Slick St Gall’s were always in control

Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC

Gort na Mona 1-07 St Galls 1-17

It’s hard to believe that it is six years since the mighty Galls last got their hands on the biggest prize in Antrim football, but Paddy Murray will be hoping that his new look team can add title number 20 to the trophy cabinet at Miltown Row after they started off their 2020 campaign with a convincing 10 point win over Gort na Mona, a win that puts them top of Group 4 in this year’s championship.  Murray welcomed back Chris Kerr in what was a largely inexperienced back division. Ryan Irvine impressed at full back while Jackson McGreevy looked more than comfortable at centre-half back. Eoghan McCabe put in an industrious shift from half forward while young Niall Burns caught the eye up front. Sean Kelly got a hand in the middle third by the roving Mark Kelly while Kevin Niblock and CJ McGourty showed that they still haven’t lost any of their class.

 It’s been a tough few day’s for Gort na Mona. Fresh from a three-point defeat to St Enda’s only last Sunday, the last thing they needed to face so soon was the blue machine from the Falls. The home side showed three changes from Sunday’s reverse at Hightown, but again were over reliant on Padraig McHugh for their scores. Despite the gallant efforts of Conor Browning and Aidan McDonagh, the Gorts struggled to win their own ball around the middle and Thomas McCaffrey was left with little option to go for the short kick out, meaning they had to build from the back which was very difficult against the intense press of St Galls.

The Milltown men wasted no time in getting off the mark. In the first minute CJ McGourty claimed a mark from a long pass from Kevin Niblock. The mark became a free after a Gort na Mona player failed to retreat quick enough giving McGourty an easy chance to open his account. After scoring his second point McGourty then turned provider for debutant Niall Burns who when faced one on one with McCaffrey finished with all the composure of an experienced attacker. Gort na Mona claimed their first score on 10 minutes after a quickly taken free by Dessie McClean found Aidan McDonagh in acres of space to kick over a fine point. That was as good as it got for the Gorts as St Gall’s upped the ante as they rattled off the next eight scores in a ruthless display of championship football. Not only were long balls from Niblock to his two inside forwards Burns and McGourty causing damage, but so too were runs from McCabe, Stinton and Burke. McGourty contribuated 0-5 in an impressive first half showing as well as two assists for Burns, and he almost claimed a second goal for the visitors 29th minute but he saw his shot cannon off the crossbar. McHugh kicked Gort na Mona’s second point as the half time whistle approached, but there was still enough time left for McGourty to add his fifth point of the half to help his team to a 1-11 to 0- 02 lead at the interval.

The second half was a somewhat tame affair and with the visitors well in control both sides ran their benches to give as many players as possible some valuable game time. Here St Galls showed their strength in depth as they were able to call upon the services of Michael Pollock and Terry O’Neill. As was the case on Sunday, Gort na Mona refused to throw in the towel and on 59 minutes McHugh was held back in the square, and for the second time this week, the big full forward dispatched the penalty with great aplomb. It capped off a late 1-3 from the hosts to give the scoreboard a slightly better look in a game where the winners were always in control.

Gort na Mona: Thomas McCaffrey, Brendan Burns, Thomas McGoran, Chris Browning, Ciaran Donnelly, Mark Rea, David McErlean, Conor Browning, Caoimin Magee, Michael Savage, Aidan McDonagh (0-2), Desmond McClean, Darren Boyd (0-1 1f), Padraig McHugh (1-3 1-0 Pen, 2f) Patrick McCaffrey.

Subs: Niall Melaney (0-1) for Brendan Burns & Padraic Mulvenna for Caoimin Magee both HT, Tiaran Keenan for Chris Browning 45 minutes, Gary Doyle for Ciaran Donnelly 55 minutes & Tiarnan Morton for Desmond McClean 59 minutes.

St Galls: Chris Kerr, Conaill Murray, Ryan Irvine, Shane O’Hagan, Marcus Donnelly, Jackson McGreevy, John McCaffrey (0-1), Sean Burke (0-1), Thomas Bunting, Eoghan McCabe (0-1), Kevin Niblock (0-1), Conor Stinton, CJ McCourty (0-8 7f), Niall Burns (1-3 1f), Mark Kelly. Subs: Terry O’Neill (0-1) for Kevin Niblock HT, Michael Pollock (0-1) for Conor Stinton 37 minutes, Marc McKenna for Sean Burke 45 minutes & Eoghan McCurdy for Marcus Donnelly, both 45 minutes, Brendan Bradley for Niall Burns 59 minutes.

Referee: Conall Roberts.

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