Oliver Plunketts 0-13
Naomh Fionnbarra 0-9
Oliver Plunketts were the first team through to the Intermediate quarter finals after a narrow win over Naomh Fionnbarra early on Saturday afternoon in Stabannon.
Thoss Byrne’s side were simply more efficient in front of the posts and held firm at the back, despite surviving at least four Naomh Fionnbarra goal chances.
Plunketts goalkeeper Luke Haggans had to be at his best to deny a Kalum Regan snap shot that looked destined for the top corner when the game was in the melting pot near the end.
The sides were level three times in the opening stanza, with a lot on the line you could sense the urgency in both sides play. As a result, there was a lot of possession given away by both sets of nervy players.
Plunketts full forward Cian Brady continued his good form to settle his side down, while Padraig Butterly, with ten on his back but playing wingback, calmed the nerves of his Naomh Fionnbarra colleagues with a sterling performance after he found his range.
Brady and both Plunketts cornermen Seán Callaghan and Niall Murtagh were finding the target a lot easier than their opponents and that pushed their advantage out to 0-4 to 0-2.
With Mairtin Murphy getting through a lot of sweeping duties and John Doyle in his 21st year lording it around the middle of the field, Brendan Healy and Alariac Costigan’s side stuck in the game largely thanks to Thomas McCreesh’s free taking.
Conor Early showed exactly why he has been in the county set up recently with the final two points of the half to give the Mell men a 0-7 to 0-5 lead at the interval.
Early playing on the wing had the freedom of the park and he finished off a move for his first and walloped over the final score of the half with a booming long range free off the perfectly manicured Stabannon turf.
Brady again opened the scoring for the half and having spurned an earlier goal chance, Conor Osborne was to rue two more in the second half.
To compound the misery for St. Finbarr’s John Doyle would go into the sin bin five minutes into the half.
Despite the disadvantage, Stephen O’Reilly upped his game and McCreesh made it a one point game with two excellent scores.
Conor Early again rose to the surface for his side when they needed him most, showing real leadership to notch two more scores.
His second last point was a well taken fisted effort that showed shrewd game management. With Naomh Fionnbarra having to work so hard for a score, a fisted point when a goal was possibly on, was the right option.
With the pressure building Plunketts hung on. Haggans stood up to make Regan’s save and Brady and Early combined to pick off a valiant Togher based outfit who now face Kilkerley Emmets next weekend in a straight fight for a place in the quarter-finals.
OLIVER PLUNKETTS: Luke Haggans; Cillian Matthews, Davy McTeggart, Cillian Smith; Barry Reynolds, Francis Daly, Sean Rice; Robbie Brodigan, Dean Carolan; David Lambe 0-1, Stephen Keeley, Conor Early 0-5 (2f); Seán Callaghan 0-1, Cian Brady 0-5 (1f), Niall Murtagh 0-1. Subs: Gary Keogh for Daly (45), Adam Brodigan for Lambe (46), Tadhg O’Brien for Rice (54) Killian Nolan for Murtagh (54).
NAOMH FIONNBARRA: Dathai Woods; James Butterly, Paddy McGrane, Kalum Regan 0-1; Adam Hanratty, Hugh McGrane, Padraig Butterly 0-1; John Doyle, Brendan Simms; Mairtín Murphy, Conor Osborne 0-1, Stephen O’Reilly; Thomas McCreesh 0-5 (3f), Hugh Osborne, Michael McArdle 0-1. Subs: Colum Kierans for P McGrane (17), Oisín Madden for Simms (53), Ciaran Markey for H Osborne (54), Nicholas Butterly for Hanratty (58), Conor Boyle for McArdle (62).
REFEREE: Paul Finnegan.
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