Ahoghill dig deep to gain much needed points

ACFL Division 1

0- 25St. Mary’s Ahoghill 2-6  Casement’s Portglenone 0-11

St. Mary’s Ahoghill dug deep to gain both points in this bad tempered local derby that threatened to boil over on a number of occasions and saw visitors Portglenone lose two players to red cards late in the game. The visitors held the upper hand in the opening half, enjoying plentiful possession and were good value for their two point half time lead but on reflection they will feel that this lead should have been much greater but the Casement’s were guilty of over-elaboration in their build up play. Still they must have fancied their chances of breaking a four game losing sequence as they made their way to the dressing room at half time leading 0-7 to 1-2. The St. Mary’s side had battled hard to contain the opposition in the opening half but were still hanging in there thanks to a goal from Noel Crossey and two well struck frees from Gerard Graham. After the break it was the Cloney men who managed possession much better, slow and methodical in their build up play as they struck with an excellent second goal. The build up to the goal started deep in their own half and a flowing movement involving half a dozen players saw Sean O’Connell climb above the Casement’s defence to punch a long delivery to the net and give his side a lead they were never to lose.

Two Paddy Kelly frees in the 2nd and 6th minutes saw Portglenone off to a great start and  raised the Casement’s hopes of getting back on the winning trail after a worrying sequence of defeats.  A breakaway Ahoghill attack three minutes later allowed Noel Crossey to finish to the net to take the lead.  It would be a further 10 minutes before another Kelly point would level the scores. Defender Ryan Convery edged Casements ahead in the 26th minute before Gerard Graham levelled the sides two minutes later for the second time.  Casements hit a purple patch as half time approached with points from Niall Kelly, Michael Hagan and Corey McLaughlin.  A further Gerard Graham point kept Ahoghill in touch.

After the break Niall Kelly increased the Casement’s lead to three points, before a quick reply from mid-fielder Neil O’Connell. Portglenone opened up a three point gap with further points from Paddy Kelly as the hits went in hard and fast and referee Karol Doherty had his work cut out to keep a lid on proceedings . The Rasharkin official had flashed a number of yellow cards but finally reaching for red as he sent Ryan McGuigan for an early bath, midway through the second half and at this stage the Cloney side took the initiative. Ahoghill closed the gap to a point with 5 minutes remaining  with scores from Neil O’Connell and Noel Crossey.  Up stepped Bernard Graham to level the game once again, a minute later and  the killer blow for Casements came in the dying minutes with O’Connell climbing to fist to the Casement’s net and put his side three in front as the clock ticked down. The visitors threw everything but the kitchen sinks at the Cloney defence in those closing minutes and Paddy Kelly brought the game back into the balance with two late points to close the gap to the minimum but this was as close as it got despite a staggering nine minutes of added stoppage time.

Ahoghill defended stubbornly to hold on for two vital points as tempers flared once more with the visitors losing two more players in an unsavoury incident and an Ahoghill player also receiving a red card. A good win and two much needed points for St. Mary’s which sees them move to within a point of Wednesday night’s opponents who sit on 8 points with O’Donovan Rossa and Aldergrove who have played a game less.             Francis Neeson in goals, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham, Thomas Hamill, Neil O’Connell, Thomas McGlone, Noel Crossey, Sean O’Connell and Gerard Graham were excellent in a very determined and committed Ahoghill side. The visitors will be disappointed with the final result and this is their fifth defeat on the trot in a season that promised so much early on. Like their opponents they were minus a number of key players and will be glad to get them back on board as they slip further down the table. On the night Aidan McKee, Kieran McKenna, Mark McAleese and Paddy Kelly were the men who carried the greatest threat.

Portglenone Scorers: Paddy Kelly (0.6), Niall Kelly (0.2), Ryan Convery, Michael Hagan and Corey McLaughlin (0.1 each).

Ahoghill Scorers: Noel Crossey (1.1), Sean O’Connell (1-0), Gerard Graham (0.2), Neil O’Connell (0.2) and Bernard Graham (0.1).

Referee: Karol Doherty (Rasharkin)

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