ACFL Division 2
All Saint 2-16 Rossa 1-16
O’Donovan Rossa travelled to Slemish Park today knowing that a win would secure the division 2 league title but they came up against an All Saints side determined to postpone those title celebrations.
It wasn’t looking good for the home side when mid-fielder, Emmet Killough was shown Black after 16 minutes but his replacement, Conor Stewart announced his arrival with a great catch and point that appeared to lift those around him.
Stewart, who is still a Minor fitted seamlessly into the home side’s mid-field and added a goal in the 23d minute of the second half to turn the game at a time the visitors were threatening to take over.
It was visitors Rossa who were first off the mark with a good point from Michael Armstrong in the first minute but Connell lemon replied with an equally impressive score for the home side to level the contest with two minutes gone.
Sean Pat Donnelly edged the visitors ahead once more from a 4th minute free but again the Ballymena side found a response through youngster Shea O’Brien who cut in from the left to split the posts.
The home side were gaining in confidence with Sean McVeigh driving them on from mid-field and points from Brendan McDonnell and McVeigh saw them move two in front before Rossa replied with a good point from Gerard Walsh in the 10th minute.
Walsh tied the contest with another point in the 12th minute and points from Michael Armstrong and Sean Finch saw them move two clear at the end of the opening quarter. The home side responded again through James McDonnell but they received a setback when Emmet Killough was shown Black with 16 minutes on the clock.
Michael McCarry levelled matters once more when he sent over in the 18th minute and an excellent score from Stephen Beatty brought another response from sharp shooter McCarry to leave it all square again with seven minutes remaining to the break.
In an excellent game of end to end football Conor Stewart made a great catch followed by an impressive point and when his mid-field partner, Sean McVeigh sent over an even more impressive effort the home side seemed to be gaining an edge.
In the minutes leading up to half time Rossa showed why they are odds on favourites to claim the title however as they hit back through Thomas Morgan and Gerard Walsh to edge one ahead once more but late scores from Michael McCarry and James McDonnell saw the Ballymena men lead 0-10 to 0-9 at the short whistle.
On the restart Eoghan Daly raced through the heart of the visitors defence to fist over and when Rory McVeigh was on hand to finish to the net after a good save by Rossa keeper, Michael Byrne All Saints were five in front and looked to be taking control.
The Shaw’s Road side were having none of it and after Padraig McGreevey replied with a point, Darren Grego intercepted a short kick-out from Stephen McAvoy to lob the keeper and close the gap to one with only four minutes of the new half gone.
Grego levelled matters as Stephen Beatty saw his free kick come back of an upright and Michael McCarry for All Saints and McGreevey for Rossa exchanged further scores to keep their supporters on their toes as play swung from end to end.
The Ballymena management introduced Eoin Campbell and Ciaran Shannon for Eoghan Daly and Rory McVeigh as both sides wasted opportunities as they strove to gain the upper hand but two point in quick succession from Kavan Keenan and Michael McCarry in the 17th minute looked again to have swung the advantage in favour of theBallymena men.
Back came the league leaders once more however with points from Stephen Beatty, Thomas Morgan and Beatty again before McCarry replied yet again for the Slemish Park side. It was going to take something special to separate these sides and it was youngster Stewart who was to provide it.
Undeterred from hitting a number of wides, Stewart took a pass out to the left of goals and soloed through before sending his shot low past Michael Byrne to the corner of the net. This score put the home side two in front again and Rossa received another setback when they lost a player to a second yellow card.
Michael McCarry and Sean Pat Donnelly exchanged further points before the home side were reduced to 14 as the game went into injury time with the final score of the game falling to the excellent Michael McCarry as he sent over his seventh of the game to see his side home three point winners.
This was a good win for All Saints but comes too late in the season to affect their chances of promotion but will never the less give them a lot of confidence going into the championship. Stephen McAvoy was confident in goals and his kick-outs were good, nearly always finding a man.
Niall McGarry, Joe Rocks and Connell Lemon were solid in defence while Sean McVeigh and Conor Stewart were on top for lengthy periods at mid-field. Michael McCarry made a telling contribution, both from play and from frees while Eoghan Daly, Kavan Keenan and Brendan McDonnell were others to impress in attack.
Rossa were well in contention for most of the game but quite a number of them have endured a number of tough hurling games over the last week and they seemed to tire going into the closing stages.
They meet second place Moneyglass in their next game on the 14th August before travelling to Tir na nOg five days later with their fate still very much in their own hands and I would expect them to push on and claim the league title.
All Saints: Stephen McAvoy, Joe Rocks, Ciaran McGarry, Rhys O’Mullan, James McDonnell, Damian Kelly, Connell Lemon, Sean McVeigh, Eoghan Daly, Michael McCarry, Shea O’Brien, Kavan Keenan, Rory McVeigh, Brendan McDonnell. Subs: Conor Stewart for Emmet Killough (Black card) Eoin Campbell for Eoghan Daly, Ciaran Shannon for Rory McVeigh, Luke O’Rawe for Shea O’Brien.
Rossa: Michael Byrne, James Cooley, Christopher McGuinness, Michael McGreevey, Padraig McGreevey, Michael Armstrong, Sean Finch, Oisin McVicker, Stephen Beatty, Sean Pat Donnelly, Eoghan McMenanin, Dermot McEvoy, Thomas Armstrong, Gerard Walsh, Darren Grego. Subs: Ciaran Orchin, Donal Armstrong, Niall Crossan.
Referee: Cathal McDermott: Tir na nOg