Stunning solo show by O'Neill helps super St Colman's bag place in decider
St Colman's, Newry took a step nearer their 20th MacRory Cup triumph when they left a gallant St Ronan's side in their slipstream in last night's semi-final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.
And Rian O'Neill was the name on everyone's lips following the St Colman's centre-half-forward's masterclass in finishing skills.
Crossmaglen Rangers whizz-kid O'Neill stamped his authority on the first-half by sweeping over half a dozen majestic points, four of them from frees and all executed with consummate ease.
Jack McCartan, Cian McConville and Aaron Gribben were also on target as St Colman's took a firm grip on the game with St Ronan's restricted to breakaway raids.
Adam Loughran and Tiernan Kelly had offered the Lurgan outfit early hope with points in the opening minutes but the remainder of the half yielded just two more points from Kevin McAlinden and Conor Turbitt.
If O'Neill landed just one point after the break, he remained the heartbeat of a St Colman's side that defended tenaciously, used space intelligently and never stopped running.
The St Ronan's cause was not helped when Kevin McAlinden was shown a red card in the 47th minute and the side were able to muster just four points in the second-half from Aodhan McConville, Conor O'Neill, James McAlinden and Eoghan Byrne.
In contrast, St Colman's finished strongly , their midfield dominance proving a crucial advantage.
St Colman's will now meet the winners of next Wednesday's other semi-final replay between St Paul's Bessbrook and St Mary's Magherafelt in the St Patrick's Day final for which the Newry side look certain to start as favourites - and not for the first time either.
St Ronan's, Lurgan: E Mulholland; J Haddock, J McAlinden 0-1, A Mulholland; R McConville, S McAlinden, A Loughran 0-1; B McCambridge, C Turbitt 0-1; R Meehan, T Kelly 0-3 (2f), J Haughey; K McAlinden 0-1, J Lenehan, A McConville 0-1. Subs: E McConville for Mulholland (19), O Smyth for R McConville (39), L Monteiro for Haughey (45), O Magill for Meehan (58), O Magee for A McConville (62).
St Colman's, Newry: M Magill; L Brown, S McCarthy, C Killen; F McElroy, M Branniff, P Fegan; C O'Neill 0-1, R Garvey; J McCartan 0-1, R O'Neill 0-7 (6f), E McDonnell; M McCreesh, C McConville 0-2, A Gribben 0-2. Subs: C McCartan for Gribben (49), E Byrne 0-1 for McCreesh (46), J McKee for Brown (59).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).
St Colman's, Newry 0-14
St Ronan's, Lurgan 0-8