Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship semi-final replay
Portglenone 0-09-2-08 Lamh Dhearg
From Kevin Herron at Slemish Park, Ballymena
Lamh Dhearg prevailed from this evenings third and final semi-final instalment with Portglenone thanks to a second-half double from go-to man Paddy Cunningham.
Despite narrowly trailing 0-05-0-04 at the interval a quick-fire double from the reliable corner-forward saw his side through to Sunday’s Northern Switchgear decider with Cargin on a scoreline of 2-08-0-09 after over 200 minutes of drama and ecstasy over the course of nine days.
All roads led to Quinn Park in Ballymena after Ciaran McCavana called a premature halt to Thursday evenings free-kick drama at the Dub with an action plan of penalties should this evenings game go the distance again.
A converted Paddy Cunningham free nudged his side into an early lead at the rainswept Woodside Road venue.
Kieron McKenna restored parity for Casements and back to back converted frees from Ronan Kelly saw the Portglenone men lead 0-03 to 0-01. At this stage the Bannsiders were on top and could have added a few more scores, but a combination of wayward shooting and some tigerish defending by the Hannahstown men meant they failed to add their lead.
Conditions hampered any notion of a free flowing game as both sides battled on a heavy surface and despite Portglenone having the better of the opening quarter the sides were level for a second time on the 20th minute.
Paddy Cunningham converted back to back frees to make it 0-03 apiece as the only score from play belonged to McKenna.
Lamh Dhearg edged ahead for the second time through a smart Terry McCrudden point with two minutes to the interval.
However McKenna doubled his account for the half with a smart angled point and a late Patrick Kelly free had Portglenone ahead by the bare minimum at the break, 0-05-0-04.
The sides were level for the third time within three minutes of the restart – Conor Murray burst forward with possession and hoisted the ball over the bar.
The next two scores would prove crucial in finally deciding the epic trilogy as two Lamh Dhearg goals gave them a solid platform going forward.
Towering midfielder Declan Dunne broke the ball at midfield and sent his side on the front foot, Paddy Cunningham slipped the ball inside to Marc McGarry who fisted the ball on to Marc Jordan and an intelligent through ball from Jordan sent Cunningham in the clear and a goal was the end result as Ryan O’Neills resistance was finally broken and Lamh Dhearg took a 1-05-0-05 lead.
Within three minutes there was double joy for Cunningham and his side, Kevin Quinn hustled the ball in midfield and popped it forward to Cunningham – the goalscorer switched the ball to Conor Murray and set-off towards the target, Murray found the overlapping run of Terry McCrudden who squared the ball to Cunningham for a simple second to make it 2-05-0-05 and give the Ports a mountain to climb.
Midway through the second-half a fourth converted free from the ace corner-forward extended his sides advantage, whilst Portglenone hit a series of wides from promising scoring opportunities.
Patrick Kelly eventually responded through a converted 50th minute free and a further free was followed by a Ronan Kelly point from play as Casement’s cut the lead from seven to four (2-06-0-08) as they attempted to sow that seed of doubt in the Lamhs mind.
Any lingering fears were soon cast aside though as Conor Murray popped the ball over and an outstanding point Declan Dunne restored his sides two-goal advantage.
The gallant Ports pushed for a late goal that might have provided a grandstand finish – though Fearghal O’Kane could only reply with a converted free.
In the end it was Lamh Dhearg who saw the game out to book a place in Sunday’s decider with Cargin at Corrigan Park.
They say that a week is a long time in football but that was before the conclusion to this semi-final which took three games, over 200 minutes and nine days at three different venues to finally settle. Lamh Dhearg are through and nobody who witnessed the three games can deny them their victory, but spare a thought for the Casement’s men who have given us all great entertainment throughout the championship. Two epic games with St John’s and three with Lamh Dhearg have had us all on the edge our seats as they provided top class entertainment throughout.
Portglenone: R O’Neill, J Convery, R McGuigan, R Convery, R Delargy, D McAleese, C Tierney, N McKeever, M Kelly, C Delargy, N Delargy, K McKenna (0-02), R Kelly (0-03f), M Donnelly, P Kelly (0-03f). Subs: M Hagan for C Delargy (40); F O’Kane (0-01f) for M Kelly (45); G McAleese for C Tierney (54); O Odherty for R Kelly (59).
Lamh Dhearg: J Finucane, C Nolan, P Mervyn, M McGarry, D Lynch, M Herron, B Rice, D Dunne (0-01), K Quinn, E McKeown, C Murray (0-02), M Jordan, P Cunningham (2-04, 0-04f), R Murray, T McCrudden (0-01). Subs: C McIlvenny for C Nolan (45); R Straney for T McCrudden (black card – 53); P Larkin for M McGarry (black card – 55); M Lowe for D Dunne (62).
Referee: Sean Laverty (Moneyglass).