Magherafelt O ‘Donovan Rossa (Derry) 5-14 (29) V St Colmcilles ( Meath) 7-10 (31)
St Colmcilles U14’s travelled to the very impressive facilities at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown on Sunday past to take on one of Derry and Irelands top U14 sides in O’Donovan Rossa from Magherafelt. This had all the hall marks of being a cracking encounter and so it turned out with a match that ebbed and flowed at a relentless Division 1 pace throughout. The long journey seemed to have took its toll on the St Colmcilles players and they were slow out of the blocks as the Derry side opened in whirlwind fashion first courtesy of two wonderful points from the boot of Leon Martin playing at centre field. Indeed the towering Martin was to be a handful throughout and the two point lead, soon became 6, when first a great ball from Leon Martin picked out the equally impressive Dan Higgins at centre half forward and he calmly slotted over before moments later he gathered a breaking ball from Aaron Donnelly and fired past Danny Ehichoya as the St Colmcilles boys were all at sea.
Playing into the wind St Colmcilles did manage to get going and a great ball up field, first found Godfrey Ehichoya who picked out Fiachra Mac an Aba and he in turn slipped in Christian Finlay who finished a great move to the Rossa net to return the margin to 3 points. The resulting kickout then saw Christian Finlay then kick a wonderful score to reduce the margin to 2 as it was game on. However the next 15 minutes saw Rossa dominance as they dominated the play around centrefield. Some great individual points from Cahir Quinn, Aaron Donnelly, Ben Diamond were followed up by 2 more wonderful goals courtesy of the twin threat of Dan Higgins and Leon Martin as St Colmcilles found themselves 3-10 to 1-1 behind after 20 minutes.
However St Colmcilles found their 2nd wind and proceeded to turn this game on its head. First Sean O’Donoghue man marking Aaron Donnelly went to centre field with Liam Stafford, Caolan Nulty went to full back and Godfrey Ehichoya to centre back on the dangerous Dan Higgins and with that the game changed. From being 15 points down, St Colmcilles proceeded to hit in the remainder of the first half 3-3 with the Derry side failing to score. A great run up field and a one two with Fiachra Mac an Aba saw Sean O’Donoghue fire past the Rossa keeper to reduce the margin to 12 points. Adam Daly then won the resulting kickout and another fine solo run and one two with Emmet Higgins and young Daly did likewise firing to the net to see the margin reduce to 9 points. Sean O Donoghue, Fiachra Mac an Aba and Emmet Higgins then kicked 3 wonderful points from play as St Colmcilles really began to turn the screw on the Derry side as the margin was now back to 6 points.
As half time approached O’ Donovan Rossa tried to regain the initiative but some wonderful interceptions from Robert Tanner and Conor Power at the back saw St Colmcilles continue on the front foot. Just before the break Luke Hanan played a quick free, taking the return before again finding the roof of the Rossa net to see the score remarkably close at half time with o Donovan Rossa 3-10 (19) V St Colmcilles 4-4 ( 16).
The 2nd half saw the introduction of Stefan Bors to midfield, whislt Adam Daly went to full forward and Liam Stafford to centre half forward. The half opened tit for tat with two great points from Adam Daly and Luke Hanan as the margin was reduced to a single point. The very athletic Leon Martin and Sean O’Donoghue was a great contest but it was young Martin who then ran half length of the pitch before skipping past the unlucky Godfrey Ehichoya who slipped as he was about to challenge and young Martin fired past Danny Ehichoya in the St Colmcilles goal to push the Derry sides lead out to 4 points . However St Colmcilles were now winning a lot of ball especially in defence with some great football from Caolan Nulty, Luke Conlon, James French, Cillian Quigley and the impressive Conor Power at corner back. Two St Colmcilles kick outs won by Stefan Bors first saw him release Luke Hanan and he slotted over after a one two with Fiachra mac an Aba, before Stefan Bors then picked out Liam Stafford and a great solo run and he kicked a great point to return the margin to two points.
O’Donovan Rossa were now under pressure and their 2 point lead was to be wiped out with a fantastic piece of play from Godfrey Ehichoya who raced up from centre back and played a one two with first Sean O’Donoghue and Emmet Higgins before firing past Olaf Wisneiki in the O’Donovan Rossa net as the Meath boys led for the first time. Rossa dug in however and that man Leon Martin got free again before releasing Cahir Quinn to slot past Danny Ehichoya to regain a two point lead.
St Colmcilles answered in kind as again as a ball up field to Oisin Murphy saw him find Adam Daly and he passed to the running in Godfrey Ehichoya before skipping around Rossa defenders and firing again to the net as the game ebbed and flowed end to end. One point up, Sean O’Donoghue then sent St Colmcilles 2 clear with a fine point. Ben Diamond and Callum Campbell then levelled up the game again with 2 wonderful points as the game was nearing the end. Sean O’Donoghue and Leon Martin then traded scores, before that man Martin released Callum Campbell to send the Derry side one clear with a minute to go.
However with time almost up a great ball up field saw the ball break between Mac an Aba and Daly and the former proceeded to pick it up and slip in Adam Daly and he incredibly found the net to see St Colmcilles seal a 2 point win at the death.
This was a terrific match. A match were the Meath Champions looked down the barrel of a 15 point deficit after 20 minutes and who were tested from start to finish. However after a whirlwind start from the Derry boys, St Colmcilles played like seasoned champions from their to the end. O’Donovan Rossa are backboned by some wonderful players especially in Luke McCann at full back , Aaron Donnelly and the brilliant Dan Higgins and Leon Martin who oozed class throughout. St Colmcilles can be proud of their opening display of the season and all the players really dug in and never gave up for the entire match
Man of The Match
Lots of boys were up for the award. Sean O’Donoghue after his move to centrefield had a great match with the talented Leon Martin. Adam Daly, Luke Hanan, Oisin Murphy, Christian Finlay, Fiachra Mac an Aba and Emmett Higgins all showed up well on their first game of the season whilst at the back their was great displays from James French, Caolan Nulty, Godfrey Ehichoya, Robert Tanner and Evan Morgan. However on the day the award goes to Conor Power. Marking the very talented Michael McKay, young Power was dominant throughout, limited McKays influence and won and turned over a lot of ball at key periods that was instrumental in St Colmcilles winning.
St Colmcilles Team: Danny Ehichoya, Conor Power, Sean O’Donoghue 1-3, Robert Tanner, Evan Morgan, Caolan Nulty, Josh Hayes, Liam Stafford 0-1, Adam Daly 2-1, Christian Finlay 1-1, Godfrey Ehichoya 2-0, Emmett Higgins 0-1, Conor Farrelly, Fiachra Mac an Aba 0-1, Luke Hanan 1-2. Replacements: Cillian Quigley for Josh Hayes, Oisin Murphy for Emmett Higgins, James French for Robert Tanner, Luke Conlon for Evan Morgan, Stefan Bors for Christian Finlay
O’Donovan Rossa Team: Olaf Wisneiki, Conor Grimes, Luke McCann, Tiarnan Loughran, Ronan Walls, Eoin McEvoy, James Murray, Odhrain Martin, Leon Murray, Ben Diamond, Dan Higgins, Callum Campbell, Cahir Quinn, Aaron Donnelly, Michael McKay