Ronnie Marshall fires past Josh Higgins to score All Saints second goal as they defeated Tir na nOg in the Laverty Cup final at Clooney on Sunday night
Laverty Cup (Final) South West Antrim Minor Football Championship
All Saint’s Ballymena 3-11 Tir na Nog Randalstown 2-10
The Saints go marching on might well have been the tune being hummed around Ballymena on Sunday evening as All Saints celebrated success in the finals of three competitions on the same evening. Their under-15 footballers celebrated success in the All County Og Sport final and the under-18s claimed the Laverty cup whilst their hurlers brought the County Junior B Hurling Championship title home.
The minors were the last into action in the second game in a double bill in Ahoghill and although they were fully tested by an excellent Tir na nOg side in the Laverty cup decider they held firm to withstand a late challenge and bring home the silverware.
Little had separated the sides in the opening phase and after the Whitehill lads had nicked an early lead via the excellent Aaron McNeilly the Ballymena boys were on terms by the 12th minute.
Wing half forward McNeilly nipped away on the left hand side to open account for the Randalstown lads in the second minute and then when Nathan Magee was fouled out on the same side in the 4th minute the former was not hard pressed to follow suit.
All Saints came close to snatching the lead in the 5th minute with a crisp Oisin Connolly shot deflected away to safety by the Tir na nOg defense but Josh Higgins the net custodian was unable to intervene as back to back points delivered by Oisin Connolly ensured his side were a point ahead.
The grey skies which had hinted at rain pre-match became reality shortly into proceedings and did make for a slippery surface as both sides looked for scores and after Nathan McKee had split the posts in the 15th minute to see the boys from the Hill secure parity on the board further scores from Ciaran O’ Neill and Aaron Mc Neilly saw them a couple ahead.
All Saint’s returned fire quickly however and in the event with the rearguard gaining foothold they had drawn abreast again by the 27th minute as Aidan Scullion clipped a left sided free between the posts and Oisin Connolly followed with another.
It was 0-05 apiece with the end of the opening period imminent but All Saints were finding their feet and a slick interchange opened the way for Eoghan Daly to plant the leather to the back of the net.
A well planned route to the target and a slick 32nd minute finish and when the full forward added a further point within a minute the Ballymena lads had earned a four point advantage, 1-06 to 0-05 at the break.
Cola McDonnell punches the air in celebration as All Saints keeper, Brandon Reid and defender Cormac Magill lie grounded after his goal had brought Tir na nOg right back into contention.
Tir na nOg started the second half with an early score as the ever busy Aaron McNeilly claimed first strike with a 33rd minute point but such was quickly negated by a similar score from Oisin Connolly which followed at the other end.
Aaron McNeilly did add a trio of points in the next phase with the Ballymena lads making reply with a brace from the impressive Conor Stewart and All Saints were just about edging the exchanges.
They received a blow shortly after however when central defender Coary Lyttle picked up a second yellow and red which followed which meant dismissal.
Aaron Mc Neilly’s point which followed hinted at a Tir na Nog revival but when the Ballymena lads returned to the coal face with a couple of goals to move 3-09 to 0-09 clear they seemed back in control.
Ronnie Marshall and Jake White were the men on target, both firing first time ground shots to the net to give Tir na nOg keeper Josh Higgins no chance and it looked all over at this stage.
Tir na nOg looked down but in the event the Whitehill Blues were not to be counted out as yet as they stormed back into contention with a couple of goals in as many minutes.
Peter Cullen was well presented by a quick combination involving Emmett Murray and Colla McDonnell to fire home and when the latter seized on a short kick out to return the leather post haste to the back of the net it was game on again with only a score separating the finalists.
All Saint’s made quick reply to steady the ship when Aidan Scullion punished an indiscretion on the hard working Conor Stewart by sending the free which resulted right between the posts but when Aaron McNeilly sent replacement Paddy Dougan in to raise white in reply at the other end still only a score stood between them.
A frantic last phase followed with neither side wilting in their exertions and as the game clock ticked towards the allotted 60 minutes the Whitehill lads came close to claiming the equalizer.
A well laid approach saw Aaron Mc Neilly send Colla McDonnell in on the target to deliver a powerful shot but Shea O’ Brien was well placed on the goal line to make desperate intervention as the ball was cleared to safety.
All Saint’s returned to the offensive again and an injury time Aidan Scullion point proved the clincher with the long blast which quickly followed ushering the All Saint’s over the finish line, and the podium with the Laverty cup secured at 3-11 to 2-10.
All Saint’s: Brandon Reid, Cormac O’Neill, Matthew Corr, Cormac Magill, Matthew Downey, Coary Lyttle, Ronan Laverty, Conor Stewart (0-02), Ronnie Marshall (1-00), Jake White (1-00), Aidan Scullion (0-04), Oisin Connolly (0-04), James Mc Donald, Eoghan Daly (1-01), Shea O’ Brien
Shea O’ Callaghan for C Magill
Ronan Mc Killop for A Scullion
Tir na nOg: Josh Higgins, Mark Porter, Oliver McAtamney, Ethan Higgins, Peter Cullen (1-00), Brandon Mc Larnon, Eamon Og McAllister, Cormac Devlin, Ciaran O’ Neill (0-01), Conor Crossey, Emmett Murray, Aaron McNeilly (0-07), Nathan McKee (0-01), Eamon Mc Donnell , Colla Mc Donnell (1-00)
Caspar Logan for C Crossey
Paddy Dougan (0-01) for E Mc Donnell
Ricardo Connceiocre for C Logan
Referee Jarlath O’ Donnell (Con Magee’s)
South West Chairman, Jim McGrath presents the Laverty Cup to All Saints captain Shea O’Brien.