Champions still standing after replay victory

Senior Football Championship quarter-final replay

Ramor United 1-10

Mullahoran 0-6

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

Champions Ramor United returned to the semi-finals with a hard-fought win over Mullahoran in this quarter-final replay.

There was little between them for most of what was a dour encounter but the Virginia men, who were the better side, finished stronger, running in a late goal to win by a slightly flattering seven-point margin.

The sides were level at 0-5 apiece at the end of a cagey, low-scoring and at times bad-tempered first half.

Mullahoran opened a 0-3 to 0-0 lead but would score just three more points in the remainder of the match; Ramor reeled off five in a row but were still not convincing during that spell and the Dreadnoughts woke up to grab two before half-time.

Cormac O’Reilly was heavily involved in the first half; he was fouled for three frees which Mullahoran scored, fired over a point himself and also spent 10 minutes in the sin bin in what was an all-action display.

The Dreadnoughts were the better team in the early running and moved swiftly into a deserved three-point lead.

Gavin Brady landed the opener off the left after the ball was recycled and Cormac O’Reilly doubled Mullahoran’s lead with a great score on six minutes. And Enda O’Reilly free a minute later extended the advantage but two wides in a minute from Cormac McKeogh saw their momentum stall.

Poor shooting was a feature throughout the contest, with Mullahoran registering nine wides and Ramor eight while both dropped numerous efforts short.

John Brady’s men belatedly got off the mark in the 11th minute when Ado Cole played Paddy McNamee in for a goal chance which the latter sent inches over the bar. Enda Maguire, who was one of Ramor’s best players on the day, sent over with the left foot before Ramor spurned a goal chance, Simon Cadden kicking straight at Dominic Crudden.

Mullahoran then lost Cormac O’Reilly to a black card for a trip on Jack Brady and Ramor pressed on, Cathal Maguire fisting over after good work from brother Enda and Jack Brady then, dropping into the ‘pocket’ as Ramor met Mullahoran’s mass defence, split the posts with a fine strike from the right wing.

Cathal Maguire, who was lively throughout, found Eoin Somerville who steered over Ramor’s fifth point three minutes before the break but Mullahoran finished the half strongly with two frees from Enda O’Reilly, the second a quality 40-metre effort with the outside of the boot.

On the resumption, Ramor pulled three points clear but there was nothing easy about it. A tight Mullahoran defence which had kept four clean sheets in the championship and not leaked many points either was in no mood to give anything away cheaply – and Ramor will have been disappointed with their execution at times, too.

A free from Jack Brady and another fisted Cathal Maguire point after a slick move through the centre were followed by a second for Somerville as Ramor asserted their dominance. However, they failed to make it count on the scoreboard as they should have and Mullahoran hung in there; after a trademark Killian Brady turnover, they won a free which Enda O’Reilly again converted.

That, though, would be the Dreadnoughts’ last score as Ramor kicked on. Jack Brady won and converted a free to make it 0-9 to 0-6 on 49 minutes. Both teams missed chances but as the finish line grew near, McNamee pointed and, deep in injury time, after a well-worked move they ran the ball into the net, Enda Maguire getting the final touch.

This was quite a forgettable game between two sides who have been defensively strong but struggling at the other end. Ramor were better over the two games and deserved to advance but the holders will know improvement is needed when they face an in-form Killygarry in the semi-final.

The good news, though, is that they have been won three semi-finals in the last six years and know what it takes to get to a final and while there are major injury concerns, it would be unwise to rule them out given their experience and pedigree. Form is temporary and there is every chance Ramor could leave theirs behind them the next day; they will know, though, that it is imperative they do.

Mullahoran: Dominic Crudden, Darren Sheils, Killian Brady, James Reilly, Cormac McKeogh, Matthew Hynes, Colm O’Reilly, Sean McKeogh, Caoláin O’Reilly, Tom Harten, Gavin Brady (0-1), James Coyle, Edward Dalton, Cormac O’Reilly (0-1), Enda O’Reilly (0-4f)

Subs: Niall McGahern for S McKeogh (38 mins), Ryan O’Reilly for T Harten, Daithi Sheils for Caoláin O’Reilly (both 47), Conor Foitzsimons for M Hynes (59)

Ramor United: Liam Brady, Lorcan Lynch, Damien Barkey, Brían O’Connell, Adam O’Connell, Jack Brady (0-3, 2f), Mark Magee, Enda Maguire (1-1), Laurence Caffrey, Eoin Somerville (0-2), Simon Cadden, Cathal Maguire (0-2), Paddy McNamee (0-2), Ado Cole, Conor Bradley

Subs: Micheál Smart for B O’Connell (50 mins), James Bradley for C Bradley (51), Ben Smith for C Maguire (58)

Ref: Mickey Lee