NO silverware on the sideboard just yet but already this has been a red letter year for St Ultan"s. Their ticket to their first IFC final was booked with this victory at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday and now preparations can get underway in earnest for the big day.
They came into this game well motivated and psyched up for the challenge and they needed to be. Gaeil Colmcille presented a formidable barrier on their way to the final and they made St Ultan"s dig out every score.
Of course all the progress made this year will mean little unless the Mattie McDonnell Cup is collected and brought back to Sean Newman Park. For the moment they can sit back and reflect on a difficult task completed successfully.
The St Ultan"s management will hope that the players can reproduce the kind of performance they produced in the opening half of this encounter for the big showdown.
Right from the start St Ultan"s were neat and efficient, passing the ball well, their secure handling skills making light of the slippery conditions and the greasy ball.
After 14 minutes they led 0-3 to 0-1 with points from Brian Galligan, Eugene Brady and Kevin Rogers. By half-time they were in the lead by 0-9 to 1-2 and were looking poised to push on and win with a comfortable margin.
It didn"t quite work out like that as St Ultan"s lost their way for much of the second-half with Gaeil Colmcille making a concerted effort to save their day.
The fact that they didn"t owed a lot to some resolute defending from St Ultan"s who absorbed the pressure and hit back with a enough scores to maintain their advantage.
The overall pattern of the game was reflected in the performance of St Ultan"s fleet-footed corner-forward Eugene Brady. He gave a barnstorming first-half display, moving swiftly out to win just about every ball that came his way and tormenting his opponents.
It was significant that Brady registered two points in the opening 30 minutes without adding to that tally in the second-half. After the break he was very closely marked and it wasn"t unusual to see two or three men around him when the ball came into his vicinity.
Brady was also hampered by the fact that not as much ball came his way in the second-half. St Ultan"s were simply less dominant, the ammunition less plentiful for the forwards to work with.
A significant plus for St Ultan"s was that when their most potent forward was tied up they had others who could do damage. Seven St Ultan"s players got themselves on the scoresheet over the hour, six getting off the mark from play. Even corner-back Jason Bennett found time to move forward and tag on a point.
Five of the forwards found the target with St Ultan"s hard-working half-forward combination of Daryl McLoughlin, Cian Rennicks and Kevin Rogers mixing pace, awareness and guile to land six of their team"s total score.
There were times when St Ultan"s carried a real threat. Late in the opening half Bennett, Kevin Galligan, Rennicks, Paul Murray and McLoughlin were involved in putting together a necklace of passes that ended with Brady slotting over a superb score.
St Ultan"s won without finding the net although McLoughlin raced through the opposition defence late in the first-half and shot over. It was probably the better option but the possibility of a goal was very real.
Brian Mulroe and particularly Kevin Galligan displayed some fine fielding skills and their influential workrate was needed as Gaeil Colmcille exerted a significant influence in the second-half.
St Ultan"s didn"t score for the last 10 minutes yet still managed to hold out.
Only Brian Hanlon and Justin Carry-Lynch pointed for Gaeil Colmcille and that was never going to be enough to win this game. Hanlon was their tormentor-in-chief with 1-6.
His goal ignited his team"s challenge and came after 20 minutes. Martin Barrett played the ball in long to Stephen McManus who swiftly and cleverly off-loaded to Hanlon who finished brilliantly.
Hanlon repertoire of scores included outstanding efforts from play and placed balls. Gaeil Colmcille finished the game the more potent attacking force when a last-gasp piledriver from Michael Foley was saved on the line by St Ultan"s netminder Neil Burke. Despite the pressure St Ultan"s held firm to secure their first appearance in an IFC final.
St Ultan"s - C Rennicks 0-3, two frees; K Rogers 0-2; E Brady 0-2; B Galligan 0-2, two frees; J Bennett 0-1; D McLoughlin 0-1; P Murray 0-1.
Gaeil Colmcille - B Hanlon 1-6, four frees; J Carry-Lynch 0-1.
St Ultan"s - N Burke; C Lynch, D Galligan, J Bennett; D Mallon, A Martin, B Gallgian; B Mulroe, K Galligan; D McLoughlin, C Rennicks, K Rogers; E Brady, P Murray, G Gorman. Subs - T Coyne for Gorman 25 minutes; G Rennicks 54m; C Travers for Murray 58m.
Gaeil Colmcille - D Drew; S Curran, R Flanagan, M Foley; S Reddy, H Barry, B Smith; M Fox, D O"Neill; G Arkins, M Barrett, K Reilly; J Carry-Lynch, B Hanlon, S McManus. Subs - B Tormey for Barry, 36 minutes; S Henney for 42m; P Ward for Fox 46m; D Tormey for McManus 46m.
Cormac Reilly (St Mary"s).