By Shaun Casey
SHANE O’Neill’s have been knocking on the door of the Armagh Intermediate Championship for the past number of years and while they didn’t burst through it last weekend, they did enough to sneak through.
A last-minute Paul O’Rourke goal broke St Paul’s hearts and ended a few years of hurt for the Shane’s, who know how the Lurgan lads felt.
Back in 2019, the last time Shane O’Neill’s competed in the showpiece, they had one hand on the cup heading into the final few minutes, but two late frees from the Grange shattered their dreams.
“Emotions are very high at the minute; it looked like we were gone there in the last five minutes and a long-range ball in was the only option,” said Ciaran Mackin, who lined out at full-back to mark county teammate Andrew Murnin.
“We had to try something and thankfully it fell to Paul O’Rourke, and he got it into the back of the net. We are so happy today. We got beat in 2019 and we knew what we had to do to get over the line. We had boys there pushing, we had boys that left and didn’t want to be there and the boys that were there gave absolutely everything.
“In 2019 the same thing happened us; we were two points up and we got beat by a point. That’s it, in 2019 Grange just kept going and they got the cup and that’s just the end of the story.
“This time it was us who dug deep when we had to and thankfully, we’re taking the cup home. Commiserations to St Paul’s, they did their best, they did everything to get us out of sight, but we just hung in there and when the ball went it, thankfully it went into the back of the net.”
It was a ding-dong tussle that went right down to the wire, but St Paul’s will be bitterly disappointed as they were the better team on display for large chunks of the game.
An early Greg McCabe goal, inside the opening 20 seconds, handed Shane O’Neill’s the initiative but McCabe received his marching orders for an off the ball tangle with Declan Magee just before the break.
And to really question the Shane’s resolve, Murnin blasted home a goal to put St Paul’s 1-6 to 1-3 ahead at the break.
But Patrick Gregory’s men produced the goods when they needed to after the turnaround to claim the honours.
“When we get the goal in the first half you could see we tended to slack off a wee bit maybe and didn’t go as full tilt as we would have liked to,” added Mackin, who fired in the long ball in that created the game-winning goal.
“But going into the changing room at half time we knew what we had to do especially going in a man down.
“We didn’t think about, we just knew we had to dig deep and that’s just the bottom line. There are no shortcuts about it, you have to dig deep and go at it.”