Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship – Preliminary Round
St John’s 2-16 St James, Aldergrove 1-8
By Brendan McTaggart
St John’s progressed to a meeting with Glenavy in the quarter-final after recording a comprehensive 11 point victory over Aldergrove on Sunday afternoon. The Johnnies rarely looked troubled in truth and were worthy of the margin of victory but Aldergrove will look back with rueful anguish at the chances they let slip throughout the match but more so in the second half. They had six goal chances throughout the hour, converting one and missing four in the second half alone. Would it have made a difference? It’s hard to say. The Corrigan Park men seemed to stroll through the second half and could have gone through the gears if required but when a team comes into a championship match as underdogs like the St James’ men, they have to take their chances. On Sunday Aldergrove weren’t clinical enough whereas St John’s can be content that they have made safe progress to the next round knowing there is more to come from them if required.
The Johnnies made a dream start to the tie when Matt Fitzpatrick scored the first goal of the match after just two minutes. The county star tormented the Aldergrove defence in the opening exchanges as St John’s looked to find him with every ball they played forward. For his goal, Captain Paddy McBride played the diagonal ball and Fitzpatrick rounded his man before applying the finish.
Jack Hannigan and Seamus McGarry scored points apiece in the ninth minute and with St John’s doing all the early running, Aldergrove were struggling for any early impetus. They managed to draw level when Seamus McGarry scored their goal in the 10th minute. It came from a mix-up in the St John’s defence with McGarry fastest to react to a loose ball before finding the bottom corner of Padraig Nugent’s net.
The Johnnies response was emphatic. Four unanswered points put the Corrigan Park men back in control, Fitzpatrick again tormentor in chief but the work rate and runs of the St John’s half back were keeping the pressure on the Aldergrove defence.
Two Mcgarry points, his second and third of the match kept Aldergrove within touching distance but they lacked any real penetration through the St John’s defence while the long ball tactic into Ronan Hanna and McGarry was being dealt with by Michael Dudley, Aaron Douglas and Luke Peden who played in a sweeping roll at differing times throughout the first half.
Two McBride points (one free) either side of Stephen Tierney’s first point of the match opened the St John’s lead to five points with one minute of the half to be played and while Chris O’Kane managed to split the posts to become the second Aldergrove scorer of the match, St John’s had the final say of the half with midfielder Ryan McNulty splitting the posts with a free in injury time to give St John’s a half time lead of 1-9 to 1-4.
First half substitute James Trowlen was causing some concern in the St John’s defence with his height and physicality and it was through him that Aldergrove had their first major chance of the second half. His shot found the wrong side of Nugent’s post by inches and while Trowlen did score Aldergrove’s first point of the second half ten minutes after the restart, St John’s had opened an eight point lead with Fitzpatrick, McBride and Conor Johnston raising white flags.
The Johnnies second goal came in the 41st minute and seemed to be the score that settled the contest. The Corrigan Park men went through the hands as Aldergrove packed their defence with Tierney supplying the final pass to Johnston who applied the finish, opening a ten point gap between the sides.
Aldergove carved open another goal chance in the 47th minute after Aaron Douglas and substitute Ciaran McCurdy collided challenging for the ball, Ronan Hanna found himself through on goal. He pulled his shot wide though and like before, St John’s took advantage at the opposite end of the pitch, scoring a trio of consecutive scores through McNulty (two frees) and McBride with his fifth point of the match.
Seamus McGarry scored a sublime point in the 53rd minute with the outside of his boot to take his personal tally for the match to 1-4 and he had a golden opportunity to score his second goal of the contest in the 56th minute. Referee Eamonn McAuley awarded Aldergrove a penalty for a push by McCurdy on Ronan Hanna in the square. The St John’s players were far from happy with the Cargin official’s decision and McAuley awarded Adrian Oliver his second yellow card of the game after his protestations. McGarry’s kick and eventual rebound was superbly saved by Nugent in the St John’s goals and his defence cleared the ball to safety.
The Johnnies safely negotiated the closing stages with no further drama and look forward to a meeting with Glenavy in the quarter-finals.
St John’s: Padraig Nugent; Ciaran Garland; Aaron Douglas; Michael Dudley; Michael Bradley (0-1); Adrian Oliver; Ryan McNulty (0-3, 3 frees); Ronan McCafferty; Jack Hannigan (0-1); Patrick McBride (0-5, 3 frees); Stephen Tierney (0-2); Pearce Donnelly; Conor Johnston (1-1); Matt Fitzpatrick (1-3); Luke Peden
Subs: Ciaran McCurdy for L Peden (35 mins); Joe Garland for S Tierney (41 mins); Simon McDonagh for P Donnelly (52 mins)
Aldergrove: Shane O’Neill; Ferdia Carson; Stephen Gorman; Chris McVey; Chris Browning; Andrew Flood; Tomás O’Callaghan; Conor Browning; Ryan Owens; Conleth Hendron; Chris O’Kane (0-1); Gerard Mallon; Seany Fay; Ronan Hanna (0-1); Seamus McGarry (1-5, 2 frees)
Subs: James Trowlen for A Flood (20 mins); Michael Sheridan for S Fay (HT); Fergal Hanna for T O’Callaghan (41 mins); Conor Totten for F Carson (45 mins); Ferdia Carson for S Gorman (52 mins)
Referee: Eamonn McAuley (Cargin)