O’Neill’s ACHL Division 4
All Saints 2-8 Bredagh 1-16
Bredagh continue to set the pace at the top of division 4 of the Antrim ACH League but not before being pushed all the way by a battling All Saints side who looked to be on their way to something of a hiding when they trailed 1-8 to 0-4 at the half way stage.
During the opening half the visitors put the home side under pressure in every sector of the field and imposed a strangle hold around mid-field, depriving All Saints star men time on the ball and time and again forcing turn over.
When All Saints did get ball into their forward line the Bredagh full-back line of Mark Patterson, Eoin McAllister and Niall Smyth dealt with everything that came their way and a Sean McGourty goal and a flurry of points from Ian Galway saw the league leader’s move into a comfortable 7 point lead at the short whistle.
After the break it was a different story and All Saints returned for the second half a much more focused and determined side and at one stage had reduced the deficit to four points. However the league leaders had done enough during the opening half but were never the less relieved to hear the full-time whistle.
As the rain came down it was visitors Bredagh who opened on the offensive but Danny Robinson was wide of the target before Ciaran Neeson’s attempt suffered the same fate at the other end. Robinson atoned for his earlier miss as he opened the visitors account in the third minute and points from Michael Woods and Ian Galway had them three ahead with six minutes gone.
All Saints were struggling to gain meaningful possession around the middle third of the field but Liam Cassley got them off the mark with a point in the 8th minute but the visitors response was immediate and Sean McGourty sent over a couple of points to move them four in front.
Ian Galway pointed an 11th minute free and McGourty added another from play as the Down men’s high press and sharp tackling continued to disrupt the efforts of the Quinn Park side to get any rhythm into their game.
Bredagh struck with a goal in the 16th minute and it was one that might have been prevented but Sean McGourty was allowed to steal in unmarked to bat an Ian Galway long range free to the net from close range and put his side into a commanding 1-6 to 0-1 lead.
Oran McFlynn added a point before Liam Cassley freed himself of the shackles of his marker to send over All Saints second point and the home side were now enjoying much more possession but unfortunately hit a series of wides with the usually deadly Ciaran Neeson off target from a couple of frees.
Neeson redeemed himself with All Saints third point of the night and he appeared to have found his range when he added another in the 22nd minute but the visitors regained the initiative in the closing stages of the half and added points from Sean McGourty, Damian Hanraghan, Oran McFlynn and Ian Galway with Neeson getting the home sides fourth and the league leaders looked in complete control as referee Rab Lappin sounded his half time whistle.
A betting man would have probably torn up his betting slip at this stage had he taken a punt on All Saints before the game but whatever the message from mangers ‘Skinner’ McAllister and Paddy Neeson at half time that same punter might well have been searching through the wet grass for that same betting slip with only minutes remaining.
The Ballymena men came out for the second half much more determined and focused, epitomised by mid-fielder Ciaran McGarry who contested every ball as if his life depended on it. Emmet Trainor extended the Bredagh lead with a point in the 5th minute and normal service appeared to have resumed.
Damian Gillan replied with an All Saints point and then the same player bundled home a goal from close range as the new found intensity of the All Saints men began to pay dividends. Ciaran Neeson added a point from a 40 meter free off the hand of Bredagh keeper, Aaron Maguire and for the first time we had a game on our hands.
The home side continued to press and a good move saw Neeson fire to the net again but the referee’s whistle had sounded for an earlier infringement, much to the consternation of the Ballymena men but Neeson pointed the resulting free and there were only five between the sides.
Like all good sides Bredagh regrouped and appeared to have weathered the early storm as Ian Galway, Sean McGourty and Galway again split the posts to move the visitors eight ahead again but All Saints quite simply refused to throw in the towel.
Ciaran Neeson, now operating very effectively in the corner came out field to point a 21st minute free and then substitute, Joe Crawford robbed keeper Aaron Maguire to set up Ciaran Cassley and the big mid-fielder made no mistake as he drilled his shot to the net and there was only four in it with six minutes of normal play remaining.
Donal Hughes extended the visitors lead to five from the puck out but All Saints responded and were awarded a close range free in the 26th minute with Neeson deciding to go for goal but his well struck shot was repelled by a packed Bredagh defence and the danger cleared.
The visitors kept their nerve and refused to panic as Ian Galway pointed in the 27th minute and in a hectic close to the game Damian Gillan was wide from a long range free and Ciaran Neeson’s attempt at goal from another free sailed wide of the target.
In the end the best team won and it isn’t hard to see why Bredagh lead this division and look uncatchable. They were solid throughout the game with Mark Patterson, Niall Smyth, Oran McFlynn, Ian Galway, Danny Robinson and Sean McGourty their outstanding performers on the night.
All Saints went into this game minus a few regulars and looked to be heading for a heavy defeat at half time but when I spoke to ‘Skinner’ McAllister after the game he was very pleased by his side’s second half effort.
The Ballymena defence tightened considerably after the break with Terence Diamond, Padhraig Magill and Colum Neeson to the fore while the insatiable work rate of Ciaran McGarry and the skill of Ciaran Cassley started to have a big influence at mid-field.
The moving of Ciaran Neeson into the corner gave them a lot more punch in attack and young Neeson may be disappointed that a number of his frees were off target in difficult conditions but his overall effort cannot be faulted and he remains one of his side’s best prospects in a season that has been very satisfactory to date.
All Saints: Daire Hasson, Darren McGinty, Terence Diamond, Anthony Mitchell, Padhraig Magill, Colum Neeson, Eoin McGuigan, Ciaran McGarry, Liam Cassley, Ciaran Neeson, Gary Miskella, Damian Gillan, Vinny Esler, Barry Dorrity, Tony Connolly. Subs: Joe Crawford, Michael Dorrity.
Bredagh: Aaron Maguire, Mark Patterson, Eoin McAllister, Niall Smyth, Ryan Curran, Donal Hughes, Oran McFlynn, Ian Galway, Danny Robinson, Michael Woods, Emmet Trainor, Damian Hanrahan, Sean McGourty, Matthew McAffee, Tiarnan Curran, Subs: Vince McCool.
Referee: Rab Lappin (Lamh Dhearg)