Johnston’s magic not enough to halt rampant Rossa

ACHL Division One

Rossa 1-27-2-14 Ballygalget

By Kevin Herron at Rossa Park

Rossa claimed their first league win of the campaign with a 1-27-2-14 win over Ballygalget at Rossa Park last night.

The hosts were in control throughout and could have had more than their ten-point margin to spare – Thomas Morgan accounted for the majority of his sides scores (1-08) and hit the opening goal to open up a six-point lead before the midway point in the first-half.

Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnson was Ballygalget’s go-to man throughout, his individual tally of 2-08 kept his side on Rossa’s coat tails but ultimately the Shaw’s Road men were deserved winners under the Friday night light in Belfast.

Ballygalget hit the front inside of two minutes through a converted 65’ from Gareth Johnson – it took a Rossa until the fifth minutes to respond when Michael Armstrong popped the ball off to Thomas Morgan who stroked over the equalising score.

It was the first of three successive scores that Morgan would claim within a three minute period as the hosts opened up a 0-04-0-01 lead – Aodhan O’ Brien adding a further point after bursting into space and confidently firing between the sticks. Johnson responded for Ballygalget with a coolly converted free – however Gerard Walsh opened up a five-point cushion once again with a perfect free from midway.

Thomas Morgan fires the ball to the Ballygalget net for Rossa’s goal in the 12th minute. Pic by John McIlwaine

The opening goal arrived on 12th minute at the Shaws Road as Thomas Morgan showed a burst of pace and rifled low into the corner of the net past Jamie Crowe in the Ballygalget nets to make it 1-05-0-02.

Morgan then turned provider for James Connolly to open his evenings account and the wing-half forward doubled his tally within sixty seconds as Rossa opened up an eight-point deficit.

Gareth Johnson used his strength to power through and blast over the bar in response and midway through the half Ballygalget gave themselves a glimmer of hope – the Down men were awarded a free and only one man was going to try his luck.

Johnson stood over the resulting free and demonstrated why he’s known as ‘Magic’ – picking his spot in the roof of the net, despite the best efforts of the Rossa quartet on the line to bring his personal tally and his teams to 1-03 (1-07-1-03).

Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnston who proved a real handful for the Rossa defence, ending up with 2-8 to his name. Pic by John McIlwaine

Dominic McEnhill cut inside and shot over the bar in reply, that would be the first of five unanswered points as Rossa opened up an eight-point lead for the second time in the half.

Thomas Morgan hit back to back points – the second of which arrived after a superb passing move started by Dominic McEnhill.

Ciaran Orchin and Stephen Beatty also got in on the act as the hosts led 1-12-1-04 with little under ten minutes of the half remaining.

Marc Fisher and Gerard Roddy hit back for the visitors but James Connolly and Seaghan Shannon cancelled out those scores and Rossa increased their lead through Aodhan O’Brein’s second score of the half, a fine effort from long range.

Ballygalget could have had a second goal five minutes before the break – a long ball dropped short and Gerard Roddy popped the ball into the path of James McGrath whose powerful shot spun over rather than under the bar.

Tiarnan Murphy would create space and angle over his first point of the evening as his side took a commanding 1-16-1-07 led in at the interval.

Ballygalget hit the opening score of the second-half as youngster Tim Prenter wheeled away from danger and opened his evenings account.

His opposite number Thomas Morgan replied and the number fifteen’s would trade further scores in the immediate aftermath.

Johnson and James Connolly then traded frees, despite the visitors opening the half better; Rossa were matching them score for score.

Gareth Johnson turned and shot over to bring evening’s tally to 1-05 – it would be the last score in a six-minute minute lull in the game, ended by a close-range converted free by Seaghan Shannon to restore his side’s nine-point lead (1-20-1-11).

Ballygalget almost had a route back into contention two minutes shy of the midway point in the second-half as Tim Prenter offloaded to James McGrath whose stinging drive was turned onto the crossbar and cleared by Rossa keeper Conall Breathnach.

Rossa goalkeeper Conall Breathnach in action during Rossa’s win over Ballygalget.

At the other end Tiarnan Murphy converted his first free of the evening and then profited from some fine work by Dominic McEnhill to register a third point of the game.

Gareth Johnson responded from a fine turn and point but Ballygalget found themselves ten down with ten minutes remaining. (1-22-1-12).

James Connolly (free) and Aodhan O’Brien scores further increased their sides lead with Johnson (free) responding.

Three minutes from time Johnson claimed his second goal of the evening – it was a similar scenario to the first as the confident full-forward tried his luck from a free, this time opting to blast low, the big man’s strike adjudged to have crossed the line to make it 1-24-2-13.

Ultimately it would be scant consolation in the grand scheme of things, Johnson scored the last of his evenings 2-08 on the 59th minute and it was Rossa who saw the game out on the front foot.

James Connolly converted a free to end a ten-minute barren spell and further points from Aidan Orchin and Thomas Morgan ensured that Rossa claimed a comfortable 1-27-2-14 win and a first league win of the campaign.

Rossa: C Breathnach, M Smith, C McGuinness, A Orchin (0-01), S Shannon, G Walsh (0-01f), A O’Brien (0-03), S Beatty (0-01), C Orchin (0-01), D McEnhill (0-01), C McVeigh, J Connolly (0-06, 0-03f), T Murphy (0-03, 0-01f), M Armstrong, T Morgan (1-08). Subs: S Shannon (0-02, 0-01f) for M Armstrong (19 mins), P McGreevy for M Smith (48 mins), E O’Neill for D McEnhill (55 mins), C Shannon for T Murphy (55 mins), Niall Devlin for S Shannon (48 mins).

Ballygalget: J Crowe, M Fisher (0-01), O Clarke, J Smyth, P McManus, C Watson, B Toner, J Dorrian, C Coulter, G Roddy (0-01), J Hughes, J McGrath (0-01), C Coulter, G Johnson (2-08, 2-04f; 0-01 65’), T Prenter (0-02). Subs: M Toner for J Dorrian (31 mins).

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls).

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