Clan na Gael squeezed trough to the second round of the Intermediate Championship after a one point win over rivals Clann Eireann last Friday night at St. Peter’s Park in a match which oozed controversy from start to finish.
A hotly disputed penalty, a series of disputed free kicks and a game saving catch high above the crossbar from Blues player Steven O’Hagan were only some of the features of this encounter which didn’t disappoint the large crowd.
Clann Eireann may feel they got no return for a gallant effort, the Shore Road men, following a dodgy start, bossed large parts of the game but it was the Blues who had their noses in front at the finish mainly due to the brilliance of Stefan Campbell who hit 1-07.
Campbell, who had County fitness on his side, was outstanding as was Clann Eireann’s scorer in chief Conor McKavanagh. The game was hectic throughout and both teams were seen to remonstrate with match official Gerard Devlin who also felt the wrath of both sets of supporters. One bone of contention was the number of frees given for over carrying against players who were either being fouled or swarmed by opponents.
There was a surreal atmosphere when Clann Eireann full forward Chris McCafferty’s spot kick screamed to the Clans net midway through the second half despite the best efforts of blues keeper Ryan McGuinness, The Shore road men appeared to be getting the upper hand having fallen behind following a brilliantly taken Stefan Campbell goal on 16 minutes, but a little bit of inexperience and a few moments of rashness cost Mark Beattie’s team dearly and it was the Clans who are through to a quarter-final meeting against Mullaghbawn.
In the opening half Clann Eireann dominated the midfield, the Lake Street side won seven breaking balls in a row before Stefan Campbell against the run of play rattled the net on 16 minutes. Some clever movement of players by Clan na Gael boss Kevin O’Hagan allowed Campbell to ghost in for a crucial goal.
Conor McCaffrey’s contribution for the losers, which was top notch, was bettered by Conor Bell who worked like a Trojan against several midfield opponents. The Francis Street men were a point in front at the break though Ryan Henderson opened the scoring for Mark Beattie’s team. Points from Campbell and Barry John O’Hagan put the winners in front before in a counter attack Conor McKavanagh struck for his first of six points.
Oozing class Shay Hefferon was closing down space at the back for Clann Eireann but the Blues went two up with scores from Niall Lavery and Stefan Campbell who was put through after superb play from David McCaughley and Aaron Toland.
Two Conor McKavanagh points brought Clann Eireann level but following a period of midfield dominance an out of sorts Clans side were re-born when Campbell flashed the ball into the losers net.
Clann Eireann won the second quarter by three points to two, McCavanagh (0-02) Bell and the young Jack Wilson knocked over scores with Campbell and Lavery responding for the Blues.
In a second half which would be remembered more for its controversial moments than the quality of play, both sides swarmed and harried as referee Gerard Devlin peered through rucks of players in an attempt to restore order.
Two Stefan Campbell points put the winners in front after the break, with Declan Leatham pulling one back following a slick seven man move.
Clann Eireann needed a stoke of luck, it arrived on 40 minutes when Chris McCafferty was fairly challenged or dumped in side the square, the referee claimed the latter and McCafferty screamed the spot kick into the net, McGuinness in the Clan goals guessed right but could only parry the shot.
What happened next changed the game, with Clann Eireann two up Mark Beattie hit an upright and young Johnny Tarode shot wide from close in. Trailing by a brace Stefan Campbell’s late and converted hat-trick of frees squeezed Clan na Gael into the quarter-final.