Northern Switchgear SFC Group 1
Casement’s Portglenone 4-13 St. Mary’s Ahoghill 3-7
Casement’s Portglenone produced a second half performance of power and precision to sweep aside the challenge of neighbours, St. Mary’s Ahoghill in this Group 1 Senior Football Championship clash at Kelly Park tonight.
Despite having Conall Delargy dismissed for a second yellow in the 42 minute and Ryan Convery for a straight red late in the game they had too much pace and determination for a St. Mary’s side who started without Patrick Graham and Fionnbar O’Neill and lost Diarmaid Graham and PJ O’Connell to injury during the opening half.
In the corresponding fixture ten days ago in Cloney it was St. Mary’s who dictated matters to run out winners by three points and after 18 minutes in tonight’s game they must have felt like they could repeat that performance.
By that stage the visitors led 3-3 to 2-4 but Portglenone finished the half strongly and a fisted goal from Oisin Doherty saw them lead 3-7 to 3-4 at the break by which time both Diarmaid Graham and PJ O’Connell had limped out of the contest.
A Kieron McKenna point in the opening minute and a goal from Niall Delargy with four minutes gone got Casement’s off to a great start but a sublime chip by Owen Neeson over the head of advancing keeper Ryan O’Neill got the visitors going.
Ronan Kelly increased the Ports lead to two but another sweeping move from deep in defence saw Eamon Brady finish to the net in the 10th minute and the visitors were one ahead and looking good.
Donal Graham added a point and further points from PJ and James O’Connell saw the Cloney side move four clear and at this stage the home defence were looking vulnerable to the fast high ball into the danger area.
The home side responded however and a quickly taken free found Oisin Doherty in the clear and the youngster raced clear on goal and placed his shot low past the advancing Francis Neeson and into the net via an upright to close the gap to one at the first water break.
Niall McKeever levelled matters on the restart but another teasing delivery from Martin Graham troubled the Casement’s defence with Donal Graham rising highest to fist to the net and the Cloney side were three ahead.
The visitors then suffered a blow when full-back Diarmaid Graham was forced to retire with an injury to be replaced by youngster, Patrick Dougan and a flurry of points from Kieron McKenna, Dermot McAleese, Ronan Kelly and Niall McKeever saw Portglenone take the initiative.
Donal Graham levelled the contest at 2-7 to 3-4 in the 29th minute but the home side were gaining in confidence and they struck a decisive blow just as half time approached and Oisin Doherty rose to fist an inviting cross to the net to leave his side three in front at the break.
The visitors replaced the injured PJ O’Connell with Michael O’Connell at the start of the second half but when Donal Graham pointed a fourth minute free to close the gap to two there was little sign of what was to follow.
Slowly the home side began to take control and their pace and movement began to expose gaps in the visitors defence with Kieron McKenna, Ronan Kelly, Oisin Doherty and Kelly again adding points to move them six clear with only ten minutes of the half gone.
Michael O’Connell, who had replaced his namesake, PJ at half time was then forced off injured with another Minor, Colla McDonnell coming on to make his senior debut for the Cloney side before Conall Delargy got his marching orders for Portglenone following two yellow cards.
Despite being down to 14 men it was Portglenone who looked like they had the extra man on the field and they were winning the majority of the Ahoghill kick-outs at midfield but a Neil O’Connell pointed free in the 15th minute gave the visitors some hope.
‘Boris’ repeated the act with five minutes remaining to cut the deficit to four but it would prove to be their last score as a previously wasteful Casement’s began to turn the screw and Caolan Tierney and Oisin Doherty replied with points before Dermot McAleese raced through for an injury time goal and that was that.
In a tough and sometimes tempestuous game of championship football Portglenone produced snippets of the form that took them to the semi-final last year and their management will hope that this is a turning point in a season where they appear to have suffered a hangover from last year’s championship run.
This win puts them right back into the qualification race but they face a difficult away game to Kickham’s Creggan while the Ahoghill management will be hoping to get some of their walking wounded back in harness for their final game at home to the same opposition.
Casements: Ryan O’Neill, Ronan Delargy, Shane Delargy, Ruairi Hagan, Ryan Convery, Niall Delargy, Caolan Tierney, Niall McKeever, Michael Donnelly, Conall Delargy, Kieron McKenna, Oisin Doherty, Ronan Kelly, Dermot McAleese, Patrick Kelly. Subs: Gerard McAleese for Kieron McKenna, Peter Duffin for Paddy Kelly, Michael Hagan for Ronan Kelly.
Ahoghill: Francis Neeson, Eamon Brady, Diarmaid Graham, James Magee, Dan O’Neill, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham, Thomas McGlone, Neil O’Connell, James O’Connell, Eoin Graham, PJ O’Connell, Martin Graham, Donal Graham, Owen Neeson. Subs: Patrick Logan for Diarmaid Graham, Michael O’Connell for PJ O’Connell, Colla McDonnell for Michael O’Connell
Referee: Karl Doherty (Portglenone)