St. Gall’s back in the hunt for league honours

All County Football League Division 1

Creggan 0-10  St. Gall’s 0-12

This year’s Antrim ACFL Division 1 promises to be the closest for years with Creggan making the early running and unbeaten in five outings prior to St. Gall’s visit to the Staffordstown Road. The Milltown side have suffered a couple of defeats but on the evidence of what I saw on Sunday their demise as a force in Antrim has been greatly exaggerated.

Under the guidance of former Antrim Star Sean Kelly the rebuilding process has already begun and Kelly looks to have unearthed a few promising youngsters but this victory was built on outstanding performances from a couple of his more established stars.

Terry O’Neill wore the number 13 shirt on Sunday but played a very effective role as sweeper for the Milltown men while Michael Pollock gave an excellent performance at mid-field where he partnered Niall O’Neill and the visitors had the edge in this department for most of the hour.

The exchanges were fairly even for most of the game with the sides tied at 0-5 each at the break though the first half will be remembered more for the number of wides kicked rather than the quality of the scores as both defences dominated.

Conor Small for the Kickham’s and Michael Pollock for St. Gall’s exchanged points in the opening minute before Ruairi McCann edged the home side ahead with a point in the second minute. Sean McAreavey squared the contest for the second time as his side started to take control and a couple of well struck frees from Brendan Bradley saw the visitors move two ahead by the 14th minute.

Creggan were enjoying plenty of possession but a combination of poor shooting and some strong defending by the visitors kept them at bay and at the other end Mark Kelly moved forward to fire over a fine point and open up a three point gap at the end of the opening quarter.

Creggan kept battling away and began to gain a bit of reward for their efforts late in the half with Tommy McCann pointing a couple of frees and Conor Small added another from play in the 30th minute to leave it all square at the break and the momentum appeared to be with Kevin Madden’s side as Sean Laverty sounded his half time whistle.

BRIGHT OPENING

With a slight wind advantage Kickham’s made a bright start to the second half with Kevin Small edging them ahead after 30 seconds but St. Gall’s drew level in the third minute from ace free taker Brendan Bradley.

A minute later Conor Small pointed a free at the other end to edge the league leaders ahead but again the Milltown side responded through Mark Cummings to leave it all square again with 11 minutes gone.

Things were certainly warming up as replacement Kevin Niblock edged the Milltown side ahead once more with a point in the  20th minute but again a determined Creggan responded as mid-fielder, Martin Johnston fired over an excellent long range point.

It was still anybody’s game but the visitors were beginning to get on top and were managing possession much better than their opponents and pushing up effectively when the opposition had the ball and points from Mark Bradley (free) and another from his younger brother, Cormac opened up a two point gap with seven minutes remaining.

Niall O’Neill with a good point opened the gap to three as St. Gall’s started to move the ball around confidently, keeping possession and forcing the opposition to chase the game but a pointed free from Conor Small in the 28th minute set the scene for a storming finish.

Despite dominating the closing minutes the home side were unable to get the goal that would have swung the game in their favour with Bradley again on target for St. Gall’s from another free and Ruairi McCann replying with the game’s final score with a point in the 32nd minute.

This was a good win for St. Gall’s and one that will give them a lot of confidence following defeats to St. John’s and Cargin earlier in the league and manager Sean Kelly will be delighted by the performance and the result. The Milltown side managed possession much better than their opponents and pushed up as a unit when Creggan had possession.

Terry O’Neill was very effective in his sweeper role and dictated the pace of the game for long periods and Niall O’Neill and Micky Pollock gave them a strong platform at mid-field. Brendan Bradley was impressive in attack both from play and placed balls and the introduction of experienced pair, Kevin Niblock and Ciaran McGourty gave them the edge.

Creggan have been going extremely well this year  but despite a strong effort were unable to produce the form that saw them win their opening five games. They were missing Mark Dougan in attack but had plenty of opportunities in the opening half but squandered too many chances.

Creggan: Oisin Kerr: Aidan Maguire, Ricki Johnston, Conor McCann: Declan McCann, Thomas McCann, Sam Maguire: Michael Maguire, Kevin Rice: Odhran McLarnon, Ruairi McCann, Aidan McKeown: Conor Small, Kevin Small, David McGuckin. Subs Used: Martin Johnston, Matthew Rodgers, Charlie Devlin

St. Gall’s: Chris Kerr: Tomas O’Ciarain, Andrew McLean, Ryan Irvine: Ruairi Wilson, Mark Kelly, Cormac Bradley: Michael Pollock, Niall O’Neill: Brendan Bradley, Mark Cummings, Sean O’Hara: Terry O’Neill, Daniel Murray, Sean McAreavey. Subs Used: Kevin Niblock, Ciaran McGourty, Anthony Healey.

Referee: Sean Laverty (Moneyglass)

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