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Dungannon Oust Corinthians In Extra-Time

Dungannon Oust Corinthians In Extra-Time

Dungannon will meet Bruff in next month’s Bateman All-Ireland Cup final after winning a bruising semi-final encounter with Corinthians.

Great credit goes to the Dungannon groundstaff, club members and youth players who cleared the pitch of as much snow as possible so this semi-final could go ahead as scheduled.

On a muddy and saturated pitch, Corinthians put in a hugely committed display and played to their strengths in a game of contrasting styles.

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They frustrated Dungannon by keeping things tight and using their powerful pack to gain ground and put them in scoring situations.

But in the end, the Tyrone side's greater experience and fitness proved decisive as Chris Cochrane's converted try forced extra-time and Michael Lawton kicked a penalty for the only score in the 20 additional minutes.

Corinthians out-half Conor Murphy missed an early penalty in tricky underfoot conditions, before he make amends in the 18th minute and Lawton replied two minutes later.

Back row duo Ali Birch and Callum Threlfall got Dungannon within sight of the try-line, only for a knock on spoil the attack.

The battle at the breakdown was ferocious at times and 'Gannon centre Glen Telford was sin-binned in the 26th minute after a good break from Corinthians' Gary Ward. Dungannon had received a previous warning from referee John Lacey.

Corinthians dominated possession while Telford was off and their pick and drive efforts gained them decent ground. The game really ignited in the 35th minute with a terrific solo try from winger Darin Claasen.

The South African gathered a loose ball and showed a clean pair of heels to the 'Gannon cover as he thundered over from 60 metres out. With Murphy adding an excellent conversion from wide out, the Galway outfit were 10-3 to the good.

It was tit for tat before half-time and Murphy was narrowly wide with another penalty attempt as Corinthians kept pressing for scores.

The Corinthians pack, with front rowers Denis Buckley and Joey Merrigan putting in great work, had the better of possession in an attritional second half.

There were some strong carries from lock Sean Gerrity and flanker Ward, and the visitors also had the better of the set piece exchanges.

But Dungannon defended well and an earth-shuddering tackle by replacement lock Ryan Caldwell set up a 42nd minute penalty which place-kicking winger Lawton converted.

Murphy hit back with his second penalty to restore the Division 2 club's seven-point advantage and 'Gannon struggled to make any inroads as time ticked away. The error count increased in worsening conditions.

Justin Fitzpatrick's men were staring at a semi-final exit until they struck for a late try. Kicks from lock Michael Rainey and Lawton clawed some territory back for the hosts and a double tackle from captain Paul Magee and Birch forced a turnover.

Player-coach Kieran Campbell kept the move going and linked with his former Ulster team-mate Caldwell who passed for former Ireland Under-20 winger Cochrane to run in a crucial five-pointer

Lawton coolly converted to level the sides at 13-13 and after a missed penalty from Murphy in the 76th minute, extra-time was called for.

An early penalty from Lawton in the first period of extra-time edged 'Gannon ahead for the first and final time as a gallant Corinthians side bowed out in wintry conditions.

Dungannon's lead was still a precarious one and they missed out on an insurance score when the brilliant Birch was held up short. But they had done enough to set up a showdown with Division 1B rivals Bruff on Saturday, April 9.

Referee: John Lacey (Munster)