Rock on a roll

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

ROCK are on their way back to Croke Park for their second All-Ireland final appearance, following a comfortable Junior Football Championship victory over Scottish champions Dunedin Connolly's at the Athletic Grounds.


They will face a talented Kerry side which includes Kingdom star Darran O'Sullivan in the final on 19 February.

After a sluggish start, the Tyrone and Ulster champions found their rhythm, and once they started to deliver quality ball to the front line, inside forwards Aidan McGarrity and Conor McCreesh picked off the scores.

Manager Adrian Nugent insisted credit must be shared by the entire team, and not just those who find themselves in the spotlight.

“Sometimes the scoring men get all the credit, but Aidan Girvan, Niall McWilliams, Enda McWilliams, Diarmuid Carroll were putting their head in where you wouldn't put your foot. And that's what you need on a day like that," he said.

"Look at the work of Ciaran Gourley, he has achieved everything in gaelic football as a club and as a county player, but his workrate from the first minute to the 60th minute was incredible.

“And we said at half-time that there wasn't enough of that all over the field.

“We had to get earlier ball into Conor and Aidan, they are the scoring men."

Nugent is hoping a couple of injuries will clear up ahead of the final against Kerry's Glenbeigh-Glencar at Croke Park on February 19.

“Stephen Mullan has just twisted his ankle, so he has three weeks. Cathal McWilliams could have played 30 minutes today, but we decided to hold him.

“The physio said to hold him to the next day, and no disrespect to Dunedin, we decided to do that, plus looking ahead to 2017 in terms of the league in Tyrone, if we lose him for the league, it's not positive either."

The impact of subs was significant, with men coming off the bench to make a real impact.

Nugent said: "You have to run a bench. It's not about 15 any more, it's about fifteen-plus, and we fortunately have that now. In the past it maybe wasn't there, but you can take any man from the subs, and you know he'll do a job for you."

Dunedin started with intent and intensity, racing into a two points lead with early scores from Francis Molloy and Seamus Mulvihill.

Aidan McGarrity opened Rock's account in the fifth minute with a difficult free kick from wide on the right.

With Tommy Bloomer, Enda McWilliams and Ciaran Gourley pressing rom deep, the Tyrone champions settled into the contest, and they went level when Conor McCreesh laid off for McGarrity to stroke over his second.

McCreesh collected Bloomer's pass to edge his side in front for the first time, but that was cancelled out by Declan Keating's firmly struck '45.

Rock almost had a goal when McGarrity connected with a loose ball, but 'keeper John McAleavy pulled off a brilliant reflex save.

But McAleavy was badly at fault shortly afterwards when his short kick-out was intercepted by Eamon Ward, who exchanged passes with McCreesh before planting the ball in an empty net. 

McCreesh was involved in virtually everything, reading the game impeccably, and he was central to the next score as well, slotted over by midfielder Diarmuid Carroll.

The Dunedin defence, which included Tyrone men Ronan McGurk (Ardboe) and Martin Hanna (Cookstown), was under sustained pressure, but they  broke forward in the closing stages of the half to get themselves right back into contention.

Corner back Conor Horan landed a point, and in the 28th minute, full forward Molloy collected a long ball to smash home a goal.

Rock led by 1-8 to 1-4 at the break, and stretched the lead soon after the restart when McGarrity cut in from the right to split the posts.

A flowing move ended with Ryan Crilly sending in a fiercely struck shot whch clipped the crossbar on its way over, and now six points separated the sides.

Dunedin threatened again, but Ciaran Gourley's experience and anticipation came to the rescue of the St Patrick's on more than one occasion, with Aidan Girvan and Stephen Mullan also solid at the back.

Gourley got forward to punch over a point following good work from Enda McWilliams, but the Scottish champions responded with scores from Mulvihil and Keating.

Rock lost centre back Stephen Mullan to injury, but that didn't halt their drive for victory, with McCreesh and McGarrity, with two frees, pushing their further clear

Rock - Seamus Donaghy, Mark McAleer, Niall Mullan, Niall McWilliams, Aidan Girvan, Stephen Mullan, Ciaran Gourley (0-2), Enda McWilliams (0-1), Diarmuid Carroll (0-2), Tommy Bloomer, Eamon Ward (1-1) , Paudie Ward, Ryan Crilly (0-1), Aidan McGarrity (0-8), Conor McCreesh (0-2).

Subs - Liam Nugent for Paudie Ward, Peter Ward (0-1) for S Mullan, Shay Litter for Crilly, Martin Corrigan for E Ward, C McWilliams for McCreesh


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