Antrim U-21 Football Championship
Rossa 3-06-1-15 St Enda’s
By Kevin Herron at Woodlands
2015 minor champions St Enda’s got their U-21 Football Championship campaign off to a winning start – edging a keenly contented contest with Rossa 1-15-3-06 at Woodlands this afternoon.
Tiarnan Murphy capitalised on an error from St Enda’s goalkeeper Conor McCullough to give his side the lead having trailed early on.
Anthony Curran restored St Enda’s lead with a goal before the break and despite Conal McDonald levelling the game up it was the Hightown side who edged ahead through late Odhran Eastwood points.
Eastwood continued to punish the Rossa defence and had his side four in front before Conall Shannon hit his sides third goal of the game to give them renewed hope.
St Enda’s kept their noses in front though and Rossa finished the game a man light as Gavin McGrath was shown a second yellow-card late in the game with his side chasing an equalising score.
St Enda’s began the game as favourites with five starters from last Sunday’s AIB Ulster Intermediate Football a Championship win over Doohamlet in their starting fifteen.
The Hightown side registered the opening score as Padraig Hamilton’s shot came back off the post and Sean McBride fisted the ball to Eoin Nagle who fired over the bar.
Odhran Eastwood doubled his sides lead with his first converted free of the afternoon – but by the 12th minute St Enda’s found themselves behind.
A scuffed kick-out from goalkeeper Conor McCullough was gathered by Tiarnan Murphy and Rossa’s number ten made no mistake – rifling low to the net to give his a side 1-00-0-02 lead.
Rossa’s Eoghan McMenamin in action against St Enda’s C Lyttle.
A clash of heads between Eoghan McMenamin and Michael Close led to Close’s withdrawal for almost ten minutes and the Shaws Road side missed the wing half-forwards presence.
Ten minutes before the break Eoin Nagle’s pass found Eastwood who shot over the bar to level the scores and three minutes later Eastwood’s shot crashed off the large post and into the path of Anthony Curran who squeezed the ball past Michael Byrne at the near post to steer St Enda’s 1-03-1-00 to the good.
Odhran Eastwood brought his personal tally to 0-03 with second converted free of the half – Michael McGreevy hit back for Rossa after a patient probing move and three minutes before the break the game was all square for a second time.
Conall Shannon slipped the ball into the path of corner-forward Conal McDonald and McDonald rifled low to the net to level at 2-01-1-04.
Things should have got better for Rossa as Eoghan McMenamin turned in front of the posts and unleashed a driven shot that crashed off the underside of the bar – despite appeals the ball had crossed the line, referee Brendan Toland was unconvinced and play continued.
St Enda’s regrouped and led at the break – Ronan O’Neill popped the ball over the bar to restore the lead and successive converted frees from Eastwood had his side 1-07-2-01 at the midway point in proceedings.
Conall Shannon opened the second-half scoring within the first sixty seconds to narrow the deficit – though Eoin Nagle popped the ball overat the other end in response .
Further scores were traded between Odhran Eastwood and Eoghan McMenamin before successive points from Tiarnan Murphy and a converted McMenamin free reduced the deficit to the bare minimum (1-09-2-05).
But St Enda’s curtailed Rossa’s momentum as Padraig Hamilton swept the ball over the bar – back to back Eastwood scores would follow from play and the placed ball as St Enda’s moved 1-12-2-05 ahead with thirteen minutes remaining.
However, within sixty seconds of going four in front the Hightown men saw the lead diminish by three.
Tiarnan Murphy picked up the scraps and slipped in Conall Shannon whose low drive beat McCullough and ended up in the net to make it 1-12-3-05.
Odhran Eastwood and Eoghan McMenamin traded scores as the game was on a knife edge approaching the hour mark.
St Enda’s remained patient in possession and drew a 56th minute free after a foul from Gavin McGrath – referee Brendan Toland called McGrath forward and having already been booked Toland flashed a second yellow and subsequent red.
Odhran Eastwood converted the resulting free and late on Ronan O’Neill popped the ball into the path of Joe Maskey who fisted the ball over the bar to give his side a 1-15-3-06 win at the conclusion of a hard fought encounter under lights at a Woodlands.
Rossa: M Byrne, J Morris, N Crossan , M Smith, C McGettigan, C Murray, M McGreevy (0-01), G Walsh, G McGrath, T Murphy (1-01), M McIvor, M Close, C McDonald (1-00), E McMenamin (0-03, 0-01f), C Shannon (1-01). Subs: M McCashin for M Close (blood sub 18 mins), M McCashin for T Murphy (60 mins), L Fitzsimons for M Close (60 mins).
St Enda’s: C McCullough, R O’Neill (0-01), C Jennings, R McCloskey, C Morgan, C Lyttle, C Thompson, E Gibson, J Maskey (0-01), N Kelly, O Eastwood (0-10, 0-06f), P Hamilton (0-01), S McBride, E Nagle (0-02), A Curran (1-00).
Referee: Brendan Toland (Lamh Dhearg).
Pics by John McIlwaine