St Louis storm into McLarnon Cup quarter-finals

ST Louis Grammar, Ballymena stormed into the quarter-final of the McLarnon Cup with a superb win over St. Pius Magherafelt at Kilrea last week.

The Derry College made a promising start and took the lead through the impressive Anthony O’Neill who raced through the heart of the Louis defence to hammer the ball to the net.

The Ballymena defence shut up shop after this with Niall Delargy doing an excellent marking job on the enigmatic O’Neill and slowly they began to take a grip on proceedings,

They responded with points from Peter Duffin and Paddy McAleer and when Paddy McAleer struck home a great half volley after eleven minutes, the balance of play had now firmly swung in favour of the Cullybackey Road lads.

Michael O’Mullan began the build up with a long free from defence, which was well won by Peter Duffin on the wing and he ran inside and gave a pin point pass to Paddy McAleer on the edge of square and he blasted home for a St Louis goal.

O’Neill converted a St. Pius free but St. Louis were beginning to dictate the pace of the game and Emmet Crawford won Ben McAllister’s kick-out and showed great strength and skill to burst through the St Pius defence before laying the ball off to Dermot McAleese who buried it in the back of the net!

The Derry lads were battling hard to stay in touch and Anthony O’Neill kept them in contention as he pointed three frees between the 14th and 21st minute to close the gap to the minimum.

Back came the Kintullagh lads and they struck with precision in the 23rd minute. Emmet Crawford and Paddy McAleer combined again to set up Dermot McAleese who ran at the St. Pius defence.

The Portglenone lad’s shot looked to be sailing over but dipped at the last minute over the despairing grasp of Ben McAllister in the St. Pius goal.

The Derry lads looked shaken by this score and before they had a chance to recover a quickly taken Joe Scullion free found Dermot McWilliams and the Kilrea man turned and kicked over the bar.

McWilliams score put St. Louis five ahead but St. Pius were still giving their all to stay in contention and Barry Murphy might have had a goal but kicked over the bar from inside the 13meter line in the 30th minute to leave the half-time score 3-3 to 1-5 in favour of the Ballymena college.

After the break St. Pius adopted a sweeper system but this tactic seemed to work more in favour of St Louis as their fitness, stamina and strength began to show especially in the last ten minutes.

They were able to work the ball from defence and the team work and tackling was superb. Padriag Conlon played the role of sweeper to perfection and the half forward line tracked back to break down any attacks St Pius managed in the final 30 minutes.

Dermot McAleese got St. Louis on their second half way with a point in the 35th minute before Jordan Duffy stormed through from half-back to take a perfectly timed pass from Emmet Crawford and kicked over a fine left footed point from 40 meters out.

The St. Louis defence was now playing with great confidence and breaking up everything their St. Pius counterparts could throw at them and 11 minutes of the second half had emerged before Anthony O’Neill was able to raise the Derry College’s first white flag from a well struck free.

Indeed it was to be their only score until injury time as St. Louis shut up shop while continuing to pick off scores themselves and Peter Duffin punished a foul on Paddy McAleer with a pointed free from 30 meters in the 43d minute.

Peter Duffin finally broke the scoring famine as he pointed another free with two minutes remaining before the excellent Anthony O’Neill responded with a consolation score for St. Pius as he sent over a massive long range effort in injury time to conclude the scoring.

It was a pleasing performance from St. Louis after that first minute setback to battle their way back into contention before going on to dominate play.

Their defence was excellent, marshalled by full-back Niall Delargy and Joe Scullion and Jordan Duffy always prepared to carry the ball forward but all six defenders played their part.

Both mid-fielders, Michael O’Mullan and Emmet Crawford worked tirelessly throughout while Dermot McAleese led his attack superbly and had good support from Peter Duffin and Josh Cassidy.

St Louis team & scorers: B Johnston, G McCorley, N Delargy, N McCafferty, J Duffy (0-1), P Conlon, J Scullion, M O’Mullan, E Crawford, C McNeill, D McAleese (2-1), P McAleer (1-1), P Duffin (0-3 frees), J Cassidy, D McWilliams (0-1).