Delargy’s late strike earns Ports a replay

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship semi-final

Portglenone 3-10-2-13 Lamh Dhearg

From Kevin Herron at Creggan

Conall Delargy rifled home from the spot to earn Portglenone a replay as this evenings Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football semi-final with Lamh Dhearg ended in a 3-10-2-13 draw at Staffordstown Road, Creggan.

The Lamhs had led from the outset and two goals in the opening quarter of an hour from Terry McCrudden and Ben Rice had the Hannahstown men leading 2-05-0-06 at the interval.

Portglenone players celebrate after Conall Delargy’s injury time penalty goal earned his team a second bite of the cherry at the end of Saturday’s SFC semi-final at Creggan.

The five-point deficit separated the sides until the 48th minute when Conall Delargy  found the net and despite the Lamhs restoring their advantage Patrick Kelly netted to set-up a grandstand finish to a dramatic evening.

It looked as though Lamh Dhearg would hold out for victory and a place in the decider for the second time in three years – though a foul on Paddy Kelly was punished by referee Darren McKeown who signalled for a penalty that was converted by Delargy to ensure the sides must do it all over again next week.

Lamh Dhearg began the game as slight favourites in the eyes of many, against a Portglenone side that claimed a league double over their counterparts – the most recent last month.

The Hannahstown men made the perfect start to the game and claimed the opening goal after three minutes.

A patient passing move saw Kevin Quinn switch the ball to Conor Murray who instigated an attack and popped the ball into the path of Marc McGarry whose offload to Terry McCrudden was finished to the net by the corner-forward.

Patrick Kelly responded with a point for Portglenone, though Ben Rice and an angled Paddy Cunningham free stretched the South Antrim sides advantage.

A quick-fire double from Conall Delargy and Patrick Kelly was followed by a converted free from Ronan Kelly as the Ports closed the gap to the minimum approaching the midway point in the opening half (1-02-0-04).

But on the 14th minute Lamh Dhearg doubled their goal account, Conor Murray’s angled shot dropped short on the top of Portglenone goalkeeper Ryan O’Neill and Ben Rice’s gamble paid off as the wing-half back found the net via the crossbar to make it 2-02-0-04.

Dermot McAleese and Eoin McKeown traded points in the aftermath and Lamh Dhearg should have added to their goal tally.

Paddy Cunningham’s 19th minute free dropped short and was fisted against the post by Marc McGarry, whilst Conor Murray burst forward and shot high and wide from a promising position.

Declan Lynch combined with Paddy Cunningham for the corner-forwards second of the evening and Cunningham hoisted over a second in quick succession – although again a goal chance went a-begging.

Marc Jordan found space and cut the ball across to Terry McCrudden who palmed against the post with Cunningham on hand to make sure a score arrived from the attack.

Portglenone responded and Ronan Kelly converted his second free of the half before the interval and as both sides retreated it was Lamh Dhearg who held a 2-05-0-06 lead.

Portglenone twice closed the gap at the beginning of the second-half as Paddy Kelly converted a free from range and Ronan Kelly did likewise.

Paddy Cunningham replied from the same scenario on both occasions and the corner-forward expertly conjured up his third score in succession to give Lamh Dhearg a 2-08-0-08 lead on the 45th minute.

Ronan Kelly hit back with a sweet point in the 48 minutes and brought the game to life. Niall McKeever rose highest to catch Ryan O’Neill’s kick-out and quickly popped the ball into the path of Kieron McKenna who found the run of Conall Delargy and the Ports number 10 pulled the trigger and shot between the legs of John Finucane to give his side renewed hope at 2-08-1-09.

Lamh Dhearg refused to panic hopwever and two excellent Ryan Murray points and a converted free from Cunningham ensured they had restored their five-point advantage with five to play and at this stage the Hannastown side looked to have one foot in the final.

The Ports determination shone in the final five minutes and on 56 minutes a second goal from Patrick Kelly had a grandstand finish on the cards.

Substitute Michael Kelly was the recipient of a quick-free and picked out Patrick Kelly unmarked; with a similar result to his last shot – a goal that was tucked into the corner of the net to make it 2-11-2-09.

Points from Ryan Murray and Cunningham (free) in response had the deficit at four, until Ronan Kelly converted a free of his own two minutes into injury-time.

Portglenone needed a goal in order to salvage anything and five minutes into time their chance arrived as Paddy Kelly was fouled in the area and referee Darren McKeown signalled for a penalty.

Conall Delargy sought the ball and took responsibility for the pressure-kick and when the time came, Delargy’s low shot crept beneath the dive of John Finucane and into the corner of the net to make it 3-10-2-13 with a final kick of the semi-final.

The date of the replay is yet to be revealed but it promises to be another game of high drama as the Antrim Senior Football Championship continues to deliver on quality and entertainment.

Portglenone: R O’Neill, J Convery, S Delargy, R Convery, R Delargy, D McAleese (0-01), C Tierney, N McKeever, F O’Kane (0-01f), C Delargy (2-01, 1-00p), N Delargy, K McKenna, R Kelly (0-01), M Donnelly, P Kelly (1-02). Subs: R McGuigan for S Delargy (29); M Hagan for M Donnelly (29); M Kelly for F O’Kane (39); G McAleese for M Hagan (54).

Lamh Dhearg: J Finucane, M McGarry, P Mervyn, C Nolan, D Lynch, M Herron, B Rice (1-01), P Fitzsimons, K Quinn, E McKeown (0-01), C Murray, M Jordan, P Cunningham (0-08, 0-05f), T McCrudden (1-00), R Murray (0-03). Subs: R Straney for D Lynch (36 – blood sub); D Smyth for T McCrudden (43); R Straney for M McGarry (45); C Mcilvenny for C Nolan (52); M Finnegan for R Murray (63).

Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls).

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