Glass was the intriguing sub-plot of this Hogan Cup final; the St Patrick’s captain, and sole survivor from the all-conquering Maghera class of 2013, was lining out in his school colours for the last time before moving to AFL club, Hawthorn.
The perfect swansong was on the cards after 44 minutes, the underdogs from Derry ahead by 2-5 to 0-8. Then, disaster. Referee David Gough was called by one of his umpires after a passage of play that ended with David Shaw splitting the posts for St Brendan’s. The Meath official headed towards Glass, pulled the red card and ordered off the St Patrick’s captain. Asked by a member of management why he had been dismissed, Glass shrugged his shoulders.
The heavy focus on the St Patrick’s midfielder is because following his dismissal, St Brendan’s outscored their opponents by 2-5 to 0-1 in the final quarter. Granted, St Brendans’ numerical advantage was lost when Dan O’Brien received a red card for an off the ball incident on 55 minutes and while David Clifford’s successive goal strikes did not arrive until later on, the game was turned on its head following the first sending-off.
“It’s a huge decision, absolutely huge,” said St Patrick’s manager Paul Hughes.
“I would have to see very strong video evidence to believe that Conor Glass did anything. But, the call was made, some calls are good, some calls are bad They said he was accused of striking. That’s not Conor Glass.”
Two from the boot of centre-forward David Clifford brought the favourites to within a point of Maghera and the northerners were dealt a further blow when HawkEye ruled wide a Paddy Quigg kick on 52 minutes.
Clifford, with his fifth point, levelled the game and despite O’Brien’s sending off thereafter, the excellent Dara Moynihan completed a five-in-a-row scoring burst to move the Killarney students in front.
Jack Doherty, who along with midfield partner Glass, outmuscled the much-vaunted St Brendan’s pair of Lee O’Donoghue and Billy Courtney for large spells, restored parity for a sixth time on 56 minutes. In what was only their second score of the half and first in 20 minutes, Hughes’ side would fail to add another.
An excellent run by Evan Cronin finished with Clifford fisting the ball to the St Patrick’s, net on 58 minutes. Three minutes into stoppages, the 16-year old from Fossa rattled the top right corner of the goal with a thunderous strike off his left. Game over. A 24-year famine over.
“He is a phenomenal talent,” said winning manager Gary McGrath of two goal-hero Clifford. “He reminds me every day at training of no one else but Maurice Fitzgerald. I can see it in him. I will be killed for saying it. I have said on the quiet. I haven’t told him, but we might tell him tonight. He is a big talent. If he is nurtured and looked after, he has a big career in front of him.”
Trailing by 1-5 to 0-7 at half-time — Patrick Kearney bagged the Maghera goal after team-mate Francis Kearney had a penalty stopped by David Carroll minutes earlier — it was the first time in this campaign that the Sem had been behind at the break. Shane McGuigan landed their second major on 36 minutes and doubts surfaced whether St Brendan’s had a response.
“Since our Corn Uí Mhuirí quarter-final win over Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne, I have been told by everybody, ‘ye haven’t been tested, ye haven’t been tested and each game ye have played has been over after 40 minutes’.
“It was the one thing we wanted all year; for someone to really put it up to us. We knew the character of the lads. We have seen it in training. We have played games in training with 15 men on 18 so the lads would have to battle hard. It paid off today.”
On the sending-offs, McGrath added: “I genuinely didn’t see either. [Glass] was a huge influential player for them. He was having a big impact. They struggled at times, then. They lost their system. We got on top. We knew we would finish strongly.”
D Clifford (2-5, 0-2 frees); D Moynihan (0-4); E Cronin, B Courtney (0-1 ’45), D Shaw, M Casey (0-1 each).
S McGuigan (1-3, 0-2 frees); P Kearney (1-0); S Downey, J Doherty, O McWilliams (0-1 each).
D Carroll (Spa); C Gammell (Legion), D O’Brien (Glenflesk), C O’Donoghue (Glenflesk); N Donohue (Firies), D Naughton (Dr Crokes), M Potts (Dr Crokes); L O’Donoghue (Glenflesk), B Courtney (Dr Crokes); P McCarthy (Legion), D Clifford (Fossa), D Moynihan (Spa); E Cronin (Spa), D Shaw (Dr Crokes), M Casey (Dr Crokes).
W Courtney (Firies) for Casey (43), D Spillane (Spa) for McCarthy (59).
S Cassidy (Slaughtneil); O McKeever (Dungiven), P Turner (Swatragh), K Feeney (Slaughtneil); P McCormack (Moneyglass), S Downey (Lavey), C McAllister (Slaughtneil); C Glass (Glen), J Doherty (Glen); P Kearney (Swatragh), P Quigg (Kilrea), O McWilliams (Swatragh); C Darragh (Glen), S McGuigan (Slaughtneil), F Kearney (Swatragh).
F Higgins (Dungiven) for Darragh (42)
D Gough (Meath).