St Galls edge top of the table battle

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Niall O’Neill who scored 3-2 for St. Gall’s in their win over Creggan fires over a point despite the attentions of Aidan Maguire.

O’Neills Division One All-County Football League

St Galls 3-09-1-12 Creggan Kickhams

By Kevin Herron from Milltown

At half-time of tonight’s top of the table division one clash at Milltown – few would have backed St Galls to storm back into contention having trailed Creggan 0-11-0-03.

The hosts were disjointed and the visitors looked as though they were about to benefit, though in the battle of former county stalwarts Sean Kelly and Kevin Madden it was Kelly whose side ran out winners after the Galls outscored Creggan 3-06-1-01 in the second half hour.

Fresh from Sundays victory over Rossa, Creggan travelled to the Falls Road in good spirits and were hoping to leave with their 100 percent record intact against the only other unbeaten side in the league, St Galls.

Creggan showed their attacking intentions from the off and after Ryan Irvine conceded a free inside the opening sixty seconds – Kevin Small converted the resulting free.

Ruairi McCann doubled his sides lead and despite Niall O’Neill responding for St Galls successive points from Liam Quinn and McCann had Creggan 0-04-0-01 ahead approaching the ten minute mark.

St Gall’s should have restored parity on ten minutes when Aidan Maguire brought down Eoghan McCabe on route to goal and Fintan McCotter signalled for a penalty.

CJ McGourty claimed responsibility but was denied low to his left by Leon Bonnes in the Creggan goals.

Things then went from bad to worse as Creggan tagged on a further three points to make it five without reply – McCann shot over from wide on the right to claim his third point of the evening and back to back scores from corner-forward David McGuckin gave Creggan a 0-07-0-01 lead.

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Niall O’Neill climbs to palm the ball to the Creggan net as his side came from behind to defeat the Kickham’s at Milltown.

CJ McGourty atoned for his penalty miss, converting a free just before the midway point in the half, however a converted free from Small and a third point in the space of eight minutes for McGuckin stretched his sides lead to seven, 0-09-0-02.

Kieran McGourty hit his side’s final point of the first-half for St Galls, playing a one-two from a quick free and then having the presence of mind to pop the ball over the bar.

But it was the dominant visitors who ended the half as they started – on the front foot. Kevin Small joined team mates McCann and McGuckin on three points and after Sam Maguire turned St Galls over deep inside his own half the ball made its way to Tiarnan McAteer whose dipping shot was helped over the bar by Chris Kerr as Creggan were 0-11-0-03 ahead at the interval.

St Galls emerged a different proposition after the break and were determined to battle their way back into contention.

CJ McGourty got the fight back under way after converting a free – the corner forward saw a further free drop short but luckily Niall O’Neill was on hand to scramble the ball past Leon Bonnes and into the Creggan net to half the deficit, 0-11-1-04.

Eoghan McCabe then shot high between the posts to make it three scores on the bounce though the Galls were dealt a hammer blow almost ten minutes into the half when a loose ball was intercepted and the visitors worked the ball across the face of goal where Liam Quinn was waiting to palm the ball past substitute goalkeeper Ciaran O’Connor to open up a six-point gap, 1-11-1-05.

Kevin Small followed the goal up with his fourth converted free of the evening with nineteen minutes remaining and it would prove to be his sides final score of the evening as St Galls came roaring back in style.

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Creggan’s Liam Quinn finishes to the St. Gall’s net despite the efforts of Sean Kelly.

Successive CJ McGourty converted frees brought his evenings tally to 0-04 and cut the margin to five – but with twelve minutes remaining it was game on at Milltown as an outstretched arm from Niall O’Neill diverted the ball into the corner of the net, beyond the reach of Bonnes to cut the gap to two, 2-07-1-12.

O’Neill followed his goal up with a point to bring his personal tally to 2-02 and the Milltown men should have hit the front for the first time in the game with little over ten minutes remaining, but CJ McGourty somehow shot wide of the target.

Eight minutes from time St Gall’s did edge ahead through O’Neill who claimed his third of the evening – in a carbon copy of Creggan’s goal O’Neill palmed the ball into the empty net after an advancing run from Conor Burke to give his side a 3-08-1-12 lead.

St Galls switched the emphasis from attack to defence in the closing stages in order to manage the game out, but in truth Creggan were out of ideas and out of luck as Ruairi McCann and Liam Quinn both shot off target.

St Gall’s insurance score arrived five minutes into additional time as Eoghan McCabe burst forward and shot over the bar to claim his second point of the half and secure a 3-09-1-12 win for his side at the full-time whistle as St Galls stretched their winning run to seven games and ended Creggan’s winning start to the campaign and in the process leapfrog them at the league summit.

St Galls: C Kerr, T O’Ciarain, C Burke, R Irvine, J McCaffrey, S O’Hagan, S Kelly, J McGreevy, A Gallagher, E McCabe (0-02), K McGourty (0-01), K Niblock, CJ McGourty (0-04f), T O’Neill, N O’Neill (3-02). Subs: C O’Connor for C Kerr (31 mins), M Kelly for S O’Hagan (31 mins), A McClean for J McCaffrey (43 mins), C Brady for J McGreevy (48 mins).

Creggan Kickhams: L Boones, A Maguire, R Johnston, O McAteer, S Maguire, C McCann, M Rodgers, P Coey, F Burke, A McKeown, T McAteer (0-01), R McCann (0-03), D McGuckin (0-03), L Quinn (1-00), K Small (0-05, 0-04f).

Referee: Fintan McCotter (Sarsfields)

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