Antrim Intermediate Championship – Preliminary Round
Naomh Éanna 1-13 Glen Rovers, Armoy 1-9
Referee: Brendan Toland (Lámh Dhearg)
They’re at it again. Just like they did last year, the men from the Hightown Road upset the odds and defeated Armoy in the preliminary round of the Intermediate Championship on Sunday afternoon. On a pitch bordering waterlogged at Whitehill, Naomh Éanna full forward John McGoldrick was the difference between the sides. The 22 year old finished the match with an astonishing personal tally of 0-12 for the hour with an array of scores from all angles and distances.
As the threat of thunder cleared overhead, referee Brendan Toland spoke with both sets of managers before passing the pitch in Randalstown as fit to play. With the threat of more heavy weather it was never going to be a high scoring spectacle between these two evenly matched sides but we were treated to a hugely intense battle as Naomh Éanna and Armoy got the Intermediate Championship off and running.
The Hightown Road men made the dream start to this preliminary round tie by scoring the first goal of the match after just 50 seconds of the throw in. Philip Curran collecting a long ball delivered into the full forward line before rounding his man and despatching the sliotar to the back of Conor Devlin’s net.
Last year’s beaten Intermediate finalists had certainly adapted to the heavy underfoot conditions with Ruairi Diamond, Cormac Ross and Cormac Jennings in particular influential in the opening quarter. Playing Brendan Cormican as sweeper in front of Johnny McPoland helped to eradicate the threat posed by Armoy full forward Owen Kinney. The Glen Rovers men time and again aimed ball into the full forward line but Cormican was playing the sweeper role to perfection, starving Kinney of possession for long periods of the first half.
The match was 11 minutes old before Armoy registered their first score, Thomas Burns splitting the posts but McGoldrick had already scored his first two points of the match by that stage and gave the Glen Rovers defence a sight of things to come.
With the conditions worsening, both teams struggled for fluidity but the Glen Rovers men began to find their range in front of the posts. Points apiece for Conor O’Kane (free) and Johnny McErlain brought Armoy to within two points of their opponents with ten minutes of the first half remaining.
Naomh Éanna finished the half on top however with McGoldrick splitting the uprights either side of a Cillian Jennings point. Johnny McErlain rounded off the scoring for the opening 30 minutes when he sent the sliotar over the black spot from 70 yards out but it was Naomh Éanna who held a four point lead at the interval on a scoreline of 1-5 to 0-4.
It was a highly impressive defensive effort in the opening half from the Hightown Road side. Ruairi Diamond was nullifying the threat of Johnny McErlain while Cormac Ross was keeping John Dillon at bay also. Glen Rovers struggled in attack for large periods of the first half but the management team got a response from their side after the half time break.
McGoldrick scored his fifth point of the match with barely 30 seconds of the second half gone but Armoy roared back. Having changed their free taker and despite landing his first effort wide from distance, Johnny McErlain sent two frees over the black spot from huge distance to renew the Armoy challenge. When Owen Kinney finally lost his Naomh Éanna shadow in McPoland to score Armoy’s goal in the 42nd minute the sides were level with all the momentum with the north Antrim men.
A McGoldrick point for Naomh Éanna kept their noses in front but a Ronan McCarry point equalised for Armoy before Johnny McErlain sailed over his third free of the second half and fifth point of the match to give Armoy the lead for the first time in the match with 12 minutes remaining.
The reaction from Naomh Éanna and McGoldrick in particular was outstanding. Four frees in as many minutes, two from well inside his own half swung the momentum back in favour of the Hightown Road side.
Armoy moved ‘Rocky’ Dillon to the edge of the square in an attempt to gain the major that would revive their championship hopes but all they could muster was a solitary free from Conor O’Kane. McGoldrick had the final say with a free and ’65 in injury time to ensure its Naomh Éanna who progress to the quarter-finals and a meeting with Lámh Dhearg.
Naomh Éanna: Paul Magill; Manus Mullan; Johnny McPoland; Dubaltach Magge-Baker; Ruairi Diamond; Cormac Ross; Edward O’Connor; Cormac Jennings; Aidan McGowan; Cillian Jennings (0-1); Kieran Kelleher; Oliver Breen; Philip Curran (1-00); John McGoldrick (0-12, 6 frees, 1 ’65); Brendan Cormican
Subs: David Lowry for O Breen (50 mins); Paul Baker for K Kelleher (53 mins); Eoin Maguire for J McGoldrick (inj time)
Armoy: Conor Devlin; Shane McCarry; Ciaran McElrain; Gerald Laverty; Ronan McErlain; David McPeake; Martin McErlain; Liam Dillon; Ronan McCarry (0-1); Johnny McErlain (0-5, 3 frees); Thomas Burns (0-1); John Dillon; Conor O’Kane (0-2, 2 frees); Owen Kinney (1-00); Ciaran McCormick-McKenna
Subs: PJ McBride for C McCormick-McKenna (28 mins); Arthur Devlin for PJ McBride (48 mins)