Shercock hold on in scrappy quarter-final
Intermediate Championship quarter-final
Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni
Shercock secured their passage to the Intermediate Championship semi-final with this hard-fought win over Ballymachugh in what was an error-strewn, scrappy game.
Shercock opened the scoring in the first minute and led for the entirety of the match but couldn’t shake off a stubborn Ballymachugh side. The Hughs scored a penalty seven minutes into the second half which re-ignited their challenge and but for some very poor shooting, they could have got something from this game against a Shercock side who were hanging on at the end.
At the break, it was 0-9 to 0-6 and there wasn’t much to choose between them; Shercock were the better side but four frees kept the Hughs in touch when at times they looked a little over-run.
Shercock, facing into the wind, played their best football in the early stages as they opened a 0-5 to 0-1 lead with 12 minutes on the clock.
Sean Clarke opened the scoring from a free after a foul on Niall Clerkin and although Ballymachugh replied when Mark Kiernan threaded over a well-taken score from play, Shercock reeled off four in succession thereafter.
Sean Clarke showed his ball-winning ability when gathering a Michael O’Reilly pass and slotting over Shercock’s second.
Ryan Clerkin was then denied a goal by a smart Kevin Browne save but Shercock pulled two clear on eight minutes when Eoin Morrissey sent over a good point.
Niall Clerkin ran at the Hughs’ defence and was fouled, with Killian Clarke doing the honours from the resulting free, and when Killian Clarke beat a defender and fisted over, Shercock were humming.
But a trend which continued throughout the game reared its head – Shercock would push four or five ahead but couldn’t kick on.
Ballymachugh scored through Killian Smith, who picked up a pass from impressive playmaker Peter Devine, and when they won the resulting kick-out, Liam Buchanan powered through and pointed.
Shercock created a good goal chance when Killian Clarke centred to Ryan Clerkin, who may have got a nudge as he stretched and palmed over rather than under the bar.
Mark Kiernan and Sean Clarke traded frees and when Damien McIntyre punted over, Shercock were ahead by double scores, 0-8 to 0-4.
But back came the Hughs, Tynan converting a free after the ref deemed Buchanan to have been fouled and then centre-back Aaron Briody sending over the best score of the half from long range.
A well-struck Sean Clarke free saw Shercock go in leading by three and with the wind at their backs in the second half, they seemed sure to push on – and when Sean Clarke (free) and the outstanding Ryan Clerkin, with a super effort on the loop, raised white flags, they were five up and looking good.
But Ballymachugh had other ideas. When a Shane Clarke handpass was intercepted, Killian Smith bore down on goal and was fouled and Buchanan slotted home the resulting spot kick.
Shercock suddenly began to look ragged – Niall Clerkin fluffed a good goal chance when teed up by cousin Ryan.
The tried and trusted tactic of going long to Killian Clarke and feeding the trigger men wasn’t working on this occasion, with the Hughs battling well in the air and on the ground, but it paid off for a crucial score from the county man found Niall Clerkin, who sent over a crucial score to make it 0-12 to 1-6 on 40 minutes.
Ballymachugh then enjoyed their best spell as they owned the ball at midfield but their shooting – they had eight wides in the second half, most of them from very scoreable positions – meant they couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard.
After a wide, they won the resulting kick-out and Smith found Tynan for a skilful point falling away but again, Shercock managed to keep the Hughs at bay with a Niall Clerkin point on the run.
Devine set Smith up for another for Ballymachugh, who weren’t going away, but a Sean Clarke free after a foul on Niall Clerkin made it 0-14 to 1-8.
By now, the sap was rising and tempers were fraying. A Mark Kiernan free made it a two-point game again; Shercock appeared to be hanging on but two very poor wides let them off the hook.
With the pressure on, Ryan Clerkin showed leadership and came up with the key score, beating a man in front of the stand and carrying the ball 40 metres before splitting the posts. That settled Shercock although the exchanges spilled over in the closing stages, with Darragh Kiernan and Mark Kiernan red-carded for the Hughs.
Shercock held on for the win after a sloppy performance and will know that they will needed to rediscover their group stage form, and probably a bit more, if they are to return to the final for the first time since winning this championship in 2017.
Shercock: Shay Rooney, Michael O’Reilly, Colin Clerkin, Eoin Morrissey, Conor Ruxton, Damien McIntyre, Brian Sankey, Killian Clarke, Sean Clarke, Dwayne Eakins, Ryan Clerkin, Darren O’Reilly, Niall Clerkin, Conor McIntyre, Shane Clarke
Subs: Paddy McMahon for D O’Reilly (ht), Andrew Culleton for C McIntyre (44), Fintan McIntyre for C Ruxton (60)
Ballymachugh: Kevin Browne, Ben Tierney, Dillon Kiernan, Gary Kelly, Darragh Kiernan, Aaron Briody, Ryan Smith, Liam Buchahan, James Smith, Kieran Goldrick, Peter Devine, Stephen Halton, Shane Tynan, Killian Smith, Mark Kiernan
Subs: Barry Kiernan for K Goldrick (36), Thomas Kiernan for S Halton (41), Conor Mulligan for Ryan Smith (52)
Ref: John Power