South Antrim U-16 B Football Final
Lámh Dhearg 1-16-2-09 Ardoyne
By Kevin Herron at Colaiste Feirste
Lámh Dhearg were pushed all the way by a dogged and determined Ardoyne side but tagged on three late scores to secure the U-16 B Football Championship at Colaiste Feirste yesterday evening.
The Hannahstown side were comprehensive winners in the two league meetings between the sides this year and got off to the perfect start through an early Ciaran Goss goal –though Joe Gibson and Owen Corrigan points kept the Cliftonville Road side in contention and just as it appeared that Lámh Dhearg would take a five-point lead in at the interval Fionn Grew palmed the ball to the net to help ensure his side would go into the break level at 1-07 apiece.
Lámh Dhearg shaded the opening quarter of the second period and threatened to pull away again ten minutes from the end as points from substitute Kieran Fay Kelly and Michael Braniff kicked them into a four-point lead – Ardoyne were reduced to fourteen men as Pearce Rice received his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
However, four minutes from time Sean Brown fisted to the net for a second time to set-up a grandstand finish. Lámh Dhearg would steady the ship though and points from Fay-Kelly and Braniff got the Hannahstown men over the line as they completed a league and championship double and booked their place in the All-County decider.
Lámh Dhearg started as favourites and lived to their favourites tag early on – Conor Smyth shot wide inside the opening fifteen seconds and the relentless Lámhs won a free from the resulting kick made its way to Ciaran Goss in the corner and Goss rifled low past Brian McAfee to give the Hannahstown men a perfect start with a minute and five seconds on the clock.
Ciaran Boyd added his sides’ first point from play after five minutes – but any notion that Lámh Dhearg were going to cruise to victory was mistaken as Ardoyne hit back through Fionn Grew and the lively and impressive Joe Gibson. Niall McGarry then split the posts after turning over Brian McAfee’s kick-out and playing a one-two with Michael Braniff and confidently firing over – Gibson again responded through a converted free as Lámh Dhearg led 1-02-0-03 with ten minutes gone.
Daniel Murray and Owen Corrigan then traded scores and three scores on the spin for the Lámhs appeared to have them in the ascendancy – Conor Smyth converted two frees in between a fine turn and shot from full-forward Michael Braniff as the Hannahstown men were 1-06-0-04 to the good.
Kevin Duffy kept his side in contention with a fine point and after turning over the resulting kick-out Ardoyne surged forward and a pinpoint pass from Tomas McDonald was palmed to the net by Fionn Grew to put just the minimum between the sides with five minutes to the break, 1-06-1-05.
Ardoyne had the momentum and Joe Gibson kicked his third point of the half from the resulting kick to level for the first time – two minutes from time Lámh Dhearg had the chance to restore their lead from the spot as Conor Smyth was clipped as he was about to pull the trigger.
Smyth took responsibility for the resulting kick but was denied by McAfee in the Ardoyne goal, Smyth atoned for that miss with a converted free though Ardoyne hit back and levelled for a second time through Joe Gibson as the sides went in level at the break, 1-07-1-07.
Daire Cunningham edged Lámh Dhearg in front two minutes after the restart though Matthew Curran hit back for Ardoyne – Cunningham would land his second point on 42 minutes and the Lámhs had a cushion thanks to a confident point from advancing wing-half back Lee Clarke.
Tomas McDonald then halved the deficit midway through the second-half with a superb shot that sailed over the black spot to make it 1-10-1-09.
The Hannahstown men began to the move through the gears as substitute Kieran Fay-Kelly landed a fine point from a placed ball off the ground – Michael Braniff then made room for himself and shot high over the bar and Fay-Kelly converted a second free to move his side 1-13-1-09 ahead.
Ardoyne suffered a further set-back as referee Mark McDonald dismissed Pearce Rice for a second bookable offence – however with little under five minutes remaining Ardoyne found the net for a second time to set-up a grandstand finish.
The North Belfast side broke well and moved the ball wide and into the path of Kevin Duffy who bore down on goal – Duffy’s angled shot whistled low past the post but Joe Gibson somehow kept the ball in at the line and hung the ball high into the night sky where Sean Brown was lurking to fist to the net and reduce the deficit to the minimum, 1-13-2-09.
Kieran Fay-Kelly was denied a goal at the back post by Brian McAfee but Conor Smyth landed a converted free to ease his sides’ nerves. Impressive substitute Fay-Kelly then landed his third point since his introduction and the insurance point came courtesy of Michael Braniff as Lámh Dhearg ran out 1-16-2-09 winners at the full-time whistle to claim the U-16 B Football Championship.
South Antrim Chairman Frank Caldwell presented captain Daire Cunningham with the trophy alongside the Lámh’s league crown and the Hannashtown side will turn their attention to next Fridays U-16 hurling B final with St Galls before attention switches to the All-County final in October.
Lámh Dhearg: A Tumelty, C Rogan, T McKenna, D Clenaghan, N McGarry (0-01), D Murray (0-01), L Clarke (0-01), A McCloskey, C Smyth (0-04f), D Cunningham (0-02), F Mervyn, D McArdle, C Boyd (0-01), M Braniff (0-03), C Goss (1-00). Subs: M O’Boyle for D Clenaghan (31 mins), K Fay-Kelly (0-03, 0-02f) for T McKenna (41 mins), D Hardy for C Goss (45 mins).
Ardoyne: B McAfee, L Roberts, B McKeown, O Maguire, C Corr, B O’Neill, R McGranaghan, T McDonald (0-01), O Corrigan (0-01), K Duffy (0-01), J Gibson (0-04, 0-02f), M Curran (0-01), O Mullan, P Rice, F Grew (1-01). Subs: S Brown (1-00), F Campbell.
Referee: Mark McDonald (St Galls)