Northern Switchgear SFC Group 1
St. Mary’s Ahoghill 0-15 Casement’s Portglenone 0-12
St. Mary’s Ahoghill earned the bragging rights in the first South West derby of the season when they proved too good for a Casement’s side who came into this game as favourites but had little answer to the fluency and organisation of the home side.
The score line quite simply does not do justice to the home side’s dominance though the Clooney side did have to rely on two excellent saves from Francis Neeson, one in each half but it would have been a travesty of justice if they had taken anything from this game.
Indeed the visitors could only manage one point from play with the excellent place kicking of Paddy Kelly and his namesake, Ronan Kelly accounting for 11 of their 12 scorers. The visitors lacked any real cohesion in their play and when in possession were quickly closed down by a superbly organised Ahoghill defence.
Paddy Kelly, from a ‘45’ and Donal Graham from a free exchanged points during the opening exchanges before Patrick Graham fired over to give his side the lead with seven minutes on the clock.
The visitors tried to respond again but a well marshalled home defence was giving nothing away and new manager Mick Shaw appeared to have got his matchup’s right with Martin Graham denying Niall McKeever any space on the edge of the square.
Donal Graham pointed his second free of the afternoon and a lovely Thomas McGlone point from play increased the Clooney side’s lead to three after 11 minutes and they looked to be taking control. Paddy Kelly kept his side in touch however as he pointed a well struck free and Dermot McAleese followed with a point from play to leave just one in it with16 minutes on the clock.
Indeed the visitors might well have taken the lead at this stage as a well-constructed attack saw corner-back, Ryan Convery race clear on goal but Frankie Neeson came off his line to make an excellent blocking save at the expense of a ‘45’.
Kelly pointed the resulting ‘45’ to bring the side’s level but straight from the kick-out Ahoghill went up the field and PJ O’Connell restored their lead before Donal Graham pointed his third free of the game to leave it 0-6 to 0-4 with 22 minutes on the clock.
The hits were going in thick and fast and Stephen O’Connell became the first player to earn a yellow card and the Ahoghill management made the decision to pull the experienced defender ashore as they sent James ‘Bobby’ Magee into the contest.
His brother, James O’Connell then became the second player to receive a black card, the Ports having suffered a similar fateto Fergal O’Kane earlier, as Paddy Kelly continued to display unerring accuracy from the placed ball to level the game at 0-6 each with six minutes remaining to the break.
Once again the home side found a response as they finished the half strongly and Eoin Graham, PJ O’Connell, Fionnbar O’Neill and PJ O’Connell again fired over unanswered point to leave the Clooney side four ahead at the break and good value for their lead.
On the restart Ahoghill continued to press but shot three wides in the opening three minutes as the difficult wind made scoring difficult before Donal Graham steadied the ship with a good point in the 5th minute.
Paddy Kelly from his sixth free of the game got the visitors going again but Eoin Graham raced through at the other end to restore the home side’s five point advantage and it was hard to see where the visitors next score was going to come from as the home defence continued to dominate.
It arrived from another free however as Ronan Kelly took over the free taking duties to tap a close range award over the bar in the 10th minute. Francis Neeson then stepped out from goal to send a ‘45’ just wide of the target but made amends a minute later with his second point blank save of the game in the 14th minute.
Portglenone were giving it everything but too often the final ball was letting them down and when they did get within range the Ahoghill defence were closing them down with a number of excellent blocks bringing a loud cheer from a home support who were clearly enjoying the occasion.
A couple of pointed frees from Ronan Kelly kept the visitors in touch however but each time the Clooney men were able to find a response as Eoin Graham and Patrick Graham edged their side four in front before Paddy Kelly added a late free for the visitors to conclude the scoring
Mick Shaw and his backroom team will certainly be pleased by this performance and the manner in which their side dominated play for most of the hour. A red card to Fionnbar O’Neill in injury time may have been less pleasing but all in all it has been a good start to the season for the Ahoghill St. Mary’s.
The visitors management will be less pleased by what they were able to produce over the hour and the fact that all but one of their scores came from frees will surely be a cause for concern but they will have a chance to put matters right come Wednesday night when the T.V. cameras and Creggan visit Kelly Park.
Ahoghill: Francis Neeson, Eamon Brady, Martin Graham Stephen O’Connell, Fionnbar O’Neill, Patrick Graham, Bernard Graham, Thomas McGlone, Neil O’Connell, James O’Connell, Eoin Graham, PJ O’Connell, Diarmaid Graham, Donal Graham, Daniel O’Neill, Subs: Bobby Magee for Stephen O’Connell, Pearse Downey for Daniel O’Neill, Conor Crossey for Pearse Downey
Portglenone: Ryan O’Neill, Johnny Convery, Shane Delargy, Ryan Convery, Ronan Delargy, Dermot McAleese, Caolan Tierney, Niall McKeever, Michael Donnelly, Fergal O’Kane, Ruairi Hagan, Oisin Doherty, Michael Hagan, Ronan Kelly, Patrick Kelly Subs: Kiereon McKenna, Conal Delargy, Gerard McAleese, Ciaran Lynch
Referee: Brendan Toland (Lamh Dhearg)