Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 01:53 AM Galvin Early
This year’s grade 3 U21 Championship may have taken some time to run off, however its destination was still undecided until late in this all North Tyrone final in Strabane on Saturday. A one point lead looked like it might have served Owen Roes well but a late St.Davogs blitz saw them home at the death.
There was typically final huff and puff about both sides in the early phases of this final, and despite their early pressing it was the Aghyaran side that troubled the scoring first with Aidan Connolly picking himself off the ground to dispatch his free between the sticks.
A goal mouth scramble in the St.Davogs goal almost let Owen Roes back into the contest, but with keeper Paddy Catterson beat the St.Davog’s Sean Penrose fly kicked to safety.
Owen Roes captain Gerard Devine earned his side their next score with 12 minutes elapsed. His forceful run saw him upended with Paul Devine knocking over the dead ball.
The same man added another score shortly after when he swivelled and scored following deep fielding by Barry Dooher. The Leckpatrick outfit were on a roll at this stage, and when Ryan Logue found Paul Devine again it was a three to one lead with a third of the contest played.
However the O’Neills were also guilty of some wasteful shooting at times, and they were soon being reeled in.
Good work by Connolly again allowed Gary Leonard to score, and almost straight from kick out Aghyaran earned a free which Sean Byrne translated to a score.
Deep in injury time Owen Roes nosed back in front courtesy of an Aaron Lynch free.
It was Lynch that closed the first half’s scoring and opened the second half action as he steadied himself before converting on the run.
The Owen Roes defence found themselves sleeping for a quick St.Davog’s free which Roger Leonard clipped over shortly after as the game ebbed and flowed.
The opening half of this contest had been noted for the plethora of yellow cards issued by ref Michael McCann, and it was only a matter of time before someone picked up a second, with Gary Leonard of Aghyaran the recipient on 37 minutes. The action had barely restarted though before equality was restored Owen Roes fullback Gerard McShane also seeing the double yellow.
Nonetheless when action settled down it was Owen Roes who added to their one point lead with Kevin O’Neill’s nicely hit 45 finding the sweet spot.
Byrne’s placed effort brought Aghyaran back into it on 43 minutes, and the score board showed level shortly after when Connolly again found his range. However this swift Aghyaran could’ve resulted in bigger dividends with Connolly’s point being chalked up with a potential goal chance waiting.
The Leckpatrick outfit continued to do most of the pressing, but were being picked off by swift Aghyaran counter attacking. With 10 minutes play it was one of these quick breaks that allowed Connolly to score once more.
Back came Owen Roes though and Lynch’s free levelled up. The free was earned following a Darragh Browne foul which saw him also collect a second yellow.
Lifted, Owen Roes took the lead once more with four minutes remaining as once again Lynch’s dead ball found range.
As so often happens though the team with numerical inferiority lifted themselves and broke clear. Connolly’s free kick levelled things up, and with a minute to go Byrne repeated the dose also from a placed free.
The O’Neills pushed forward looking to create an opening to find a leveller but deep in injury time the Owen Roes defence was overworked again resulting in yet another dead ball which Connolly confidently picked off.
It was down to a goal chance needed for the Leckpatrick side but when Kevin O’Neill’s dropping 45 was cleared it was game up for Owen Roes, meaning Aghyaran collected this year’s U21 title, adding it to their minor crown- also courtesy of a two point victory over Owen Roes- in the end of season roll of honour in Tyrone football.
Aghyaran: Paddy Catterson, Peter Sweeney, Bernard Moss, Sean Penrose, Garbhan McHugh, Gary Leonard (0-1), Darragh Browne, Conor McNamee, Martin McMenamin, Aidan Connolly (0-5), Ronan Catterson, Rodger Leonard (0-1), Sean Byrne (0-3), Michael Penrose, Paddy Devenney.
Ref: Michael McCann (Beragh)
Team: Ryan McShane, Conor Casey, Gerard McShane, Stephen Kelly, Stephen McCauley, Kevin O’Neill (0-1), Davy Harte, Gerard Devine, Marcus McGinley, Barry Dooher, Paul Devine (0-3), Ryan Logue, Conor O’Neill, Aaron Lynch (0-4), Conor McCay. Subs: Dermot McMenamin for Dooher (46 mins).