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St Mary's fall short in bid to reach Hogan final

St Mary's, Magherafelt 2-9 St Peter's, Wexford 2-10

By John Campbell

It was a case of so near yet so far for St Mary's, Magherafelt in yesterday's All-Ireland Colleges (Hogan Cup) semi-final when they were pipped at the post by a physically strong, totally focussed St Peter's in a throbbing contest at Grattan Park, Inniskeen.

Coming as it did only a matter of days after their historic first MacRory Cup triumph, the contest ultimately impacted heavily on the Derry side's stamina, yet not to the extent that they were unable to take their opponents right down to the wire.

But in terms of surrendering possession rather too easily on occasions, committing unforced errors and spurning scoring chances, St Mary's to some extent were the authors of their own misfortune.

Coach Kevin Brady, with typical candour, admitted as much afterwards.

"We left ourselves with too much to do," reflected former Antrim ace Brady. "They scored a goal just before the break that sent them in with a six-point lead, and we hit back with two goals of our own, but having said that we made uncharacteristic mistakes and we were turned over too many times in terms of possession."

"That did not help us and the fact that St Peter's are a physically strong side and were able to keep going to the end stood to them. I think my players put in a massive effort in rather difficult conditions and they have done themselves proud over the course of recent months."

Certainly St Mary's showed spirit, character and effort in abundance, although when Quinn Saunders tucked away the only goal of the first-half just as referee John Hickey was about to sound the half-time whistle, he propelled St Peter's into a handsome 1-8 to 0-5 lead.

Kevin Small and Tiernan McAteer had each scored a brace of points for St Mary's in a first-half in which they lacked cohesion at times, but when the busy Small drilled in their first goal in the fourth minute of the second-half, the Brady bunch were back in business.

It was a score calculated to raise the team's morale and inject fresh pace and endeavour into their strategy.

But they were not to derive any real benefits from Small's marksmanship. The St Peter's work-rate never slackened and when Rory O'Connor powered forward to thunder home a spectacular 38th minute goal the pendulum had swung back in their favour.

Brian Deeney and O'Connor imposed themselves forcibly at midfield throughout, their aerial ability and strength in the tackle making life difficult for St Mary's in the middle third of the park.

When Cathal Devereaux tacked on two points following O'Connor's goal, it looked as if St Peter's were about to engage cruise control, but in the last six minutes St Mary's scored an unanswered 1-3 to leave their opponents clinging on by their fingertips.

Cormac Murphy's 55th minute goal, initiated via a surging burst from their tireless skipper Declan Cassidy, signalled the stirring revival which saw Quinn rifle over two points late on, and Small convert a last-minute free before the time ran out on St Mary's.

They may have been edged out in the end, but the players did their school, county and province proud and more will certainly be heard from them in the future.

St Peter's College: R Ryan; E O'Leary, B Maddock, D O'Keefe; Q Saunders 1-1, C Firman, F O'Driscoll; B Deeney 0-2, R O'Connor; D Furlong 0-2, B Moore, P Barry; D Lynn 0-1, R O'Connor 1-1, C Devereaux 0-3. Subs: M Codd for Saunders, A Breen for O'Driscoll, D Goulson for Lynn.

St Mary's GS: O Lynch; C McCluskey, S Kelly, M Loughran; D Cassidy, C Devlin, E Kelly; C McCann 0-1, T Donaghy; A Connolly, T McAteer 0-2, S McErlain; L Quinn 0-2, K Small 1-3 (1f), C Murphy 1-1. Subs: M Rogers for Connolly, C Donnelly for Donaghy, O Devlin for Loughran.

Referee: John Hickey (Carlow)

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