Intermediate Football Championship quarter-final
All Saints 3-8 St. Mary’s Rasharkin 1-13
A blistering start from All Saints, Ballymena paved the way for a first championship victory over old adversaries, St. Mary’s Rasharkin at a wind and sometimes wet, Creggan on Sunday. The Slemish Park side got off to a great start with goals from Shay O’Brien and Connell Lemon in the opening five minutes and a point from Rory McVeigh to take an early seven point lead.
Despite playing into the breeze the powerful running and support play of the Ballymena men threatened to over run their opponents but gradually the men from Dreen settled and slowly began to claw their way back into the contest.
After Rory McVeigh had opened with an early point Shay O’Brien rose to fist a tantalising delivery to the Rasharkin net in the third minute and before we had a chance to draw breath a strong run from Joe Rafferty opened the way for Connell Lemon who fired low to Andrew Hasson’s net with five minutes gone.
All Saints lost corner-back, James Gillan to an early Black card to be replaced by James McDonnell as Shane Hasson opened Rasharkin’s account from an 11th minute free. Eamon McNeill added a second from play and Hasson again punished some poor tackling by the All Saints defence to leave just four in it as Rasharkin began to get a firm foothold in proceedings.
Another pointed Hasson free and an excellent effort from play by Thomas McMullan saw just two in it after 24 minutes and the Ballymena men were struggling to get back into their early rhythm as the strong tacking St. Mary’s continued to disrupt their play.
A great block by Joe Rafferty paved the way for a Michael McCarry point as the half neared conclusion and then James McDonnell’s interception paved the way for another from Connell Lemon to give All Saints a bit of breathing space.
Shane Hasson pointed his sides fourth free of the half as Rasharkin tried to respond but All Saints had found their second wind and Peter ‘Pizza’ McReynolds from a ‘45’ and Michael McCarry from a free edged them six ahead as the intensity of the game increased.
Ryan Lynch punished another indiscretion by the Slemish Park defence before McReynolds stepped up to direct his second ‘45’ of the half between the uprights and leave his side five ahead at the break on a scoreline of 2-6 to 0-7.
Michael McCarry, who had been relatively quiet by his usual high standards was off target for All Saints on the restart and play switched to the other end of the field where Niall Shannon pulled off a great save but substitute Enda McFerran first timed the broken ball over the bar.
Rasharkin were beginning to believe as they upped their intensity and Eamon McNeill won the resulting kick-out before breaking through a couple of challenges to fire low to the net and there was just one between the sides with over 20 minutes remaining.
Serious questions were being asked of the character of the Ballymena men and a great block by Michael McCarry halted another Rasharkin attack and sent corner-back Kavan Keenan racing on a 60 yard solo before sending over the best point of the game.
Rasharkin had the bit between their teeth at this stage however and replied through Eamon McNeill and Conor McFerran to draw level for the first time and the momentum seemed to be very much with the Dreen side before the game took another turn.
All Saints hit back in devastating fashion as Sean McVeigh won possession around mid-field and he found Eoin Campbell unmarked out to the right of goal. Campbell, who was having a quit game, raced in from the wing and sent his low shot to the corner of the net to put his side three ahead once more.
Things were certainly livening up and we had a real championship game on our hands as Cathal Mooney for Rasharkin and Brendan McDonnell exchanged further points before the influential Ciaran McGarry was forced off injured to be replaced by Joe Rocks in the All Saints defence.
As the clock ticked down an Eamon McNeill pointed free closed the gap to the minimum to ensure a nervous finish for the Ballymena men but they held their nerve and a late pointed free from Michael McCarry saw them home and into the semi-final.
A good game of football played with real championship fervour with Niall Shannon, Peter McNicholl, Emmet Killough, Ciaran McGarry, Peter McReynolds, Sean McVeigh, Joe Rafferty, Connell Lemon and Rory McVeigh the men who got All Saints over the line.
Rasharkin will reflect on their poor start in this game and after five minutes they were chasing a seven point deficit but they showed great character to battle back and came mighty close to turning it back in their favour.
Daniel Doherty, Fergus Quigg, Conor Hasson, Thomas McMullan, Conor McKeever, Shane Hasson, Ryan Lynch and Eamon McNeill were the men driving a strong come-back which fell just short.
All Saints: Niall Shannon, James Gillan, Peter McNicholl, Kavan Keenan, Ciaran McGarry, Emmet Killough, Joe Rafferty, Sean McVeigh, Peter McReynolds, Connell Lemon, Michael McCarry, Eoin Campbell, Brendan McDonnell, Rory McVeigh, Shay O’Brien. Subs: James McDonnell for James Gillan (Black card), Joe Rocks for Ciaran McGarry.
Rasharkin: Andrew Hasson, Daniel Doherty, Conor Hasson, Pearse Kelly, Fergus Quigg, Thomas Doherty, Donagh Quigg, Cathal Mooney, Thomas McMullan, Conor McKeever, Shane Hasson, Eamon McNeill, Brian Og O’Neill, Ryan Lynch, Conor McFerran. Subs: Enda McFerran, Gerard O’Hagan
Referee: Eamon McAuley (Cargin)