The Gaelic footballers of Holy Cross College have not had too many big days out to look forward to in the past but they will have to mark in their calendars an upcoming Markey Cup Final date thanks to a three-point victory over St Columbas of Stranorlar in Mhic Cumhail Pairc today.
Very little separated the sides throughout the hour but a blistering 10-minute spell late on, which saw the Strabane school plunder 1-6, means it’s they that reach the show piece.
It looked like it was to be a fairly straight forward outing for the Tyrone school early on as Deane Bradley and Cealef McMenamin bossed the mid sectors and Conor Langan notched an early free.
However, time and time again, HCC coughed up cheap ball in the attacking third allowing St Columba’s a foothold in the contest. The Donegal side broke at pace to level up with their first attack on 8 minutes and at the quarter hour mark nudged ahead with Noah Reid spinning and scoring.
Conor Langan made a driving run in to the attack with Oisin Kelly cutting inside expertly to clip over the bar but the St Columbas replied almost instantly from a dead ball from Daithi McMahon.
As the half closed in scoring was scarce but the Tyrone side did find dead ball range twice in two attacks through Langan and Corin McConnell.
In added time the home side levelled and then led as a forward mark from the impressive McMahon was followed by a Noah Reid effort.
Half Time: St Columbas 0-5 Holy Cross 0-4
Dara Dooher stepped off the Holy Cross bench to send EJ Hegarty away for a nice score early in the second half but St Columbas were dictating the play and Cathair Browne pointed well to go back ahead with McMahon’s trusty free taking stretching the lead to two.
Corin McConnell replied for Holy Cross following a great move and the score was tied from the kick out. Dean Bradley did the spade work for Hegarty to level.
Holy Cross tails were now up and only a brilliant block by Stranorlar stopped a Holy Cross goal with Langan settling for a white flag with McConnell angling over a lovely point minutes later.
McMahon pulled a score back for the Donegal side via a well worked free but the contest’s key moment happened with 22 mins on the second half clock. Hegarty threaded a fine ball through to Holy Cross Captain Conor Langan and he applied a cool finish past a helpless Sam McGlinchey in goal.
With energy levels restored around the field the Strabane school had the whiff of history in their nostrils and pushed on thanks to 0-2 via Langan’s place kicks to go 6 ahead as Ross Tourish, John Pol McMenamin and co ensured that several St Columbas attacks would came to nothing.
Nonetheless Holy Cross were indebted to a fine save from Ronan Ward late on to repel the needed Stranorlar goal. The 2022 winners showed their hunger and they did get a lifeline in added time.
Ward once more made the save but the St Columba’s attacker palmed to the empty net to jingle Holy Cross nerves. Reduced to 14 men due to a bad injury to Ronan McLaughlin, the Strabane side had to dig deep but they had enough in the tank to see the job out and make that breakthrough to the show piece decider.
Holy Cross: Ronan Ward, Conor Gallagher, JP McMenamin, Ross Tourish, Oran White, Ben Arnold, EJ Hegarty (0-2), D Bradley, Cealaf McMenamin, Conall Flanagan, Ronan McLaughlin, Oisin Kelly (0-1), C Langan (1-5), Corin McConnell (0-3), Dara Dooher.
Subs Used: Josh Gallagher, Adamh Patton, Dylan Devlin, Adam Vaughan.