Report: Geordie McGuckin
Photographs: Bert Trowlen
Minor Football Championship quarter-final
Tir na Nog Randalstown 1-13 St Mary’s Aghagallon 5-13
St Mary’s Aghagallon advanced to the semi-final of the Minor football championship when they gained a twelve point victory over a strong Tir na nOg at Whitehill tonight.
Adam Loughran led the way for St. Mary’s and the centre forward weighed in with a most impressive 3-04 personal haul and was involved in approach to most of his team’s scores. Despite being reduced to fourteen for much of the hour after the early dismissal of Daniel Hannon Aghagallon always looked in control.
Aghagallon certainly underlined positivity within the ranks in the early stages and a slick approach which featured several in the offensive saw Liam Russell in for a goal before the game clock had recorded a minute.
Gary Downing had gathered the initial throw in and taking the direct route to the posts his combination with Adam Loughran opened the way for the wing half forward to plant the leather to the net.
St Mary’s were away to a flyer and it was only after the ill-fated Daniel Hannon and Ruairi Mc Shane added points apiece to their total did the home side open account as Nathan Mc Kee raised a white flag.
The Whitehill lads had fluff their lines in front of the posts on a couple of occasions prior to the wing half forward getting it right but the resultant kick out was to see their visitors provide quick reply.
Adam Loughran rose highest to collect and after leaving several Tir na nOg defenders trailing in his majestic wake he delivered to the back of the net in conclusion to see his side move 2-02 to 0-01 clear.
An excellent start for the St Mary’s lads but they were about to be delivered a body blow as an off the ball incident saw full forward Daniel Hannon issued with a red card and Aghagallon were reduced in number.
The home side added back to back points via Aaron McNeilly to offer hope to their support but back came the visitors and white flags raised in turn by Liam Russell and Ruairi Mc Cann and a further brace provided by Adam Loughran ensured a 2-06 to 0-04 advantage at the 20th minute.
With Jamie Lamont and Daire McShane standing tall in defence and Gary Downing dominant in the central zone Aghagallon looked in charge and they were always quick to offer return any time the Randalstown lads found the target.
Thus when the home sides best on view Aaron McNeilly (2) and Emmett Murray raised white flags in the concluding minutes of the opening period the last say was to belong to the visitors as Adam Loughran sent Liam Russell in for a 30th minute goal.
The corner man made no mistake from close range after his centre forward’s skill laden approach to see his side take respite holding a 3-07 to 0-07 lead at the break.
The Tir na Nog lads required a strong start to the second half if they were to retain interest in a last four berth in the minor championship and indeed they were quickly into stride.
Aaron McNeilly added a couple of early points to give the Whitehill lads hope but when Adam Loughran was offered the opportunity provided by a loose clearance the centre forward raced away to add another goal.
The home side did look for a quick reply but Ciaran O’ Neill’s effort on target after Eamon Og Mc Allister made strong approach was tipped over the bar by the Aghagallon keeper.
The ‘Blues’ had gained in authority for a time and Aghagallon net minder Luke Mulholland pushed Paddy Dougan’s shot away at the expense of a point before a foul on Eamon Og Mc Allister was punished as the ever accurate Aaron Mc Neilly steered the resultant free kick between the posts.
Tir na nOg cause looked on the up as they had reduced deficit to a more manageable seven points as Aghagallon were hauled back to a 4-07 to 0-12 advantage and a glimmer of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel was in sight.
The St Mary’s lads were having none of that however as they returned to the offensive and after Ruairi Mc Shane had raised a trio of white flags to punish indiscretions on the approach when Adam Loughran strode confidently forward to convert a 51st minute penalty the die was cast.
A strong up-field excursion from Jamie Lamont saw the central defender transfer to Liam Russell who was quickly grounded and the man in charge was quick to point to the spot.
The confident finish provided by the centre forward saw the lead now 5-10 to 0-12 and a place in the semi-finals of the under-18 championship booked.
Tir na nOg fought to the end as the hard grafting Brandon Mc Larnon, Eamon Og Mc Allister and the elegant Aaron Mc Neilly endeavored to engineer come back.
Mc Allister did make his way forward to grab a point and a foul inside the area on the diminutive but hard grafting Emmett Murray earned a penalty which Ciaran O’ Neill delivered to the net but it proved too little too late.
The visitors had the last say on the board as Adam Loughran and the ever available Ruairi Mc Shane added late points to see the impressive St Mary’s side cross the winning line and on course for a place in the semi-finals of the 2018 minor championship after a hard fought win gained over formidable adversaries on a score-line of 5-13 to 1-13.
Tir na Nog: Josh Higgins, Ethan Higgins, Brandon Mc Larnon, Mark Porter, Oliver Mc Atamney, Peter Cullen, Eoin og Mc Allister (0-01), Cormac Devlin, Ciaran O’ Neill (1-01), Aaron Mc Neilly (0-08), Emmett Murray (0-01), Nathan Mc Kee (0-01), Conor Mc Camphill, Paddy Dougan (0-01), Colm Mc Donnell.
Caspar Logan for M Porter
Conor Crossey for N Mc Kee
Eoin Mc Donald for C Mc Donald
Aghagallon: Luke Mulholland, Stephen Brannigan, Seanan Donnelly, Daire Mc Shane, Michael Mc Stravick (0-1), Jamie Lamont, Kieran Hanna, Mark Mc Afee, Gary Downing, Liam Russell (2-02), Adam Loughran (3-04), Pauric Mc Guinness, Ronan Lavery, Daniel Hannon (0-01), Ruairi Mc Shane (0-06)
Ryan Doone for Ronan Lavery
Referee: Thomas Eastwood (St Enda’s)