Disappointment for Whites in final

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ST Peter’s found Killeavey and the skills of former All-Star Steven McDonnell too hot to handle in last Saturday’s Intermediate Championship final played at the Athletic Grounds.

The Lurgan side lost the game by five points but gained a lot of admirers with their performance against the division one outfit who looked to McDonnell for most of their scores and all of their leadership.

The former county player was the difference between the teams. He shot eight of his side’s 13 points and also contributed in the overall balance of the south Armagh side’s forward play.

St Peter’s entered the final as outsiders but, for a big section of the game, they played with confidence clawing back an early Killeavey lead.

The Freecrow men were well in touch at the beginning of the second half but missed three crucial chances for points inside a four minute period whilst, at the other end, McDonnell for the winners was making no mistake from set pieces.

Whites boss Steven McVeigh selected 14 of the 15 players which beat Wolfe Tones in the semi-final. Keeper Paul Wilson did not make the cut due to injury but his deputy James Magill did particularly well in a high pressure game.

Steven McDonnell’s three conversions at the start of the second half and the Whites’ wides during that period were highlighted by the former Armagh player when he spoke to the ‘Mail’ after the game.

He said: “We got the scores at crucial times, particularly in the third quarter which gave us the bit of momentum when we needed to push on.

“St Peter’s missed a few chances there tonight so we will have to be thankful at the way things turned out.”

Showing confidence in his players, the Whites manager decided to go man to man in the final and steered clear of the tactic of double-marking McDonnell.

“We weren’t prepared to change our tactics and swarm Steven McDonnell,” stressed McVeigh. “Killeavey had too many good forwards to leave them with players free.

“We decided to go man to man and take our chances on the tactical front and, apart from a bit of wayward shooting, things could have been a lot closer irrespective of how well Steven McDonnell performed.”

Emmett Haughian, who appeared to be carrying an injury, was given the unenviable task of policing the former All Star who almost registered the only goal of the game midway through the second half but his thundering drive crashed back off the crossbar.

In fairness, St Peter’s found scoring a lot more difficult than their opponents. The Freecrow men had continually to shoot under pressure and only two of their side, namely Niall McConville (0-5) and Darren Moore (0-3), registered on the night.

In an untidy game, there was very little clean possession won around the middle where Aaron Findan and Paul Brady worked tirelessly against the winners’ pairing of Michael Murphy and James Duffy.

The Whites looked to be facing an uphill task following a bright opening quarter from the division one outfit who raced to a 0-4 to 0-1 lead inside the first quarter - McDonnell, at the double, and scores from O’Hanlon and Hannaway.

All of St Peter’s first half scores came from the boot of Niall McConville who shot four points to level the game after sixteen minutes. That man McDonnell finished the half with two converted frees and McConville, despite being tightly marked, managed to feed off a great inside pass from Sam Marshall to shoot over and leave just a single score between them at the break.

If Niall McConville was the Whites’ scorer in chief in the opening period, this duty fell to Darren Moore in the second half. Moore put his side on level terms with the winners two minutes after the break but the Whites failed to score again for a 25 minute period when they lost some of their shape and composure in front of goals as Killeavey hit seven points without reply.

During this crucial period the Lurgan outfit missed several chances many which were from unrealistic scoring positions. Trailing by seven, St Peter’s, to their credit, finished with a rattle but their final two points from Darren Moore saw a five points deficit at the finish.

The Freecrow side have come a long way since their promotion from the third division last season. They have youth and vigour in their side with players like Sean O’Neill, Aaron Findan, Niall McConville, Owen and Gavin McCormack, Conleth McAlinden, Niall Creaney and Sam Marshall.

If built upon last Saturday’s disappointment may have a galvanising effect on a young team who could yet be celebrating before the end of the season.

St. Peter’s: J Magill, E Haughian, S O’Neill, R Geary, K Totten, D Toman, S Marshall, A Findan, P Brady, N Creaney, D Moore, G McCormack, C McAlinden, N McConville, D McNally. Subs used: D Wilson, N Dummigan, O McCormack.