Goals pave the way to heaven for Saints

Antrim Hurling League Division 4

St Teresa’s 3-9 Con Magees 0-11

St Teresa’s took a giant step towards clinching the Division 4 Hurling title on Sunday when they defeated previously unbeaten Glenravel. Victory in their final game of the season this Wednesday night at home to All Saints would see them level on league points with Glenravel but the Belfast men would be crowned champions on a head to head basis despite a very much inferior points difference.

The incessant rain was kind enough to switch off for the entire duration of the game but it left very slippery underfoot conditions for the players to cope with and the tight Glen Road pitch seemed to work better for the home team. Glenravel opened the scoring through the normally dependable Niall Donnelly from a free which was quickly cancelled out by the Saint’s free taker Phil Maguire who would go on to record seven points, all from frees; a masterclass given the swirling wind conditions. Robbie Gallagher would extend the home team’s lead but Glenravel were starting to find their range and two points from Niall Donnelly from frees and a well taken score from Stevie Acheson nudged them in front by two. Half way through the first half St Teresa’s struck two goals in a minute from Jordan McAllister and Darren McCann to go into a lead of 2-02 to 0-04 and they would never relinquish that lead to the end of the game. Glenravel’s Shane Woulahan was a real handful for the St Teresa’s defence and he scored from a tight angle to reduce the deficit after twenty minutes. An altercation in the midfield battle saw one yellow card for Glenravel and a red for St Teresa’s reducing their numbers to fourteen. The visitors pounced on that numerical advantage to record a couple of fine points from play from Shane Woulahan and James Duffin but St Teresa’s rallied in the closing minutes with points from Phil Maguire and Colm McGoldrick taking them into the half time break leading 2-04 to 0-07.

Glenravel mentors made a couple of positional switches at half time and they appeared to be working well for them when Conleth O’Loan, now berthed in the half forward line, scored from a tight angle to reduce the deficit to two points. Phil Maguire added one for St Teresa’s in the second minute and then a tight battle ensued for six minutes without a single score. Sean McKay broke the deadlock with a point for Glenravel but that was his final contribution as shortly after he made way for Odhran McAleenan. Patrick O’Neill was also called ashore due to injury and veteran Neil McCann entered the fray. Shuffling the Glenravel deck appeared to work into the home team’s hands as Glenravel struggled to contain St Teresa’s forwards. Two more frees from Phil Maguire would stretch the home team lead and a goal in the 49th minute by Robbie Gallagher sealed the deal for the home team, now leading 3-07 to 0-09. Niall Donnelly did pull one back for the visitors but again Phil Maguire capitalised on indiscipline in Glenravel defence to pop over his sixth and seventh points form frees. With one minute left on the clock, Neil McCann put over the final score of the game but it was too little too late for Glenravel, St Teresa’s running out deserved victors on a 3-09 to -0-11 scoreline.

Though St Teresa’s have now one more match to play, this game was looked upon by many as the “title decider”. Those of us of a particular vintage couldn’t help but hark back to a previous title decider between these two great clubs. That was in a big ball game to decide the winners of 1979 Division 1 Football. The game played in Jan 1980 amid snow and ice in Fr Maginn Park also saw St Teresa’s emerge victorious. Surely none of today’s players will remember that game but they will remember this one for a long time and the impact it had on their bid for divisional glory.

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