Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship
Portglenone 1-7 Creggan 1-10
Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Uí Cheallagh
Pics by Damian McKee – Picture Magic Studios
Six minutes into the second half, Portglenone and Peter Duffin scored the opening goal of the game to give the Casement’s a three point lead. Barry Dillon’s men were well set to push on and looked to be in the ascendancy. Creggan had other ideas.
An exhibition in free taking from Paddy Cooey, a tactically astute and a superbly efficient performance along with a Conor Small goal put Creggan in charge and into a lead they never looked like yielding.
It was a typically championship affair with the small crowd at Páirc Uí Cheallagh vocal from the first whistle. Match referee Colm McDonald had a busy evening. That’s probably an understatement. In a first half that didn’t feel like a ‘dirty’ 30 minutes of football, there were five yellow cards awarded but that was the appetiser for the second half. A further seven yellows, two black and three red.
It’s good to have championship football back.
McDonald needed eyes on the back of his head but he made use of his umpires and linesmen when making the big calls to get them right.
Overall, Creggan did enough to earn their three point victory. They were more accurate in their play and made better use of the ball over the hour plus ten minutes of injury time. When they got their noses in front, Creggan dominated the ball and kept the home side at bay. They were ahead by a point when they introduced Conor Small and Marty Johnston off the bench. The mere sight of that alone could have demoralised the Bannsiders.
Portglenone huffed and puffed but found little incision in a watertight Creggan defence. Duffin’s goal was their only score from open play with Creggan nullifying their attacking prowess. Paddy Kelly top scored with four points and Ronan Kelly just behind with three but Creggan forced turnovers and defended superbly. Even when they lost Ricky Johnston to a black card in the 48th minute, they held Portglenone scoreless and pushed ahead to take control.
In a cagey opening, Ronan Kelly’s third minute free was answered by a sumptuous score from Liam Quinn. Wide on the right with the outside of his boot, a score to light up any match in the country. The Cooey free taking show took centre stage as he knocked over a brace in as many minutes to open a gap for the Kickhams men. Paddy Kelly’s first free of the match was the Portglenone response before Cooey’s first from play re-established Creggan’s two point lead once again mid way through the first half.
Paddy Kelly split the uprights with another free before the water-break and the home side missed a gilt edged goal scoring opportunity after the restart. Duffin collecting a long ball and side stepping a rushing Oisin Kerr superbly but he pulled his shot to the wrong side of the post.
Paddy Kelly’s third free of the half tied the sides once more before Jamie McCann and Cooey split the uprights from frees but the Casement’s finished the first half on top. They were showing glimpses of the attacking football they’re capable off and while it was frees from Paddy and Ronan Kelly that gained the scores, it was just reward for their play as the sides went into the short whistle tied.
Half time Portglenone 0-6 Creggan 0-6
Portglenone had whatever wind was blowing at their backs for the restart and after a slow start, they bagged the opening goal of the game in the 36th minute. Ronan Kelly with a quite brilliant assist with the ball dinked over the top to find Duffin in half a yard of space. It was all he needed. An emphatic finish and the Casement’s were in the ascendancy.
Creggan remained calm however. In Cooey they have an ace free taker and three points unanswered from placed ball in the space of seven minutes restored parity by the midway point of the second half.
The game was becoming fractured with tensions rising. Creggan lost Ricky Johnston to a black card meaning they were reduced to 14 men for ten minutes but the Staffordstown men remained in control. A Cooey free in the 56th minute edged them ahead once more before Conor Small scored their only goal of the game with a quite brilliant finish and his first touch of the game. The Kickhams star was barely on the field 60 seconds but his goal proved to be the game changer.
Creggan had a four point lead and suffocated the game. They kept the ball and ran Portglenone ragged as the Casement’s pushed for the scores that might get them back into the game. Discipline began to waver with both sides however. Conal Delargy was on the field for just three minutes before being black carded while Niall McKeever and Kevin Rice saw red for an off the ball incident. McKeever’s dismissal the result of a second yellow card while the Creggan midfielder saw a straight red for his part in the altercation. In fairness it felt like that was coming all game as the pair played their part in an intriguing sub plot to this championship encounter.
Creggan were reduced to 13 men by the sixth minute of injury time when Liam Quinn received two yellow cards in the space of 60 seconds of each other but Portglenone had no time to make their numerical advantage count. Ronan Kelly’s third free of the match was all they could muster in the time that remained as Creggan held out to record a three point win.
Following Sunday’s defeat to neighbours Ahoghill, the Casements are on the backfoot in this campaign. They could already be looking at knockout football when they face Ahoghill once again while Creggan face the St Mary’s men on the Staffordstown Road on Sunday.
Portglenone: Ryan O’Neill; Johnny Convery, Shane Delargy, Ronan Delargy; Ryan Convery, Niall Delargy, Kieron McKenna; Niall McKeever, Michael Donnelly; Ronan Kelly, Ruairi Hagan, Oisin Doherty; Peter Duffin, Dermot McAleese, Paddy Kelly
Subs: Michael Hagan for P Duffin (50); Conal Delargy for P Kelly (56); Connor Magee for K McKenna (inj)
Scorers: Paddy Kelly 0-4 (4f’s); Peter Duffin 1-00; Ronan Kelly 0-3 (3 f’s)
Creggan: Oisin Kerr; Aidan Maguire, Ricky Johnston, Eunan McAteer; Sam Maguire, Thomas McCann, Jamie McCann; Kevin Rice, Kevin Small; Ruairi McCann, Liam Quinn, Fintan Burke; Tiernan McAteer, Paddy Cooey, David McGuckin
Subs: Conor McCann for T McCann (37); Marty Johnston for T McAteer (57); Conor Small for D McGuckin (57)
Blood Sub: Aidan McKeown for M Johnston (inj)
Scorers: Paddy Cooey 0-8 (7 f’s); Conor Small 1-00; Liam Quinn 0-1; Jamie McCann 0-1 (1f)
Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)