ACFL Div. 2
Ballymena 0.12 (12)
Tír na nÓg 0.10 (10)
A penalty save by Stephen McAvoy in the 16th minute of the second half proved to be the turning point in this keenly contested division 2 clash between All Saints and Tir na nOg at Slemish Park on Sunday. McAvoy got down well to deny Lee Martin’s spot kick after Tir na nOg substitute, Emmet Murray was tripped by Shea O’Brien with referee Jarlath O’Donnell pointing to the penalty spot and issuing O’Brien with a black card.
The sides were level at 0-8 each at this stage in a game that had swung from end to end with neither able to gain a decisive advantage and had Martin been successful then the balance would surely have swung in favour of the visitors.
McAvoy’s save instead gave the home side a massive boost and they kicked three superb points between the 18th and 25th minute to move three clear before Caomhin Duffin replied with a late consolation point for the Whitehill side.
It was All Saints who got off to the better start as Michael McCarry pointed them ahead from a third minute free before doubling their lead with another from play. Lee Martin pulled one back for the visitors but the home side came close to finding the net in the 11th minute before Sean McVeigh volleyed over from the resulting goalmouth scramble.
Christy Sheerin closed the gap to one again with a good point and Michael McCarry and Aaron McNeilly exchanged points from frees to leave only one in it with seven minutes remaining to the break.
McNeilly levelled matters before putting his side ahead for the first time as Tir na nOg began to enjoy a bit of success but the final score of the half came from All Saints’ Emmet Killough to leave it all square at the half way mark, 0-5 to 0-5.
The even Steven nature of the game continued on the resumption with Ciaran McLarnon replacing Joe Rafferty in the All Saints attack and Peter McReynolds moving further out the field for the Ballymena men.
Lee Martin edged the visitors ahead for the second time with a point in the second minute as Ryan O’Neill replaced Ciaran O’Neill in the Tir na nOg attack. Sean McVeigh, who was having a big influence in a deep lying mid-field role sent over a good point to tie the contest once more but Lee Martin responded again to edge the Whitehill side ahead with ten minutes gone.
Play was starting to open up as Peter McReynolds and Brendan McDonnell edged the home side in front once more but again the influential Lee Martin restored parity and it was clear it was going to take something special to separated two evenly matched sides.
Murray’s introduction and his burst of pace appeared to have provided it when the youngster was brought down for the penalty award but McAvoy in the All Saints nets was equal to Lee Martin’s effort from the spot.
Buoyed by their keeper’s save All Saints returned to the offensive with Brendan McDonnell soloing clear to give them the lead only for Martin to make amends in part with a fine equalising point at the other end.
The balance of play had swung in favour of Sean O’Brien’s team however as they staged a strong finish, spurred on by McVeigh, Ciaran McGarry and Michael McCarry as they hit three unanswered points to move clear with Caomhin Duffin’s solitary reply in the 28th minute all the visitors could manage.
This win sees All Saints move to the top of the league table, joint first with Rossa after three rounds with Tir na nOg following well placed in second place but leagues are not won or lost in April and there could be many twists and turns before the season is over.
All Saints: Stephen McAvoy, Matthew Downey, Peter McNicholl, Phelim Killough, Ciaran McGarry, Damien Kelly, Conall Lemon, Sean McVeigh, Emmet Killough, Joe Rafferty, Michael McCarry, Kavan Keenan, Brendan McDonnell, Peter McReynolds, Shea O’Brien. Subs: Ciaran McLarnon for Joe Rafferty, Rory McVeigh for Shea O’Brien (Black Card), Owen Campbell for Gavin Keenan, James Gillan for Damien Kelly.
Ballymena scorers: M. McCarry (0-4-1 free), E.Killough (0-1), S. McVeigh (0.4), P. McReynolds (0.1), B. McDonnell (0.2)
Tír na nÓg: 1. SP. McAtamney 2. D. Martin 3. N. Cassidy 4. S. Redmond 5. B. McCormick 6. C. Duffin 7. D. McCormick 8. C. Sheerin 9. M. Duffin 10. C. Logan 11. L. Martin 12. A. McNeilly 13. C. O’Neill 14. D. Fagan 15. C. Dobbin 16. M. Dempsey 17. E. Murray 18. O. McAtamney 19. D. O’kane 20. R. O’Neill 21.E.Og McAllister
Subs used: R. O’Neill for C. O’Neill (35mins), E. Murray for M. Duffin (44mins), E. Og McAllister for C. Logan (47mins)
Scorers: C. Sheerin (0.1), L. Martin (0.6- 2 frees), A. McNeilly (0.2-2 frees), C. Duffin (0.1)