Fr Rocks colours flew triumphantly in the Croke Park shadows on Sunday evening. At last, like Sam Maguire, the Intermediate championship came home to Tyrone.
Fr Rocks are the new champions and worthy ones at that, having beaten Spa of Kerry on a scoreline on 1-7 to 0-8 in a remarkable match; by sheer determination when all seemed stacked against them and defeat stared them straight in the eye. There is no individual hero, Raymond Mulgrew won man of the match, but this was a collective effort. Every man gave his all and in some cases more.
The Rocks got off to a nervous start in the Croke Park amphitheatre. It was the men from the Kingdom who showed their early pedigree; with ten minutes gone on the clock the day seemed ominous. Cookstowm trailed by three but began to claw their way back into the contest. It was the impressive Conor Mullan who opened the scoring, dissecting the posts from all of thirty yards to settle the early jitters. Thereafter, Cookstown took control, with Paul McGurk the free man in defence; Spa could not find a way through the Cookstown rearguard.
Fr Rocks won endless turnovers of possession, with Brain Mulligan the breaking ball specialist. Further scores from Christopher Eastwood and Conor Mullan left the scores level at the half way point of the first half. The Rocks were dominant in possession, but struggled to translate this dominance into scores, however they did take the lead on twenty five minutes when Brian Mulligan whistled over the bar from the deck, after a brilliant pass from Owen Mulligan.
The Kerrymen however were not to be outdone as they mounted a late comeback and stole the lead at halftime on a scoreline of 0-5 to 0-4. It was Spa who extended the lead early in the second period and questions began to be asked of Fr Rocks. Cookstown took the fight to Spa for the remainder of the game. Owen Mulligan fired over a superb effort in the 40th minutes having been fed by Mulgrew to reduce the deficit; however a rare Spa attack stretched their lead following a score by the talented Niall O’ Mahoney.
The key moment of the game arrived in the 51st minute as a Brian Mulligan high ball caused havoc in the Spa defence, Raymond Mulgrew got a fist to the ball and the Spa keeper fouled to concede a penalty. Up stepped captain fantastic Barry Hughes who showed all the composure in the world to convert a brilliant penalty, and give the Rocks a lead of 1-6 to 0-7. It was a lead they would hold until the end, Spa reduced it to just one point and missed a brace of close range frees to offer the Rocks a lifeline.
It was left to Owen Mulligan to seal an end to a brilliant season as he converted a 40 yard free to seal the victory. The Lower Hogan stand shook to its foundations as captain Barry Hughes climbed the steps to collect the cup.
Martin Rea, Philip Kelly, Stephen Monaghan, Paul McGurk, Shea McGarrity, Barry Hughes (1-0), Conor O’Hare, Gary Fitzpatrick, Raymond Mulgrew, Conor Mullan (0-2), Barry Mulligan, Brian Mulligan (0-1), Christopher Eastwod (0-1), Owen Mulligan (0-2, 1free), Martin Murray (0-1). Subs: John Gilmore, Ryan Pickering, Brain O’Neill and Jason Quinn.