ACFL Division 1B
St Mary’s Aghagallon 0-8 Naomh Éanna 1-12
Naomh Éanna retained their Division One status for 2020 following this good win over St. Mary’s Aghagallon at Páirc Na nGael last night. Following a very successful 2018 campaign which included an Ulster Intermediate title and a place in an All Ireland final the Glengormley side made a great start to life in division 1 in 2019.
Three wins early in the season suggested they could be serious league title contenders but the departure of many of their players to America and further afield for the Summer quickly put paid to that notion.
Going into the business end of this year’s campaign St. Enda’s were amongst several clubs battling for division 1 survival but the return of most of their prodigal sons has resulted in an inspirational finish to their league campaign.
St. Enda’s established a five-point advantage at the break after a well-taken goal from the impressive Odhran Eastwood put them in control and once again Eastwood was to the fore as he top-scored with 1-7.
With their place in division 1 already secured for next season, Aghagallon played like a side with one eye firmly fixed on Saturday’s Senior Football Championship meeting between the same sides at Glenavy.
The home side will be more concerned by an injury to Darryl McAlernon after he was forced off after 18 minutes with a dislocated finger and they will be keeping their fingers crossed that he will be ok for Saturday.
For Naomh Éanna, retaining their top flight status was the main aim and they signalled their intent right from the off with a point from wing half-forward Ciaran Thompson after just 17 seconds.
Three converted frees from the impressive Eastwood got St. Enda’s away to a good start before Eunan Walsh got Aghagallon off the mark with a fine effort.
The home side certainly weren’t going through the motions and picked up a few early bookings before Ruairi Scott struck a great free off the ground on 16 minutes to leave four between the sides.
Midfielder Dessie Marshall landed a point a minute later, but it would prove to be his side’s final score of the half as Naomh Éanna moved up a gear to finish the half strongly.
Eastwood punished a foul with another point before Peter Healy raced clear to fist over a point to increase his side’s lead to five. There were no further scores in the closing seven minutes of the half with Naomh Éanna leading by five at the short whistle.
Aghagallon manager Kevin Murray made three changes for the second half and the introduction of Ruairi McCann certainly gave the visitors problems during the second 30 minutes.
Playing conditions deteriorated at the start of the second half and play became a bit scrappy as the heavens opened.
In the rapidly fading light, Healy and Eastwood combined to put the former through on goal and his powerful shot gave Damien O’Hagan in the St. Mary’s goal no chance of making a save.
As the Páirc Na nGael floodlights were switched on Adam Loughran responded with a score at the other end before converting a free minutes later to raise the Aghagallon hopes but Peter Healy’s second fisted point restored his side’s advantage.
The home side were enjoying a bit of success at this point however and further points from Ruairi Loughran and substitute Oisin Lenehan left five between the sides before Eastwood replied with a superb long range effort for the Hightown side.
The momentum was now with the hosts however and they responded with further scores from Loughran and David McAlernon to close the gap to four and ensure a nervous finish for the visitors.
However that was as close as Aghagallon got and was to prove their final score with St. Enda’s hitting the final three scores of the game through Eastwood (two) and substitute Philly Curran.
The closing stages saw Naomh Éanna drop midfielder Joe Maskey back to man-mark Ruairi McCann with both players possibly renewing acquaintances when the sides meet again this weekend in the opening game of the Senior Football championship.
AGHAGALLON: D O’Hagan; D Donnelly, Darryl McAlernon; M McKenna, J Lamont, M McStravick, P Mulholland; N McShane, D Marshall 0-1; F Bustard, E Walsh 0-1, C Brady; A Loughran 0-3 (0-1f), R Loughran 0-1, P Branagan.
Subs: S Branagan for D McAlernon (18mins), David McAlernon 0-1 for Marshall (HT), C Farr for Mulholland (HT), R McCann for Walsh (32mins), O Lenehan 0-1 for David McAlernon (35mins), C Walsh for McShane (44mins).
NAOMH ÉANNA: D Walsh; C Lyttle, M McNamee, C McAuley; P Hamilton, J McAuley, K Jennings; J Maskey, E Gibson; M Morgan, R Scott 0-1 (0-1f), C Thompson 0-1; P Healy 0-1, R Kennedy, O Eastwood 1-7 (0-6fs).
Subs: C O’Neill for Scott (48mins), P Curran 0-1 for Morgan (50mins), C Maxwell for Kennedy (63mins).
REFEREE: F McCotter (Sarsfield’s).
Pics by J.J. Lawell