ACHL Division One
Rossa 1-17-2-14 Ballycran
By Kevin Herron at Rossa Park
Tiarnan Murphy landed the decisive equaliser with almost the last puck of the game as 14-man Rossa had to battle back to earn a vital point in the relegation section at Rossa Park, Shaws Road on Wednesday evening.
Leading from the outset a Calum McVeigh goal had helped the hosts to a 1-10-0-06 lead at the break – but Gerard Walsh’s early second-half dismissal handed Ballycran a lifeline with the sharpshooting of Conor Woods and a Scott Nicholson goal bringing the visitors back into contention.
Although Rossa would regain their composure a Christopher Egan goal edged Ballycran in front with five minutes remaining – the sides traded scores and it looked as though the Down side would
leave West Belfast with the full compliment, only for the Murphy brothers Deaglan and Tiarnan to combine deep into injury-time.
Rossa came into the game off the back of three straight victories – the last an impressive first leg win over Ballycastle in the preliminary round of the hurling championship on Friday evening, but this evening attention turned to matters at the bottom of the hurling league with a win almost certain to secure survival ahead of a trip to Ballygalget next mid-week.
The hosts made a blistering start on a fine evening for hurling as Gerard Walsh popped the ball over the bar from range; Deaglan Murphy doubled his sides lead from a free after Thomas Morgan was impeded and further points from Calum McVeigh and Stephen Beatty gave Rossa a four point lead.
It was a lead that would quickly diminish in the blink of an eye however as Ballycran opened their account through a fine Christopher Egan score.
Conor Woods converted a free in the aftermath and then produced a splendid point from range to close the gap to a point after ten minutes (0-04-0-03).
Deaglan Murphy had a mixed opening ten minutes – but atoned for a couple of missed opportunities with his sides next score; keeping the ball in at the byline before the tricky corner-forward made space for a shot that was expertly floated over the bar.
Just before the midway point an excellent Gerard Walsh point from close to the sideline gave his side a 0-06-0-03 advantage – but two quick scores from Ballycran again closed the gap; midfielder Liam Savage shot over the bar and then turned provider for Egan who doubled his evenings tally.
Deaglan Murphy and Conor Woods both traded frees in the aftermath as a single point separated the sides going into the final ten minutes of the opening half.
The games opening goal arrived on 21 minutes and it fell to the hosts – Gerard Walsh’s excellent sideline puck dropped to Calum McVeigh and the half-forward took a touch and rifled past Stephen Keith to make it 1-07-0-06.
Buoyed, the home side hit the last three scores before the break . A terrific burst forward from Michael Armstrong finished with a point from the midfielder, Deaglan Murphy converted his third free of the half and Thomas Morgan claimed his first of the evening after fine link-up between Tiarnan Murphy and Calum McVeigh as the hosts held a 1-10-0-06 advantage at the interval.
Conor Woods closed the gap upon the second-half resumption with his third converted free of the evening.
A fourth was forthcoming shortly afterwards but prior to Woods converting referee Fionntan McCotter dismissed Gerard Walsh and Ballycran had a numerical advantage for the remainder of the contest.
Deaglan Murphy popped over his fourth free of the evening – though Colum McManus and Woods (free) closed the gap to four midway through the second-half (1-11-0-10).
With little over ten minutes remaining the game was on a knife-edge with a point separating the sides for a third time – Woods turned provider as his free was doubled upon by Scott Nicholson and fired past Matthew Devlin in the Rossa goal.
Woods sixth converted free levelled the sides at 1-11 apiece with eight minutes left – but Rossa regained their composure with Deaglan Murphy converting his fifth free of the evening and ending a scoreless spell of over 15-minutes.
Younger sibling Tiarnan doubled their sides advantage shortly afterwards – but Ballycran hit back and edged in front for the first time in the game.
Conor Woods turned provider for his sides second goal – another free that dropped perfectly for Christopher Egan who stabbed the ball to the corner of the net to give the visitors a 2-11-1-13 lead.
Rossa had the chance to immediately restore their two-point lead as Thomas Morgan laid the ball off for Tiarnan Murphy who was chopped down with referee McCotter signalling for a penalty.
Michael Armstrong seized responsibility but his driven effort crashed off the bar and out to safety as the topsy-turvy encounter took another twist.
The sides were level for the second time with two minutes remaining as Deaglan Murphy converted from 65’ yards – though Scott Nicholson popped the ball over to restore Ballycran’s slender lead.
Niall Breen’s point opened up a two-point gap that was instantly halved thanks to Deaglan Murphy (free).
The hosts desperately pushed for a share of the spoils and looked to have earned it three minutes into injury-time as Murphy landed a second 65’ – only for Conor Wood to land his second point from play in response.
Again Rossa pressed and deep, deep into added time the Murphy brothers combined as Deaglan picked out Tiarnan who conjured up a magnificent score under extreme pressure to level for the fourth and final time at 1-17-2-14.
In the end the point was enough to move Rossa a step closer to survival with a share of the spoils away at Ballygalget next week; enough to prevent the possibility of an end of season play-off.
Rossa: M Devlin, N Crossan, C McGuiness, A Orchin, G Walsh (0-02), S Shannon, A O’Brien, M Armstrong (0-01), C Shannon, S Beatty (0-01), C McVeigh (1-01), S Shannon, T Murphy (0-02), T Morgan (0-01), D Murphy (0-09, 0-02 65’; 0-06f). Subs: C Orchin for C McVeigh (40 mins); M McGreevy for A Orchin (40 mins); N Devlin for N Crossan (50 mins), C McVeigh for S Shannon (54 mins).
Ballycran: S Keith, M Hughes, P Hughes, C Gilmore, M Taylor, P Flynn, B Nicholson, J Coyle, L Savage (0-01), S Nicholson (1-01), C Woods (0-08, 0-06f), M Ennis, C Egan (1-02), C McManus (0-01), N Breen (0-01).
Referee: Fionntan McCotter (Sarsfields)