All County Football League – Division 3
St.Paul’s 1-11 Na Piarsaigh 3-8
Pearses upset the odds when they travelled to St Paul’s on Wednesday evening and beat St Paul’s in Division 3 of the All County Football League
Jamie Curran made several changes to his starting line-up from matchday one as Ciaran Magee, Gerard Campbell and Liam Deegan returned to the first 15. Rory McFadden also made his league debut at wing back as Na Piarsaigh attempted to defeat a side that had been plying their trade in Division One just two years previous.
The North Belfast men started the better side yet found it difficult to convert the possession into scores. Deegan did manage to get his team on the scoresheet with a well hit free but other chances went amiss as Campbell and McFarlane were lording it up in the middle of the park, winning clean and breaking ball to feed the attack. Eventually the Shaws Road men found their stride and quickly turned the game on it’s head, a 1-2 blast inside five minutes giving them breathing space. A Daniel Magee goal after 17 minutes pulled his side back into the game as he smartly turned inside his marker and rifled home.
Again Naomh Pól turned on the burners and their running off the shoulder was causing Na Piarsaigh some issues, another two scores left them three ahead after 22 minutes. It was hoped that the level of possession the away side had would soon bear fruit, they were composed as they worked the ball out of defence with Ciaran Magee conducting the orchestra to ensure everyone was in tune. A fine score from senior debutant, Rory McFadden, from wing back narrowed the gap and when Francy Donald got in front of his man to win a free, up stepped Deegan to put the bare minimum in it. As the game entered the closing stages of the half it was the away side that were again on the attack.
Having switched the ball from right to left, Donaghy fed the onrushing Darren O’Neill who had made a lungbursting run and only had one thing on his mind. His pace took him past the corner back and, when about to pull the trigger, had the ball wrestled from him illegally. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and up stepped Piaras Donaghy who gave the keeper no chance with a confident strike. The half-time whistle was to go shortly and it was the away side that walked off the Shaws Road pitch two points to the good.
The sun was setting as the second half commenced and, though a cool breeze was sweeping through West Belfast, the temperature remained red hot on the pitch. St.Paul’s pulled a point back almost immediately before Deegan scored a quite ridiculous point from play, this after great work by Donaghy to set him up. Soon after the two sides swapped points again, Deegan again on target from a dead ball as he looked to have found his kicking boots. The home side upped tempo and began to take control ten minutes into the second half, the Na Piarsaigh rearguard was resolute but was unable to prevent a trio of points which pushed St.Paul’s into a one point lead.
The first change was forced upon Pearses manager, Jamie Curran, as Cormac Gillespie entered the fray for McFadden. This seemed to signal the second wind for the North Belfast men as they took control of a game that had been slipping out of their grasp. Their domination at midfield was still creating platform after platform for attack after attack with Deegan, in particular, giving a fine display of fielding in the final quarter. Daniel Magee cut inside from out on the right to put his side level; less than two minutes later, Gerard Campbell drew the foul as he marauded forward and up stepped Deegan to put his side ahead.
The intensity of this game refused to wane and Na Piarsaigh continued to take the game to the opposition. And when they needed an insurance point it was the captain, Piaras Donaghy, who struck a tremendous score off his right peg, to do just that. Further pressure was applied as the game entered it’s final act and the opening scene was a second penalty for the away home as Donald was unceremoniously dragged to the ground with the goal at his mercy. Again, Donaghy dispatched the penalty with ease to put his side five points ahead.
St.Paul’s, to their credit, refused to give up,and pulled a point back to cut the gap to four before a fantastic save from Eamonn McKenna stopped the hearts beating a little bit faster. Four minutes into added time the gap was reduced to three but this was to be the final score of the game as the referee blew his final whistle on the kickout.
A hard earned but richly deserved win for the North Belfast men as they upset the odds. Thoughts now turn this Sunday afternoon as they face O’Donnell’s in their first home game of the season. Throw-in is 3pm at the Cricky and manager Curran will be hoping his side can make it 3 wins on the spin.
Man of the Match: Ciaran Magee – is probably unfair to single one player out as their wasn’t a single bad performance from the men in green and gold. Aodhan Bannon got off his sick bed to join in a full back line that snuffed out multiple goal threats. Darren O’Neill was superb at wing back while the young midfield pairing of Campbell and McFarlane won their respective battles. Donaghy showed why he is captain with a typically resilient display and Deegan regained his mojo in the second period to kick some cracking scores and pluck some clean ball out of the sky. Cormac O’Neill never got on the scoresheet yet put in a fantastic shift as he was constantly working back to thwart attacks by the opposition. Magee and Donald up top have started to develop an awareness of each other’s game and put in strong showings while in his 20 odd minutes on the pitch young Cormac Gillespie put in a stellar performance. In goals, the accuracy of McKenna’s kickouts were a feature as the game went on and a point blank save made with the game in the melting pot kept his side at arms length.
Ciaran Magee actually gets the nod for his accolade though. He kicked two stray balls early on as he shook off his ringrust on his return from Liverpool. Thereafter he proved that not all heroes wear capes as he was quite simply majestic at centre half back. His game awareness, decision-making and leadership skills all shone as he was the glue that held his defence together.
Na Piarsaigh: E.McKenna, L.Gianetto, A.Bannon, A.McCavana, R.McFadden (0-1), C.Magee, D.O’Neill, G.Campbell, T.McFarlane, C.O’Neill, P.Donaghy (2-1), L.Deegan (0-5), M.Garvey, D.Magee (1-1), F.Donald.
Subs: C.Gillespie for R.McFadden, A.Callaghan for M.Garvey