Rory Beggan’s converted free in the fifth minute of stoppage time sealed a dramatic comeback for Monaghan champions Scotstown and put them through to the AIB Ulster club SFC final.
For a long time in the second half it looked like Eoghan Rua of Coleraine were going to secure a surprise victory over a fancied Scotstown team in Healy Park after Ruairi Mooney’s 36th minute goal helped them move into a four-point lead.
Scotstown’s porous defence almost coughed up a second goal but they hung in and nailed four unanswered points to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and their All Star goalkeeper was key to it all.
“If you want a man standing over a free-kick, Rory is your man,” admitted relieved manager Kieran Donnelly after Beggan’s free from around the ‘45’ put them into the decider on December 2.
Beggan was playing as a 15th outfield player up around the full-forward position in the build-up to defender Damien McArdle’s equalising point a minute earlier, causing confusion in the Coleraine defence.
The free into the wind was missable given the stressful circumstances, but he coped with it all.
“I knew it was either the last kick of the second last kick and that it had to go over,” Beggan revealed.
“I didn’t want to let the team down and leave it short so I had to judge the wind properly.
“You can enjoy all these personal accolades (All Star) but at the end of the day nothing beats celebrating with your team.
“But all this has done is got us into an Ulster final. We have another two weeks to dig in.”
Coleraine, Derry champions this year for only the second time, will have a long winter to sit and wonder how they let this one slip.
They were outplayed in the opening quarter but Scotstown’s more attractive direct style didn’t translate onto the scoreboard and Coleraine took the lead for the first time just before the break, Barry Daly’s point putting them 1-7 to 1-6 up after Conor McCarthy and Ciaran Mullan first-half goals.
McCarthy took on two defenders, selling a dummy and lifting the ball over the goalkeeper in a deft finish after seven minutes. Beggan followed it up with a long-range free and the Monaghan champions were 1-2 to 0-1 ahead after 15 minutes.
Coleraine hung in and battled and a goal against the run of play from Ciaran Mullan brought them right back into it. No-one tackled Mullan as he ran towards goal and with Scotstown slow to react to the danger, he got his shot away and blasted it into the roof of the net.
There were a few game-changing moments in the second half, and the loss of ex-county midfielder Niall Holly was a massive blow to Coleraine.
Ruairí Mooney’s goal six minutes after the restart helped put them into a four-point lead, but they wasted a great chance to score a second goal and never really recovered. Not for the first time, Scotstown were carved wide open through the middle and Gavin McWilliams rounded Beggan only to miss an open goal, his shot crashing off the woodwork.
Kieran Hughes scored almost immediately at the other end and it felt like a game-changer, setting up a memorable finish in Omagh.
Trailing by three with just two minutes of normal time remaining, Beggan nailed a free before Ryan O’Toole and Damien McArdle drew Scotstown level, with Beggan’s final flourish setting up a decider against Gweedore on December 2.
Scorers for Scotstown: C McCarthy 1-1, R Beggan 0-3 (3f), K Hughes, D McArdle 0-2 each, S Carey 0-2 (2f), R O’Toole, F Maguire, D Hughes, O Heaphey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Eoghan Rua: R Mooney 1-1, D Mullan 0-4, C Mullan 1-0, G McWilliams 0-2 (1f), B Daly, B McGoldrick, Colm McGoldrick 0-1 each
SCOTSTOWN: R Beggan; B Boylan, R O’Toole, D McArdle; J McDevitt, D Morgan, E Caulfield; F Caulfield, K Hughes; F Maguire, C McCarthy, J McCarey; S Carey, D Hughes, O Heaphey.
Subs: R McKenna for Heaphey (37), P Sherlock for McCarey (48), J Hamill for Caulfield (55), M McCarville for Maguire (60).
EOGHAN RUA: R McGeough; C Langan, L McGoldrick, B Daly; C Mullan, B McGoldrick, C Lenehan; N Holly, M McTaggart; R Mooney, SL McGoldrick, G McWilliams; D Mullan, Colm McGoldrick, Ciaran McGoldrick.
Sub: R Carey for Holly (44).
Referee: Ciarán Branagan (Down)