Tyrone champions Errigal Ciaran became the first team into this year’s Paul McGirr Ulster U16 Championshipfinal following a comprehensive victory over a gallant but outclassed Kinawley in Saturday’s semi-final clash that was played in atrocious weather conditions in Gardrum Park, Dromore.
After a four year hiatus Saturday’s game marked the return of the prestigious competition and a well drilled Errigal Ciaran wasted no time in establishing their dominance playing with a gale force wind behind them. The Kinawley defence, despite the best efforts of Matthew Ferguson and Conan McManus in particular, were under severe pressure in the first half. The Tyrone champions made the best of the elements playing early direct ball into a dangerous forward line and they stormed to a 4-4 to 0-1 interval lead. Tormentor in chief was the fleet footed full forward Shea McDermott who displayed great poise and skill bagging himself ahat-trick of goals.
Michael Mullin’s driving runs from half back were a feature of the game while MFC Sports player of the match Ciaran Mullin worked tirelessly providing a platform for a slick moving forward line. Kinawley’s only reply in the first half came via a pointed free from the boot of Conor Simmons.
Kinawley threw caution to the wind so to speak in the second half with midfielder Tomas Cathcart leading the fightback securing vital primary possession but too often the high Errigal Ciaran press forced their opponents into defensive mistakes which were ruthlessly punished. Good defensive displays from Aodhan Quinn and Odhran Mullin among others ensured the Fermanagh champions were never going to breach the Errigal Ciaran rearguard too easily.
Kinawley grabbed a consolation goal early in the second-half superbly taken by Conor Simmons. However this proved to be their final score of the game, other than that it was virtually all one-way traffic with wing forward Charlie Maguire growing in prominence and delivering three points into the teeth of the gale.
Errigal manager Hugh Quinn rang the changes and it was one of his substitutes Dan Loughran who scored Errigal’s fifth goal of the day in the 50th minute, capitalising on an incisive pass from the game’s top-scorer Shea McDermott.
Displaying great hunger with their players all fighting for a starting place in the upcoming Ulster final Errigal never let up and kept on coming in waves. Ciaran Mullin, who was exceptional throughout got a much deserved goal before substitute Loughran got the seventh and final major. Indeed the margin would have been much bigger but for some eye catching saves from Kinawley goalkeeper Ronan Cleary who had a great 60 minutes. Kinawley will learn a lot from this defeat and with the majority of their team still underage in 2024 they will be hoping to return to the Paul McGirr competition in a much strong position.
Errigal manager High Quinn knows that a much tougher task lies ahead in the final but was understandably proud of his groundbreaking team. “The big thing at this time of year is conditions and winning the toss was important. You need that wee bit of luck to win the toss, you set up slightly differently when you have the breeze. It’s very hard to walk into the dressing room at half-time and to tell lads who are that far behind that the wind is going to do it for them as it doesn’t work that way.Conditions were a massive factor, now to be fair to our lads they kept going the whole way through and their ball-handling was good. There were a few things we can improve on but we’re delighted just to get through to the final. This is the first team from Errigal to ever be in the final of the Paul McGirr tournament.We’ll get a couple of sessions over the next few weeks and hopefully the weather will be a bit nicer whether it’s Dromintee or Carryduff that come through the other side because I think it’ll make it a better spectacle.”
Jude Curran, Korneliusz Mielniczek, Lorcan McGarvey, Odhran Mullin, Aodhan Quinn, Paul McGinley (0-1), Michael Mullin (1-0), Ciaran Mullin (1-0), Matthew Hackett, Charlie Maguire (0-3), Elliot Kerr, Senan Canavan (0-2), Michael McDermott, Shea McDermott (3-2, 0-1f), Ronan Fleming. Subs: Dan Loughran (2-1) for R Fleming, Lorcan Murray for A Quinn, Jack Kelly (0-1) for C Maguire, Paudie McKenna for M McDermott, Peadar Kelly for J Curran
Ronan Cleary, Cormac McGreevy, Conal Crudden, Shay McManus, Ronan Brennan, Matthew Ferguson, Conan McManus, Tomas Cathcart, Conor Simmons (1-1, 0-1f), Aidan Leonard, Ryan Wray, Ben Melanaphy, Cathair Maguire, Eoin McTernan, Kian McHugh. Subs: Cathair Reilly and Cian Martin for C McGreevy and R Wray