The Devenish Junior Football Championship (semi-final)
Mc Quillan’s Ballycastle 2-07 Kickham’s Ardoyne 3-12
A late goal by centre back, and team captain Joe Mc Neill sealed passage for Kickham’s Ardoyne to the Devenish Junior Football championship final at the expense of Mc Quillan’s Ballycastle in Toome on Saturday.
The North Belfast side with the impressive Cormac Mullan leading the way had earned a 1-10 to 0-03 interval advantage and looked on their way to the final, but Ballycastle started the second half aided by the breeze and with centre back Ronan Mc Carry and Tiernan Butler leading by example they came storming back.
Stephen Mc Illroy despatched a 36th minute penalty to the net and Tiernan Butler added another from play, a couple of minutes later and the North Antrim men looked back in business, and having enjoyed a 10 point lead at the start of the second half Ardoyne had seen their advantage reduced to four, with Mc Quillan’s starting to ask serious questions.
However when the chips were down the city men were not to be found wanting, and they responded and with Joe McNeill leading the way they regained the upper hand. Mc Quillan’s battled to reduce the deficit but the Ardoyne defence stood firm and a late Joe Mc Neill goal, created by his brother Aiden, sealed the verdict and a place in the decider in two weeks’ time.
Ballycastle, who had struggled in the league really came to life in this year’s championship and went into Saturday’s game against favourites Ardoyne with a couple of championship wins under their belts.
The North Antrim side signalled positive intentions from the outset as Mark Higgins raced away to split the posts and see them take an early lead, despite facing a stiff breeze.
Their early advantage didn’t last however as the McNeill brothers, Joe and Aiden, combined to send Brendan O’ Neill away to fire to the net in the 3rd minute and give Ardoyne a lead which they were not to lose.
Goal scorer O’Neill added a point in the 5th minute and when he followed suit shortly after the North Belfast side looked to have matters well in hand.
Mc Quillan’s replied in the 9th minute as their excellent centre back Ronan McCarry came forward for a good point but the posts were proving elusive for the Ballycastle men with the breeze causing problems.
Ardoyne were dominant at mid-field and making full use of the talented Cormac Mullan they continued to apply the pressure.
Mullan was causing plenty of problems for Ballycastle defence with his direct running and deliveries as he answered a Ronan Mc Carry point by raising five whites in succession and another from Aiden Mc Neill saw the men in black lead 1-08 to 0-02 by the 25th minute.
Mc Quillan’s fought hard to get into contention but found the Ardoyne defence a tough nut to crack and a Joe McNeill led counter attack saw Conor McDowell and Conor McLaughlin combine to set up Brendan O’ Neill for a good point.
As the end of the opening period approached Tiernan Butler added a point to the Mc Quillan’s tally when he defied the elements to send a 35 metre free between the posts.
Ardoyne were to have the last say however and Ballycastle net-minder Patrick Mc Auley had to be at his best to deny the pace laden Aiden Mc Neill as he tipped the wingers strong delivery up and over the bar.
Ardoyne headed to the dressing room with a 1-10 to 0-03 lead and at this stage they looked in complete charge.
Mc Quillan’s had the benefit of the breeze for the second half and with the proverbial wind in their sails they made a bright start. Mark Higgins opened their account with a 33rd minute pointed free and they were then awarded a penalty when Higgins was fouled in the large square.
Stephen Mc Ilroy assumed the spot kick duties and fired the ball to the back of the net and when Tiernan Butler weaved his way through the Kickham’s defence to add another from play, a couple of minutes later the gap was reduced to four points.
Ardoyne looked in a bit of trouble for the first time in the contest but they were quick to respond. Aiden Mc Neill and Mark Higgins swapped points before Mc Quillan’s net minder McAuley pulled off another good save to deny Brendan O’ Neill.
Conor Mc Laughlin was on hand to collect the rebound however and gave the Ballycastle keeper no chance from close range to move Ardoyne 2-12 to 2-05 ahead as the game entered the last ten minutes.
Mc Quillan’s continued to push forward with replacement Diarmuid McShane raising a further white flag but in the event it was to be their last score of the game.
A late injury to centre back Ronan McCarry didn’t help their cause with the Belfast men finishing with a flourish and a Joe McNeill goal in the 61st minute put the contest out of reach of their opponents.
Ardoyne now go forward to meet St. Patrick’s Lisburn in this year’s final and it promises to be a good contest. The Lisburn men beat O’Donnell’s in the other semi-final on Friday night at Woodlands and will be keen to put the disappointment of two final defeats in the last two years behind them.
They will have to be at their best however to beat an Ardoyne side who have had an excellent season and have gained promotion to division 2 and will be keen to complete a memorable double.
Ardoyne: Damien Toal, Alan Davidson, Sean Joe Rooney, Pearse Marley, Padraig Lynch, Joe Mc Neill (1-00), Conor Carter, Declan Mc Cormick, Kevin Lynch, Cormac Mullan (0-07), Aiden Mc Neill (0-03), Jim Og Mc Auley, Conor Mc Dowell, Brendan O’ Neill (1-02), Conor Mc Laughlin (1-00)
Nicholas Miller for J Mc Auley
Kevin Mc Laughlin for B O’ Neill
Niall Bradley for K Lynch
Caolan Mc Callan for P Marley
Conor Magee for C Carter
Jim Mc Auley for A Davidson
Mc Quillan’s: Patrick Mc Auley, Oisin Donnelly, Stephen Magill, Ryan Magee, Conor Boyd, Ronan Mc carry, Thomas Mc Illroy, Eamon Elliot, Caolan Mc Laughlin, Conor Donnelly (0-01), Tiernan Butler (1-010, Stephen Mc Illroy (1-00), Mark Higgins (0-03), Martin Jameson, Sean Kelly
Diarmuid Mc Shane (0-01) for C Mc Laughlin
Lorcan Donnelly for C Donnelly
Aaron Mc Caughan for O Donnelly
Referee – Jarlath O’ Donnell (Con Magees)