Holders emerge unscathed from prelim clash



Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship

Lámh Dhearg 2-15-0-09 Aghagallon

By Kevin Herron at Chapel Hill

Senior Football Champions Lámh Dhearg started the defence of their crown with a 2-15-0-09 win over Aghgallon at Chapel Hill this evening.

Goals from Paddy Cunningham and Ben Rice inside the opening eighteen minutes had the Hannahstown men in the box-seat, though Aghgallon rallied late in the second quarter with corner-forward Gareth Magee rising to the occasion to ensure his side were still in the game at the break, trailing 2-06-0-07.

The second period was a little more one sided though as Lámh Dhearg outscored Aghagallon 0-09-0-02 with points from Michael Herron, Declan Lynch and Marc McGarry and only a terrific and brave block from Gavin O’Neill in the St. Mary’s goal denied Ben Rice from scoring his second major of the afternoon.

All eyes were focused and fixed on Chapel Hill since the Championship draw back in January against the extraordinary backdrop that saw Kevin Murray face his former club and younger sibling Ryan Murray in the defence of their crown. Most of the pre-match talk surrounded the possibility of an upset – though Lámh Dhearg came firing out of the blocks.

Declan Lynch released corner-forward Ben Rice who burst forward and raised the white flag within the first twenty seconds – Paddy Cunningham converted a free to double his sides lead and on the sixth minute the veteran corner-forward came up with the game’s first goal.

Paddy Larkin did well to turn the ball over in defence and start a counter attack – Ciaran Flaherty popped the ball into the path of Michael Herron who in turn slipped Cunningham in one-on-one and Cunningham was not going to miss, rifling low past Gavin O’Neill to give the champions a 1-02-0-00 lead.

Gareth Magee responded for Aghagallon from a converted free after a foul by Declan Lynch though Cunningham added his second placed ball of the evening to restore his sides five point lead.

Aghagallon hit their second score of the half just beyond the midway point through a second Magee free – though trouble wasn’t far away as Lámh Dhearg hit their second goal of the game on the 18th minute.

Kevin Quinn turned the ball over and quickly sent Ben Rice on his way and the corner-forward confidently used his pace and burst towards the target before picking his spot past O’Neill to give the Hannahstown men a seven-point advantage, 2-03-0-02.

Ryan Murray added a quick point – though Aghagallon grew into the game in the final ten minutes of the half and outscored the Lámhs 0-05-0-02.

Corner-forward Gareth Magee landed his third placed ball of the afternoon and then let fly with an outstanding effort that sailed between the posts.

Ciaran Flaherty responded for Lámh Dhearg after a smart one-two with Michael Herron – though Ruairi McCann shot over the bar after Ben Rice’s shot dropped short and St. Mary’s countered.

Aghagallon had Lámh Dhearg on the back foot for the final five minutes – Caolan Farr twice turned the ball over from John Finucane’s kick-outs in the aftermath of McCann’s point and on both occasions it yielded scores through Gareth Magee and Ciaran Brady as Aghagallon closed the deficit to four, 2-05-0-07.

Lámh Dhearg would stretch their lead to five at the interval through a fine Paddy Cunningham point and with the wind advantage in the second period the holders were in pole position at the break.28

Eoghan McKeown kicked the opening score of the second period after a trademark jink by the number ten and Paddy Cunningham converted his third free of the evening in the aftermath.

Gareth Magee was proving to be Aghagallon’s go to man – the corner-forward converted his fourth placed ball of the evening to ensure his side stayed in contention.

The Aghagallon defence were struggling to keep tabs on confident Cunningham who split the posts after a fine turnover out of defence by Aaron McAufield.

On 42 minutes Ben Rice should have killed the game off after Cunningham popped the ball into the danger man whose certain goal bound shot was parried via the face of brave Aghagallon goalkeeper Gavin O’Neill who required treatment in the aftermath.

When play resumed once more Gareth Magee struck his seventh point of the evening to reduce the deficit to six for the second time in the half, 2-09-0-09.

Thereafter it was Lámh Dhearg who ended the game on the front foot with six unanswered points – Ben Rice squeezed inside the post for his second point of the evening, then after pressing the Aghagallon kick-out high up the field Declan Lynch stroked the ball over the bar to get on the score sheet.

Michael Herron let fly with a left foot effort that sailed between the posts and Paddy Cunningham brought his afternoon tally to 1-06 with a fourth converted free of the contest.

Marc McGarry may have added a third goal late on, but after Michael Herron popped the ball into the path of the attacking wing-half back McGarry opted to blast over the top and make it 2-15-0-09.

Referee Fionntan McCotter sounded his final whistle shortly after and Lámh Dhearg had survived the dreaded banana skin in the prelim round to set-up a mouth watering meeting with Cargin in two-weeks time.18

Lámh Dhearg: J Finucane, C Nolan, A McAufield, P Larkin, R Straney, D Lynch (0-01), M McGarry (0-01), P Fitzsimons, K Quinn, E McKeown (0-01), C Flaherty (0-02), R Murray (0-01), P Cunningham (1-06, 0-04f), M Herron (0-01), B Rice (1-02). Subs: M Finnegan for E McKeown (52 mins), B McComb for P Larkin (54 mins), R Fegan for B Rice (57 mins), D Dunne for P Fitzsimons (62 mins), C Hannon for M Herron (64 mins).

Aghagallon: G O’Neill, A Doherty, D Donnelly, M McKenna, A Mulholland, J Lenehan, P Mulholland, O Lenehan, E Walsh, C Brady (0-01), R McCann (0-01), F Bustard, G Magee (0-07, 0-04f), D Marshall, C Farr. Subs: R Loughran for M McKenna (31 mins), J Harbinson for C Farr (48 mins), D McAlernon for D Marshall (58 mins).

Referee: Fionntan McCotter (Sarsfields)

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