Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship semi-final (AET)
Carryduff 2-13 Ballyholland 1-15 
 
CARRYDUFF will contest the Down Senior Football Championship final following a remarkable semi-final win over Ballyholland at Páirc Esler on Sunday.

A stunning first half saw Carryduff lead 1-8 to 0-3 at the break with Joe Tunney scoring his side’s first goal on 11 minutes.

Yet, a stunning second half comeback saw the Harps force extra-time with a goal from substitute Ronan Murtagh kick-starting his side’s revival.

Ballyholland were guilty of some wasteful shooting in the first period of extra-time and Carryduff took full advantage with points from substitutes Joe McFlynn, Micheal Lawson and Ronan Lawlor helping them over the line with just a point to spare.

They now face the daunting prospect of taking on defending champions Kilcoo in Sunday’s final in Newry (7.30pm).

On the basis of this performance, they’ll have their work cut out to stop the Magpies claiming an eighth title in nine years, but their first half showing was similar to their devastating quarter-final win over Bryansford.

Ronan Beatty takes on Ruairi Campbell
Ronan Beatty takes on Ruairi Campbell

John McGeough opened Carryduff’s account inside the first minute with a free before Ronan Beatty scored from play.

With both teams bidding to reach the senior final for the first time, nerves were evident in the early stages and Seamus Loughran blasted over the crossbar on 10 minutes with the goal at his mercy to get Ballyholland off the mark and Mark Walsh quickly added another to level the game.

A minute later, Tunney showed no such jitters in front of goals when he slotted his shot under the advancing Liam Coulter following good build-up play from Owen McCabe and James Guinness.

Loughran replied with a free at the other end, but the Harps only managed one more shot at the posts for the remainder of the half – a wide from full-forward Loughran. Carryduff took control of proceedings with some excellent counter-attacking football with Lorcan Toal, Conor Cassidy, Gareth Henderson and McGeough forcing multiple turnovers.

Indeed, it was full-back Cassidy who landed the next point after playing a one-two with midfielder Jonny Henry.

Three points off the deck from McGeough, including one 45 and a point from McCabe saw Carryduff move seven ahead and Daniel Guinness landed the final point of the half to leave DJ Morgan’s men 1-8 to 0-3 ahead at the break, but goal-scorer Tunney was forced off with an ankle injury late in the half.

In their quarter-final win, Carryduff led by six at the break and pushed on to beat Bryansford by 13 and the message at half-time would surely have been to try and extend the advantage.

Yet, Ballyholland  threw off the shackles and played a more direct style and the introduction of former Down star Murtagh at the break helped them force their way back into the contest.

Loughran hit a point immediately on the restart to signal his side’s intent and he added another from a free after James Guinness had scored at the other end.

When Joe Murphy fired over on the 40-minute mark, Ballyholland had their tails up and they found the net a minute later to leave three between the sides.

The Harps attacked in numbers with John McGovern and Tiernan Rushe setting up Murtagh for a goal at the back post.

Rushe then showed great strength to hold of a challenge from Conor Cassidy before firing over the bar. When midfielder Paul Murphy slotted over a point, Carryduff were very much on the ropes having conceded 1-4 without reply in a little over five minutes.

Carryduff urgently needed a score and they got a reprieve when McCabe was on hand to score their second goal after Coulter had made a good save to deny Beatty from close range.

When Beatty added a free minutes later to increase the lead to 2-10 to 1-9, Carryduff looked to have weathered the storm especially with Mark Hynes in such fine form between the posts.

The Carryduff goalkeeper made a stunning save from McGovern before Toal blocked the follow-up shot from Walsh.

However, Ballyholland bossed the final 10 minutes of normal time and Hynes was called into action again, this time to divert a shot from Murtagh onto the crossbar moments after Walsh had cut the gap to three.

Murphy’s second of the afternoon left two between the sides with three minutes of normal time remaining.

Daniel Guinness couldn’t find the target at the other end in a rare opportunity for Carryduff and a foul on Walsh led to another converted free from Loughran on 59 minutes.

The same player earned his side another free in the final minute, even if it did appear to be a soft award, and Loughran made no mistake to level proceedings at 1-13 to 2-10.

Daniel Connor and Ronan Lawlor celebrate
Daniel Connor and Ronan Lawlor celebrate

In the first period of extra-time, Loughran’s accuracy deserted him as the Ballyholland attacker hit three wides while Murtagh also missed a chance for the Harps to move into the lead.

Instead, it was Carryduff who regain their composure with the impressive Cassidy setting up McFlynn for a score in the third minute of extra-time before an excellent Lawson effort moved them two ahead.

Yet, Carryduff were indebted to Hynes once more at the start of the second period as he made a superb point-blank save to push Ryan Connolly’s shot out for a 45.

Loughran converted the kick to leave the minimum between the sides once again before a foul on Lawson at the other end led to a point from a free from Ronan Lawlor moments after his introduction.

A late free from Loughran reduced Carryduff’s lead back to a point, but Ciaran Brannigan’s full-time sounded moments later as Morgan’s side held on to seal a date against Kilcoo on Sunday night.
 
CARRYDUFF: M Hynes; L Toal, C Cassidy (0-1), G Henderson; M McGrath, J McGeough (0-4, 0-3fs, 0-1 45), D Guinness (0-1); J Connery, J Henry; J Guinness (0-1), J Tunney (1-0), O McCabe (1-1), R Anderson, R Beatty (0-2, 0-1), A O’Brien. Subs: C Tierney for Tunney (25mins), G Morris for Henry (47mins), J McFlynn (0-1) for Anderson (53mins), M Lawson (0-1) for J Guinness (55mins), P McConnell for Henderson (60+10mins), R Lawlor (0-1, 0-1f) for Lawson (60+19mins).
 
BALLYHOLLAND: L Coulter; S Campbell (0-1), R Campbell, C Loughran; J McGovern, B Campbell, J Murphy (0-1); P Murphy (0-2), P McAteer; B McAteer, T Rushe (0-1), M Walsh (0-1); R White, S Loughran (0-8, 0-5fs, 0-1 45), J Murtagh. Subs: R Murtagh (1-1) for J Murtagh (HT), T Havern for C Loughran (58mins), T Brady for White (62mins), C Tinnelly for Walsh (60+17mins), S Grant for McGovern (60+17mins).
 
REFEREE: Ciaran Brannigan (Clonduff).