All Ireland JHC quarter-final

The Blayney side once again had to fight to the end to grind out a hard earned but fully deserved win to continue their marvelous run in the competition. Facing a still breeze in the first half, Blayney started brightly and took the lead from a Fergal Rafter free after 2 minutes. The home side equalised soon after through Niall McKenna. Blayney almost struck for goal when a surging run from Mark Treanor just needed the final pass to go to hand but the attack came to nothing. Niall McKenna pointed again for John Mitchels before Fergal Rafter equalised for Blayney to make it 2 points each after 12 minutes. Scores were at a premium thereafter as the game became a battle for supremacy. A commanding performance by Colin Merrick in the first half saw Blayney repel attack after attack. Alongside the experienced and ever reliable Jim McHugh and the excellent Eoin Leonard in the full back line, Merrick had his finest game ever in a Blayney shirt and launched several attacks along with his defensive heroics. The scores remained deadlocked until the 22nd minute when Kelvin Magee edged John Mitchels in front. Blayney struggled to create scoring chances as Brian McGuigan and Craig Callan despite Trojan efforts could not shake off the tenacious Mitchells defence. It was the home side who finished the first half the strongest. Having withstood heavy pressure all day, the Blayney defence was finally breached when a cross shot from the right hand side was flicked to the net by Emmet McCabe. This would prove to be the only goal conceded by Blayney keeper Paddy Collins in two matches, having previously kept clean sheets in two out of three Ulster championship games. Niall McKenna added another point before the break to leave the half time score John Mitchells 1-04 Castleblayney 0-02. An uphill task faced Blayney at this stage, but with the help of the breeze in the second half, and the knowledge that the team had previously shown the ability to come from behind, the travelling supporters knew that the game was still there to be won. The second period proved to be a more entertaining affair with scores coming more frequently at both ends. Points were exchanged with Mark Treanor from play and Fergal Rafter reliable as ever from placed balls keeping Blayney in touch.  The midfield battle was intense throughout with Brian Flanagan, Aaron Kenny and Cormac McNally putting in huge shifts for Blayney. Craig Callan, now deployed in a deeper role, was finding a bit more space and turned in a superb performance with some excellent ball winning and forward runs. Blayney still trailed by four points when a great Blayney move saw Fergal Rafter force a wonder save from Mitchells goalkeeper Philip Crean. Fergal was injured in the process and Hugh Byrne took the resulting 65 making no mistake to peg back another point for Blayney. Domhnall Nugent and Niall McKenna replied for Mitchels with points from frees and from play. Entering the final quarter of the game Blayney still trailed by 5 points, 1-08 to 0-06 and needed to find some inspiration from somewhere. And cometh the hour, cometh the man. Paddy Finnegan, who had taken a six hour bus journey from Middlesborough to line out for Blayney, shook off his marker in midfield and launched a long high ball that looked to be sailing over the posts for another Blayney point. But a crucial misjudgement by goalkeeper Philip Crean saw the ball finish up in the back of the net for a somewhat fortuitous Blayney goal. The score would prove to be the turning point, as a resurgent Blayney team now began to gain momentum. Jack Deasy came in for the injured Barney Connor who had worked himself to a standstill. Nathan Adair replaced Fintan Finnegan who had toiled bravely all day also. 

With the breeze behind them, Blayney finally drew level with 8 minutes to go with points from Fergal Rafter, one from a free and an excellent effort from play on the right wing. But Mitchells would not go down without a fight and Domhnall Nugent pointed to cancel out a Fergal Rafter free for Blayney.

Three minutes remained on the clock, with Blayney clinging to a one point lead, when Mark Treanor emerged from a midfield ruck, as so often before, to surge forward for Blayney. A point looked on to stretch the lead to two, but Fergal Rafter had lost his marker inside and this time Mark spotted the move. A pin point pass was collected by Fergal who duly dispatched to the net to send the vocal Blayney travelling supporters into ecstasy.

Mitchels still refused to lie down and Domhnall Nugent reduced the margin the three points entering stoppage time. But Paddy Finnegan produced another moment of magic to put the icing on the cake for Blayney. A huge score from all of 90 yards capped an outstanding display by Paddy, deputising at centre half for Peter Treanor. The resolute Blayney defence held firm and the final whistle saw scenes of unbridled joy for the Blayney contingent.

Final Score John Mitchels 1-10 Castleblayney 2-11

Castleblayney; P Collins, C Merrick, J McHugh, E Leonard, B Connor (J Deasy), P Finnegan (1-1), C McNally, B Flanagan, H Byrne (0-1 65), A Kenny F Rafter (1-8 7f), F Finnegan (N Adair), C Callan, M Treanor (0-1), B McGuigan

John Mitchels; P Crean, R Curley, D Bruen, M O Regan, P Scally, W Allen, D Kelly, G Lennon (0-1), N McKenna (0-3 3f), I Dwyer, D Nugent (0-4 2f), B Fallon, E McCabe (1-0), N Kennedy (0-2), K Magee