-ruled his umpires and the gap remained two. Mc Cusker however made it a three point game with the next play before another excellent Justy Kelly score sent the sides off at the break with Lisbellaw leading 1-8 to 0-8.
Eire Óg opened the scoring with a converted sixty five from Begley but the Fermanagh lads stretched the lead to four with points from John Paul Mc Garry, Luca Mc Cusker and Caolan Duffy.
With both defences were very much on top chances for scores were few and far between. Eire Óg introduced Cormac Munroe and Ruairi Slane and almost immediately the fresh legs made a difference. Munroe fashioned a half chance for a goal on forty six minutes and finished the chance to the net to make it a one point game. Dermy Begley added a fine brace of points as Eire Óg grew in confidence and moved ahead 1-11 to 1-10.
However Lisbellaw weathered the temporary storm and a point from Caolan Duffy brought them level again before a superb finish from Ciaran Corrigan set them three clear and in the driving seat once more.
Eire Óg looked rattled but a Cormac Munroe point steadied the ship and brought them within a goal as the game entered the closing moments. Their chances of salvaging something from the game appeared to have disappeared when they were reduced to fourteen players following a red card for Oisin Daly.
However as has been the case so many times before Eire Óg got the all important score right on the final whistle when a long range delivery from Justy Kelly appeared to evade everyone and finish in the net to leave the sides tied at the end 2-12 apiece.
Buoyed by the last gasp leveller Eire Óg took to the field for extra time pumped and up for the challenge. Lisbellaw however looked visibly tired as several of their players began to cramp up early in extra time. The home side outscored the visitors five points to two during the first period of extra time. Dermy Begley (3) and the fleet footed Ruairi Slane (2) got the scores for Eire Óg while Luca Mc Cusker and Caolan Duffy replied for the Fermanagh side.
The second period of extra time saw some superb hurling with both sides battling for every ball and creating chances all over the field. Liam Armstrong was outstanding during the second half of extra time hitting four superb points as the teams went toe to toe with time running out. Mc Cusker, Dan Teague, John Paul Mc Garry and Ben Corrigan pointed for Lisbellaw but they could not snatch the goal they needed to get right back into the game and Eire Óg finished strongly to make the semi final on a final score of 2-23 to 2-18.
Eire Óg Scorers: D Begley 0-8, Oisin Daly 0-1, Aidan Kelly 0-2,Dean Rafferty 0-1,
Bryan Mc Gurk 0-1, Justy Kelly 1-2, Cormac Munroe 1-1, Ruairi Slane0-2, Liam Armstrong 0-5