Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship preliminary round
Casement’s, Portglenone 3-12
O’Donovan Rossa 3-8
Casement’s Portglenone went into this game as strong favourites against a Rossa team staring down the barrel of relegation but in the event they were made to fight all the way by a side who battled to the end and might well have caused an upset
A STRONG second quarter by Portglenone turned this highly entertaining contest in their favour as they built a healthy lead but they were never able to totally shake off Jim Close’s side.
In what turned out to be a game of changing fortunes, the goals came thick and fast and it was the Shaw’s Road side who made the early running as they raced into a lead that might have been greater had fortune favoured them.
It was Rossa who opened first as Colm Fleming sent over after Sean Finch was pulled down in full flight in the third minute but Michael Hagan replied for the Bannsider’s in the 6th minute to tie the contest.
Rossa returned fire immediately with a fine move that saw the ball transferred between Darren Grego and Dominic McEnhill before finding its way to Richie Gowdy who pointed.
Niall McKeever was an excellent target from kick-outs and after fielding, he set Niall Delargy through to equalise once again.
However, Rossa were going well in the early stages and James Cooley gave them the lead once more as Stephen Beatty’s dropping shot was punched into his path and on 11 minutes they looked to have struck with the game’s opening goal when Sean Fleming finished a good move to the net but referee Karol Doherty had blown for an earlier foul.
Colm Fleming tapped over the free and despite their obvious disappointment Rossa would have been happy with their start to the game but their joy was to be short lived.
Portglenone responded with a goal in the 14th minute when Dermot McAleese played a long ball into the right corner where Gerard McAleese gained possession and spotted the run of Conal Delargy who had escaped his marker, and the full-forward rounded Rossa keeper, Michael Byrne before tapping into an empty net.
A minute later Rossa responded with a goal of their own to go back ahead when Gowdy set up Sean Pat Donnelly who hammered it to the net. Before the crowd could draw breath Casement’s struck again as Michael Hagan hand-passed in from the left and Delargy rose to palm home and establish a 2-2 to 1-4 lead for Portglenone.
During the closing stages of the half the South West side began to get on top, holding their opponents scoreless as Niall McKeever played in Caolan Tierney for a good point, while the towering midfielder turned scorer himself with a good effort off his left boot.
Hagan (two) and Conal Delargy kicked three frees between them before McKeever finished off their first-half scoring with a good effort to leave it 2-8 to 1-4 at the break and the Portglenone men looked in control as the half time whistle sounded.
With the wind at their backs now, Rossa needed to hit the ground running in the second half, but were to kick three wides early which didn’t help their cause. Portglenone looked to have wrapped up the game when McKeever found Michael Hagan and he found the in rushing Dermot McAleese with a deft hand pass and the centre forward made no mistake.
Rossa refused to throw in the towel however and after Fleming tapped over a free, they were awarded a penalty on 45 minutes that Sean Pat Donnelly rifled into the top corner of the net and it was game on again.
Portglenone responded with the next four scores through Dermott McAleese, Hagan (free), Paddy Kelly (free) and McKeever to move 10 ahead with eight minutes remaining and it looked as good as over at this stage.
It was during the closing stages and the five minutes of added time that followed that Rossa showed their indomitable spirit as they hit back with a third goal on 55 minutes when Beatty rose to flick Donnelly’s free to the net.
Donnelly added a point and another from a Fleming free cut the gap to five, but they couldn’t carve out the goal they needed as the Casement’s defence stood firm. It’s Casement’s who now go forward to a quarter-final meeting against a St. Gall’s side who will start as firm favourites despite losing twice to the Portglenone men this year.
Christopher McGuinness returned for Rossa and this certainly helped steady the team, while Michael Armstrong was also sprung from the bench to boost Paul Close’s men, but Portglenone had the answers on the day with Niall McKeever central to most of their play, while Conal Delargy and Dermot McAleese were also prominent for the Bannsider’s.
PORTGLENONE: B McManus; R Convery, S Delargy, T Convery; R Delargy, K McKenna, M Kelly; N McKeever (0-3), N Delargy (0-1); D McAleese (1-2), P Kelly (0-2, 1 free), C Tierney (0-1); M Hagan (0-3 frees), C Delargy (2-1, 0-1 free), G McAleese.
ROSSA: M Byrne; C McGowan, C Orchin, N Crossan; R Gowdy (0-1), C McGuinness, S Finch; S Beatty (1-0), O McVicker; D Grego, SP Donnelly (2-1, 1-0 pen), J Cooley (0-1); D McEnhill, C Fleming (0-5 frees), T Morgan. Subs: C McGettigan for D Grego (HT), M Armstrong for O McVicker (HT)
REFEREE: Karol Doherty (Rasharkin)