By Brendan McTaggart
All County Football League Division 1
Roger Casements, Portglenone 1-12 St Pauls 1-6
St Pauls travelled to Portglenone to take on Roger Casements on Wednesday evening but left O’Cahan Park empty handed as the home side recorded a six point victory. In truth the score line didn’t do the Shaws Road side any justice as they matched their South West opponents for the majority of the match but Portglenone had more of an edge in attack and fully deserved their win after the hour.
St Pauls will look at their first half performance with rueful glare, although scoring 1-3 in the opening 30 minutes the City men only managed to score one point from play and that with the last kick of the half while the Casements managed to tally 1-7 with just one free.
It was the home side who made the better start but it was last week’s hat-trick hero Billy Joe Burns who opened the scoring, converting a free in the fourth minute. It would be another ten minutes before the visitors would raise a further white flag though as Portglenone took control. Niall McKeever was dominating the midfield exchanges while Corey McLaughlin and Paddy Kelly were on hand to maintain the home sides dominance from kick outs. Kelly scored his first of two first half points to restore parity to the score line in the ninth minute and from the resulting kick out the Casements scored the opening goal of the match. Patrick Crawford’s kick out went astray and Dermot McAleese was punished the visitors to O’Cahan Park fully. He gathered the loose ball and made a bee line straight for the St Pauls net before unleashing a powerful effort beyond Crawford. McAleese’s goal was backed up by Paddy Kelly’s second point of the match as the Casement’s threatened to run riot.
Conor McCarton’s first free of the match doubled the City sides score but Portglenone were beginning to turn the screw and scored five unanswered points to open an eight point lead. The scores coming from Corey McLaughlin (two), Gerard McAleese (two) and Michael Hagan (free), McAleese’s second score a delightful effort with the outside of his boot judging the element to perfection.
St Pauls hit back in the closing stages of the first half to give them hope. They were rewarded a penalty when Liam McLarnon was hauled to the ground with a sight of the Casement’s goal. Referee Paul Hanna had no option but to award the spot kick which Billy Joe Burns dispatched with consummate class, top right hand corner and in off the angle. If the home side had two keepers on the line wouldn’t have saved it.
McLarnon scored with the last kick of the half to cut the Casements lead to four points at the short whistle. Half time score Casements 1-7 St Pauls 1-3.
The home side were forced into an early change with goal keeper Ryan O’Neill suffering an arm injury during the first half, Brian McManus replacing the Casement’s shot stopper for the second half. St Pauls looked more threatening in attack with Billy Joe Burns and McLarnon giving the Portglenone defence plenty to think about while Conor McCartan winning his share of possession around the middle of the pitch.
Both sides registered frees in the opening exchanges but the visitors hopes were dealt a blow when Billy Joe Burns had to come off injured, replaced by Aaron Treanor.
St Pauls were more competitive in the middle third and had plenty of possession but the home side were content to sit back and hit St Pauls on the counter. Back to back points form Kelly and Hagan was met with a brace of points from Michael Connolly and McCartan reducing the Casements lead to four points going into the final ten minutes. It would be as close as St Pauls would get to Portglenone though as Portglenone sat back and soaked up all the St Pauls pressure. As the time ran out, St Pauls resorted to landing high ball to the edge of the Portglenone square but the home side never truly looked like conceding another major and points from Paddy Kelly and a free from Niall McKeever with the last kick of the game gave the home side a six point victory.
Portglenone did all the damage in the first half of this game and while the second half had more of a competitive nature, it was the differing attacking threats posed by the home side that proved to be the difference.
Ryan O’Neill; Johnny Convery; Ronan Delargy; Shane Delargy; Niall Delargy; Mark McAleese; Kieran McKenna; Corey McLaughlin (0-2); Patrick Kelly (0-5, 2 frees); Gerard McAleese (0-2); Michael Kelly; Ryan Convery; Michael Kelly (0-2, 2 frees); Niall McKeever (0-1, 1 free); Dermot McAleese (1-00)
SUBS: Brian McManus for R O’Neill (HT); Niall Kelly for D McAleese (54 mins); Caolan Tierney for M Hagan (58 mins)
Patrick Crawford; Aidan Kavanagh; Conor Hughes; Patrick Copeland; Damien Duffy; Don Burns; Padraic Lowe; Michael Connolly (0-1); Liam Carland; Johnny Flynn; Conor McCartan (0-2, 2 frees); Joe Duffy; Billy Joe Burns (1-2, 1-00 pen, 2 frees); Liam McLarnon (0-1); Sean Bradley
SUBS: Niall Peoples for P Lowe (B/C 25 mins); Aaron Treanor for BJ Burns (38 mins); Tiernan Rea for J Flynn (44 mins); Liam McKenna for C McCartan (55 mins)
Referee: Paul Hanna (Glenavy)