Ward the hero as Queens stage dramatic comeback

QUB 0-10 UUJ 1-6

Queens looked to be going out of the competition after their corner back Joe O’Kane deflected Michael McNamee’s cross into his own net for a goal which tied the game for the second time, but in a hectic finish they rallied to claim a place in tonight’s final for the third year in-a-row.

Given the talent on both sides and the rivalry between the teams, this game fell flat on its face. Conditions didn’t help and it was after Jordanstown had taken a two-point lead and looked likely winners that the game sprung to life.

Had Queens lost they would have only had themselves to blame. Jordanstown gave them the initiative right from the start by playing against the strong wind, but QUB proceeded to kick a litany of wides, nine in all, and their half time lead of 0-5 to 0-2 never looked enough.

Team coach James McCartan admitted that he thought his side had lost it when they fell two points behind.: “We made some elementary mistakes out there which won’t be good enough in the final. Time and time again we gave away possession far too easily and we’ll be punished for that in the final if we repeat it.

“It wasn’t looking too hot for us down two points with ten minutes to go but all credit to the lads they dug deep and got their just rewards.

“Obviously we are delighted at the win but it was far too close for comfort. I don’t wish to sound patronising to Jordanstown but you do have to feel a tinge of sympathy for them. The game was theirs but they got caught at the post. It’s a great way to win a match when there’s no time left to come back.”

Jordanstown won the toss and elected to play against the wind, a decision they came to regret. Forced to defend for most of that opening half they did well to be on level terms at 0-2 apiece after 12 minutes, but the pressure on their defence was enormous.

However Queens wasted a lot of chances through dreadful finishing, and were grateful for some excellent defending by Joe O’Kane and Kevin Gunn on the odd occasion UUJ managed to mount any attacks.

Queens’ half-time lead didn’t look good enough and when Mark Lynch landed an excellent UUJ point seconds into the second half, it looked a case of how much Jordanstown would win by.

Fortunately for Queens, a strangely subdued Kevin McGrourty - who starred with St. Galls last Sunday in the All-Ireland club semi-final win over Nemo - then thundered into the game and two excellent points against the strong wind had them three to the good at the three quarter stage.

Back came Jordanstown and they were thrown a lifeline when Queens corner back Joe O’Kane knocked the ball into his own net to tie the game for the second time. The game had finally sprung to life and when Colin Devlin gave UUJ the lead for the first time, and Patrick Cunningham added another point, it looked as if they were going to atone for last year’s defeat at the hands of the same opponents.

However there was still a kick left in Queens, and in those hectic closing minutes points by Ger Donaghy and the outstanding Kevin Gunn tied the game for the third time and extra time loomed large. Thankfully it wasn’t to be, and substitute Michael Ward became their hero with the match winning point in injury time.

Scorers: QUB: B Mallon 0-3, M O’Rourke 0-2, J McGovern, A Carr, G Donaghy, K Gunn, M Ward 0-1 each. UUJ: J O’Kane 1-0 (og), C Devlin, M Lynch 0-2 each, P McGuigan, P Cunningham 0-1 each.

QUB: F. Murphy; R. O’Neill D. McCartan, J. O’Kane; C. Vernon, G. O’Kane, K. Gunn; C. O’Brien, P. Turley; B. Mallon, A. Carr, M. O’Rourke; J. McCartan, E. McGovern, K. McGrourty. Subs: G. Donaghy for Vernon; M. Ward for McGovern; R. Dillon for O’Neill.

UUJ: B. Connell; R. Murray, P. Donnelly, F. Moriarty; P. McGuigan, E. Clarke, P. Morrissey; B. McKenna, P. Doherty; M. Murphy, M. Lynch, M. McNamee; P. Cunningham, J., Bradley, C. Devlin. Subs: R. Mulgrew for Doherty; R. Confrey for Murphy.

Referee: C. O’Reilly (Meath).

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