ACHL Division 2/3 Playoff
Wednesday September 4
Glenrovers, Armoy 1-14 (36) St Pauls 3-8 (29)
Brendan McTaggart reports from Pairc Uí Cheallaigh, Portglenone
Armoy retained their Division Two status on Wednesday night but they were made to fight for the full hour under the floodlights at Páirc Uí Cheallaigh. St Pauls came to Portglenone facing a seven point deficit from the first leg and when Patrick Doyle fired their third goal just three minutes into the second half, it looked like the Shaws Road men were on their way to reeling in Armoy lead.
Playing with a numerical advantage after an Armoy player saw red early in the game, St Pauls turned around at the interval and played with more intensity and fight. They had Amory on the ropes early in the second half but the north Antrim men steadied the ship with a fine defensive performance and the attacking prowess of Conor Christie. The Glen Rovers forward top scored with 1-4 over the hour but it was at the back where Armoy won this game.
After a strong start when they shot into a six point lead, Armoy looked to be cruising to victory. St Pauls forward James Farrell scored goals either side of Armoys red card to give St Pauls a lifeline. Armoy reshuffled their pack and as the sides went into the interval tied on the night, promotion was still within the Shaws Road men’s sight.
Armoy stuttered after the restart and St Pauls were taking advantage with Doyle’s major but Armoy tightened up in defence and with Johnny McErlain also in fine form from placed ball, they didn’t panic and weathered the early St Pauls storm. Second half substitute twice went close for goals along with Declan Chapman but Armoy ‘keeper Conor Devlin rose to the challenge as the game progressed, denying the Shaws Road men with a string of top saves to ensure his side would play in Division Two for the 2020 season.
With the wind swirling on a cold night, it was the Glenshesk men who made the brighter start to this second leg. Conor Christie firing the opening goal of the match after good work by John Dillon in the build up and when PJ McBride, Johnny McErlain (free) and Emmet O’Hara followed suit, Armoy had a six point lead after just six minutes.
St Pauls weren’t at the races in the early stages but a piece of superb ingenuity from Farrell brought them their first goal and score of the night. Using his speed to evade the Armoy challengers, Farrell hit the sliotar in front of him to stop getting hooked and found the back of the net. A Stephen Rooney ’65 followed suit and as St Pauls finally settled into the game, the Shaws Road men were thrown a life line. McPeake took exception to a challenge from Daire Stevenson and kicked the St Pauls man off the ball. After consultation with his linesman, referee Brendan Toland had no option but to cut short the Armoy man’s game.
St Pauls had the bit between their teeth and could have had another goal moments later but Doyle’s smart effort bounced off the crossbar and over to cut the Armoy lead to two points. The Shaws Road side weren’t quite finished as Farrell bagged his second major of the night in the 17th minute. The sliotar was sent long to the heart of the Armoy defence and Farrell read the bounce perfectly and got between the defenders before finding the back of the net.
Armoy had seen their six point lead turn into a one point deficit and now had a man less but the Glenrovers men steadied the ship in the time that remained of the first half. Points from John Dillon, O’Hara, Cairan McErlain and two for Johnny McErlain (one free) were in response to scores from Gerard Carberry, Doyle and two from Rooney (one free) to leave the sides tied on 1-9 to 2-6 at the short whistle.
St Pauls were hampered by a number of wides in the first half but they had their tails up again just three minutes after the restart when Doyle found the back of the Armoy net. Collecting a cross field ball from Colm McLarnon, Doyle made the break and fired low to give Conor Devlin no chance. The city side sensed the opportunity was there but again their accuracy in front of the target let them down. Conor Christie fired over his first of four second half points but Armoy had rejigged their shape to nullify the threat of the St Pauls attack and used Tommy Burns and Christie in attack to exploit the spaces left behind.
Colm McLarnon gave St Pauls a three point lead once again in the 42nd minute but that was as close as the Shaws Road side got to overturning the Armoy aggregate lead. With Cha McCormick, Shane and Arthur Devlin all putting in a monumental shift as well as John Dillon who dropped deeper into a sweeping roll, Armoy frustrated St Pauls for long periods of the second half.
Two huge frees from McErlain either side of another Conor Christie point came in response to Rooney’s fourth white flag of the match but time was running out for St Pauls. Their hopes all but faded when Christopher Murray was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Conor Christie in the 55th minute and while the threw everything they had at the Armoy goals in the closing stages, the Glenrovers men kept them out with a solid defensive display. The last score of the game fittingly came from the hurl of Conor Christie and while there were no winners on the night, it’s Armoy who celebrate retaining their Division Two status for next season.
Armoy: Conor Devlin; Shane Devlin, Cha McCormick, Joe McFetridge; Liam Dillon, Arthur Devlin, Joe McBride; Ciaran McErlain, PJ McBride; Johnny McErlain, John Dillon, Emmett O’Hara; Tommy Burns, Daniel McPeake, Conor Christie.
Scorers: Conor Christie 1-4 (2 f’s); Johnny McErlain 0-5 (4 f’s); Emmet O’Hara 0-2; Ciaran McErlain 0-1; PJ McBride 0-1; John Dillon 0-1.
St Paul’s: Joe Gillen; Christopher Murray, Ciaran Hetherington, Sean Bradley; Andrew McMorrow, Daire Stevenson, Sean Lawell; Fiontann Gamble, Declan Chapman; Colm McLarnon, Sean O’Carroll, Stephen Rooney; Patrick Doyle, Gerard Carberry, James Farrell.
Scorers: James Farrell 2-00; Patrick Doyle 1-2; Stephen Rooney 0-4 (1 ’65, 1 f); Gerard Carberry 0-1; Colm McLarnon 0-1.
Referee: Brendan Toland (Lámh Dhearg)