ACHL Division 2
Cloney Gaels 1-17 Glen Rovers Armoy 4-15
A first half hat-trick by towering full-forward, Owen Kinney paved the way for an Armoy victory in this bottom of the table clash at Cloney and moves them a place above Sunday’s opponents in a tough hard hitting encounter where a win was vital for both teams.
Both sides had only two wins going into this encounter and drew in the corresponding fixture in Armoy so it was imperative for both that they take something out of this encounter and despite being short quite a number of regulars it was the Ahoghill side who got off to the better start.
Two superb long range frees from Fionnbar O’Neill and another from 40 meters by PJ O’Connell put the Ahoghill men three in front after five minutes but Owen Kinney replied with a 6th minute point and Conor O’Kane pointed a close range free following a foul on Kinney to close the gap to the minimum.
PJ O’Connell collected and swivelled before firing over to put the Cloney men two in front and when Owen Neeson added another great effort in the 10th minute it all appeared to be going to plan for the home side.
That was as good as it was to get however as Armoy hit back with points from Ciaran and Johnny McErlain before Owen Kinney struck with the first of his four goals in the 15th minute to give the visitors a lead they were never to lose.
Kinney got the deftest of flicks on a free from John Dillon to guide the sliotar past an unsighted Aiden Graham and was quickest to react when the sliotar rebounded off the crossbar to fire home goal number two from close range after 17 minutes.
By this stage the visitors had taken control around mid-field and defence, denying the opposition space and winning the majority of dirty ball as Cloney Gaels tried to respond but with little success. Kinney was now the focal point of the visitors attack and got his third goal just before half time to send his side to the dressing rooms with a fairly healthy looking 3-7 to 0-7 half-time lead.
If Cloney Gaels were to get back into contention then it was important that they step up the pace after the break and, like in the first half, they opened brightly. Owen Neeson converted a couple of early frees and PJ O’Connell added another in the opening five minutes to cut the gap to six points.
Thomas Burns responded with an Armoy point but the Ahoghill men were now playing with a lot of determination and when PJ O’Connell was dragged down as he bore down on goal he picked himself up of the ground to drill the resulting 20 meter free to the net.
John Dillon edged Armoy further ahead with a point in the 10th minute but PJ O’Connell replied with an excellent effort to close the gap to four once more as the intensity of the game grew and it still looked anybody’s game at this stage.
Further exchanges between Ciaran McErlain for Armoy and Ronan Graham for the home side kept the sparse support on their feet and with no quarter being asked or given. Owen Kinney and Johnny McErlain for Armoy and Ronan Graham and Fionnbar O’Neill for Cloney Gaels kept the scoreboard attended busy as the gap remained at four points going into the final quarter.
Indeed the momentum seemed to be swinging in favour of the Ahoghill side at this stage but it all changed dramatically when a long delivery was collected by that man Kinney in the 23d minute and he outpaced the Ahoghill defence before firing home his fourth goal of the game and open up a six point gap.
That gap was increased to seven as Conor O’Kane added a point and another from Johnny McErlain left the Cloney men with a mountain to climb and ended their hopes of a come-back. Their only response was a point from a Gerard Graham free deep into injury time.
This win leaves Armoy just one point behind neighbour Cathaoir an Ri and gives them a fighting chance of avoiding relegation but they face tough trips to Glenariffe and Randalstown in their final two games while Cloney Gaels have Tir Na nOg away and table toppers St. John’s at home in their two remaining fixtures.
For the winners Owen Kinney was the star of the show and had useful allies in Charles McCormick, Liam Dillon, Daniel McPeake, Martin McErlain, Ronan McCarry, Johnny McErlain, John Dillon and Conor O’Kane.
For an Ahoghill side who face a second relegation in two seasons Stephen O’Connell, Diarmaid Graham, Fionnbar O’Neill, Owen Neeson, PJ O’Connell and Bernard Graham were best on the day and they will be hoping to get a few of their injured players back on board for their remaining fixtures.
Cloney Gaels: Aiden Graham: Stephen O’Connell, Francis Neeson, Conor Neeson: Diarmaid Graham, Bernard Graham, Neil O’Connell: Fionnbar O’Neill, James Magee: Owen Neeson, Jimmy McMeel, Gerard Graham: Ryan Doherty, PJ O’Connell, Ronan Graham.
Armoy: Timothy Burns: Ciaran McCormick, Charles McCormick, Liam Dillon: Ronan McErlain, Daniel McPeake, Martin McErlain: Ciaran McErlain, Ronan McCarry: Jonathan McErlain, Thomas Burns, John Dillon: Conor O’Kane, Owen Kinney, Eamon McCaughan. Subs: PJ McBride for Eamon McCaughan.
Referee: Joseph Compton (St. Agnes)