VGC Group IFC Rnd 3
St Brendans 1-16
Thomas McCurtains 2-13
By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park, Ruislip
Three late points saw St Brendans snatch the draw that booked their place in the semi-finals, and left Thomas McCurtains ruing what might have been.
When Paddy Halligan fired over in the 55th minute, the east Londoners led 2-13 to 1-13 and a semi-final fixture looked there for the taking for last year’s junior champions.
But Niall Campbell and Fearghal McMahon brought Brendans back to within a point, before John Daly landed the game levelling free in the first minute of injury-time.
That left Neasden Gaels just needing to beat winless Eire Og 24 hours later, and they duly did to join Brendans in the last four.
The late drama, while unwelcome by McCurtains, was befitting a fabulous and end-to-end second half of football, after a cagey opening 30.
McCurtains established the first meaningful lead when Finian Farrelly split a straightforward ball in, and Halligan accepted the gift to fire to the net to give McCurtains a 1-3 to 0-3 lead.
That advantage was reduced to just two at the break (1-6 to 0-7), after a first half in which McCurtains had enjoyed more of the possession but leaned on Niall Coffey’s frees.
Brendans, meanwhile, had struggled to get Daly and McMahon into the game as much as they would like.
The second half was a belter, from first minute to last.
Farrelly denied Kevin O’Donohue in the opening seconds, and O’Donohue’s follow up effort was blocked.
The game really came to life in the space of 60 seconds. Brendans were back on level terms by the time Dara Henry picked the ball up and drove at the McCurtains rearguard, before feeding Daly to lift the goal stanchion with a rocket of a shot that left Conor MulRennan grasping at thin air.
But Mark McGirr replied with a fine score before Conor Murphy squeezed a shot into the far corner of Farrelly’s net.
It was nip-and-tuck thereafter, with both sides sending over some sublime scores.
There was nothing to choose between them going into the last ten minutes, but it was McCurtains, led by Halligan, who made a move for victory, opening up a three-point lead with just five minutes remaining.
That’s how close McCurtains were to contesting an intermediate championship semi-final. But Brendans dug deep to rally and deny them, and keep alive their hopes of a first intermediate title since 2012.
St Brendans: Finian Farrelly; Jake McManus, Denis Murphy, Oscar Ward; David Dunne (0-1), Ryan Jones (0-1), Aidan Fulcher; Ronan Livly (0-1), Dara Henry; Liam Sharkey, Fearghal McMahon (0-4), Andy Hayes (0-1); Ciaran Mossey, John Daly (1-6, 5f), Niall Campbell (0-2, 1f). Subs: Graham Lawlor for Hayes, Dan Igoe for Sharkey.
Thomas McCurtains: Conor MulRennan; Paudie O’Shea, Danny Walsh, Michael O’Leary; Kevin Delahunty, John McGuigan, Peter Raffery (0-2); Niall Coffey (0-6, 4f), Stephen Quinn; Sean Murphy, John Rafferty, Kevin O’Donohue; Paddy Halligan (1-3, 1f), Conor Murphy (1-0), John Winters. Subs: Mark McGirr (0-2) for Sean Murphy, Brian Hourihane for Delahunty, Caolan Magee for O’Donohue, Colm O’Neill for O’Leary.
Referee: John Doyle.