ACFL Division 1
St. Mary’s Ahoghill 1-15 Rossa 0-15
St. Mary’s Ahoghill gave themselves a fighting chance of Division 1 survival with this three point win over visitors Rossa in Clooney on Wednesday night. A goal from Donal Graham with ten minutes remaining proved the all-important score in the end for the South West side who battled right from the first whistle but had to survive a couple of goaling scares themselves.
Graham received the ball 12 yards out with his back to goal but he turned his marker before firing low past advancing Rossa keeper Michael Byrne to put his side seven ahead and they looked to be heading for a comfortable victory at this stage.
The Shaw’s Road side had other ideas however as they moved Stephen Beatty from mid-field to the edge of the square and the Antrim man replied with a couple of quick points as the city side finished with a flurry but the men from Clooney stood strong.
It was St. Mary’s Ahoghill who made the early running knowing that only a win was going to be of any use to them and points from James O’Connell and Gerard Graham saw them lead 0-2 to 0-1 after 12 minutes with the Rossa point coming from Sean Pat Donnelly.
Ahoghill were enjoying the better of the play at this stage but were wide on a number of occasions before Michael Armstrong brought the sides level with a good point but the home side began to get on top with Neil ‘Boris’ O’Connell making a number of excellent marks at mid-field.
Points from Dan O’Neill, James O’Connell and O’Neill again saw the Clooney side move three in front by the 21st minute as they continued to look dangerous on the break while their defence was stifling everything the visitors could throw at them with some excellent tackling.
Sean Pat Donnelly finally got Rossa on their way again when he pointed a 25th minute free but points from PJ O’Connell and Donal Graham in response to one from Darren Grego had the home side leading by three at the short whistle and they were full value for their lead at this stage of the game.
They were perhaps fortunate to survive a late scare however as Cailean Walsh was denied a goal by a combination of Francis Neeson, Stephen O’Connell and Bernard Graham in a mighty goalmouth scramble.
FIRST ON THE ATTACK
After the break it was the visitors who were first into the attack and a Sean Pat Donnelly free caused another moment of panic when the ball broke around the danger area but again the danger was averted and P J O’Connell extended their lead with a point in the sixth minute to put them four in front.
James O’Connell struck another fine effort in the 8th minute to increase that lead to five before Donal Armstrong finally got Rossa on their way again. Michael Armstrong added another as the visitors began to enjoy a bit of success and it was clear at this stage that this game was far from over.
At the other end Donal Graham eased Ahoghill further ahead from a 14th minute free but the Shaw’s Road side replied once more with an excellent point from Sean Finch to leave just three in it once more.
It was end to end stuff now with Rossa pushing forward at every opportunity but Ahoghill continued to soak up the pressure and hit on the break with James and Neil O’Connell striking a couple of excellent minors for the Clooney side and Stephen Beatty hitting back with an impressive long range effort for the visitors.
Further exchanges from James O’Connell and Stephen Beatty kept the gap at three points before the home side hit a purple patch with PJ O’Connell striking a massive point and Donal Graham following with that all important goal to put St. Mary’s seven in front and they looked home and dry at this stage.
As the game entered the final ten minutes the visitors moved Stephen Beatty to the edge of the square and he responded with two excellent points and two more from Sean Pat Donnelly and Sean Finch had the gap down to three by the 28th minute and it was the Clooney side who were now defending with everything they had.
Substitute Eoin Neeson announced his arrival with a good point, much to the delight of the home support but Rossa replied again through Stephen Beatty as the game went into time added onto leave just a goal between the sides but that was as close as they were to get.
A great win for St. Mary’s Ahoghill and clearly one that meant a lot to them at the final whistle but their joy was tempered somewhat when the news filtered through that St. James’ Aldergrove had defeated St. Paul’s at Shaw’s Road, a win that leaves Ahoghill still in the bottom two.
The Crumlin side sit a place above Ahoghill on equal points but with a game less played and the Clooney side will be hoping that neighbours Portglenone can do them a massive favour when they meet St. James in that outstanding game on Monday evening.
That would set the stage for a winner takes all clash between Ahoghill and Aldergrove when the sides meet in the final game of the season in Crumlin, scheduled for Sunday 13th of August in what would be the most important game of the season for both sides and one that is sure to attract a big crowd.
Ahoghill: Francis Neeson: Ciaran Brady, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham: Thomas Hamill, Eoin Graham, Patrick Graham: Neil O’Connell, Thomas McGlone: Daniel O’Neill, James O’Connell, Fionnbar O’Neill: Sean O’Connell, Donal Graham, Gerard Graham. Subs: PJ O’Connell, Owen Neeson, James Magee
Rossa: Michael Byrne: Conor McGowan, Richard Gowdy, Ciaran Quirk: Niall Crossan, Paul Close, Sean Finch: Stephen Beatty, Oisin McVicker: Donal Armstrong, Michael Armstrong, Sean Pat Donnelly: Cailean Walsh, Darren Grego, Terence McGrath. Subs: Michael McGreevey, Christopher McGuinness, Matt McIver, Owen O’Neill.
Referee: Paul McKeever (Portglenone)