ACHL Division 4
All Saints started their 2019 Div 4 league campaign on Sunday when they hosted Naomh Colm Cille at a cold, wet and blustery Quinn Park. The nearby windmills were in full sail as a gale blew down the pitch and with interspersed showers adding to the difficult conditions any chance of open hurling were curtailed.
Naomh Colm Cille won the toss and opted to play with the wind. Both sides missed chances in the opening quarter as players tried to acclimatise to the conditions; wind assisted shots went wide for Naomh Colm Cille while at the opposite end balls fell short and dropped invitingly for Eric Kirwan in the visitors’ nets to collect and clear. Both sets of backs were on top and scores were hard to come by.
Chris Kearns got the visitors off the mark with a point from play. The blustery conditions were far from ideal for taking frees and both sides missed a number of placed balls before Damian Gillan slotted one over from long range to give All Saints there first score of the half. John McGuigan replied for NCC with a point from play before Kearns added another from a placed ball. Kearns launched a speculative ball into the Ballymena square where Daire Hasson seemed to have it well covered only for the ball to catch a gust of wind, change direction, and slip past him into the net.
At the other end of the field, during a goal mouth scramble All Saints were disappointed when claims for a goal were ruled out as the umpire adjudged that the ball had not crossed the line. The sliotar was eventually cleared by a resolute Naomh Colm Cille defence but there was some consolation for the Saints when the clearance was intercepted and returned over the bar by Niall McGarry. Late in the half Colum Neeson was quickest to react to a dropping ball on the 45m line and dispatched it over the bar for All Saints third and final score of the half.
At half time Naomh Colm Cille edged the contest by a goal (0:03 : 1:03) but All Saints were probably the happier side as they prepared to play with the wind and a three point deficit seemed far from unassailable. However the home side’s hopes did not materialise as Naomh Colm Cille started to exert dominance on the game at the restart. They adapted to the headwind by playing a short passing/running game and working the ball up the field to scoring zones. Ballymena found it difficult to counter attacks and as they lost shape at the back Naomh Colm Cille started to pick off scores. Chris Kearns at number 12 continued to be the main protagonist for Naomh Colm Cille getting onto a lot of ball and bagging a further five points (four from play and a free) to increase his personal tally for the day to 1:08. John McGuigan (0:01), Ciaran Doris (0:02) and Darragh Coney also added points.
Things just didn’t click for All Saints in the second half; they missed a number of chances as shots and frees were carried by the wind and veered wide of the posts and a mix up in the back line led to the ball hitting a defender and rebounding into the net – some days toast lands with the jammy side down!
The home side added two points in the second half: a free from Damian Gillan and a fine effort from Brendan McDonnell finished off after a bursting run from the half back line.
Final Score: All Saints 0:05 Naomh Colmcille 2:12
It’s early days and both teams will have learned a lot from yesterday’s game in terms of where they are with fitness, touch, team play and tactics. The Ballymena pitch has been rested recently and was in great condition – bualadh bos to Hector and Joe but there is no substitute for getting out onto grass, so hopefully with longer evenings and improving weather, pitches will be more readily available for training and with the next round of matches a month away there will be ample time to work on lessons learned.
This was a new look Ballymena side, with a number of regulars from last season unavailable due to retirement, promotion, illness, injury, or writing artistic memoirs. This created opportunities for the newly installed management team of Darren McGinty and Enda Casey to try out some debutants, prodigal sons and recent transfers:
Cormac Magill performed well in his first senior game after stepping up from minor and showed a lot of promise for the future. Kieran Butler made a welcome return to make his presence felt in the forward line as did Paul Scullion and Martin McNally. On St Patrick’s Day a shamrock was plucked from his native parish and relocated to Slemish Park– PJ xxx is a welcome addition to the squad and was formally planted in Ballymena soil in the second half.
All Saints: Daire Hasson, Anthony Mitchell, Chris McAfee, Terence Diamond, Sean O’Rawe, Luke O’Rawe, Brendan McDonnell (0:01), Damian Gillan (0:02 – frees), Padhraig Magill, Colum Neeson (0:01), Cormac Magill, Niall McGarry (0:01), Kieran Butler, Francis Casey. Paul Scullion, Martin McNally, Jame Mcdonnell, PJ, Barry Dorrity.
Naomh Colm Cille: Eric Kiran, Shea Devin, Sean key, Liam McIlvenna, Darragh Coney (0:01), Ryan O’Neill Duff, Vincent McCann, John McGuigan (0:02), Irwin Dornelan, Chris Kearns (1:08), Sean Kelly, Oisin O’Neill, Paul Maguire, Gary Mulgrew, Niall O’Neill, Cathal Hughes, Sean Armstrong, Ciaran Doris (0:02), Caolan Devlin, Conor Hagan, Ronan Maguire. Tighernan Daly,