Bellaghy survive fightback to cement place in the Ulster final
Bellaghy 0-16 St Eunan's 3-6
When Bellaghy turned round at half-time cushioned by a seemingly unassailable 0-10 to 0-1 interval lead, they appeared to have rendered the second-half of this Ulster minor club tournament semi-final at St Paul's, Belfast yesterday nothing more than academic.
Yet nothing could have been further from the truth. Instead of cruising to an effortless victory, as even the die-hard St Eunan's had been prepared to concede, the Derry outfit were hanging on by their fingertips as the game entered injury-time.
And had it not been for the ice-cool Lorcan Spier, they might well have been leaving the venue with their tail between their legs.
It was the consistently accurate Spier who saved the day when he steered over his sixth point as the game ebbed to a close to give his side victory by the narrowest of margins in a match that appeared to have been in their safe-keeping in an almost embarrassingly one-sided first-half.
It was during that spell that Damien Cassidy's side exerted total control in midfield where Keelan Friel was influential and underlined their dynamic marksmanship up front through Spier and Charlie Diamond in particular.
Diamond (2), Ronan Friel and Paul Cassidy steered Bellaghy onto a smooth path with an opening blitz of points, and when Spier (2), Friel (2), Cassidy and Diamond added another six, Bellaghy appeared to have left St Eunan's floundering in their slipstream.
But when Conor O'Donnell and Peter McEniff swept in a brace of goals on the resumption, Bellaghy were left shell-shocked.
And just to prove that this was not a temporary St Eunan's respite, O'Donnell drilled home a penalty to ease his side in front by a point at 3-4 to 0-12, a situation that would have been deemed unimaginable up until then.
Yet Bellaghy managed to hold their nerve, and the upshot was that Conleth McShane and Paul Cassidy pirated points before Spier proved the hero when he arrowed over the winner.
It was a close call, though. Bellaghy made things hard for themselves but will surely have absorbed lessons from this experience in advance of their Ulster minor final against Crossmaglen Rangers on New Year's Day,
Bellaghy scorers: L Spier 0-6, C Diamond 0-3, P Cassidy 0-3, K Friel 0-2, R McFaul, C McShane 0-1 each.
St Eunan's scorers: C O'Donnell 2-2, (1-0 pen, 1f), P McEniff 1-1, O McGarvey 0-2, J Kelly 0-1.