Bradley’s late equaliser gives the Johnnies hope

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship

Group 2

O’Donovan Rossa 1-10 St Johns 2-07

Paul McIntyre reports from Rossa Park.

For the second time in three weeks these two great rivals played out a thrilling draw in a game that could have gone either way. On that previous occasion at Corrigan Park it was Stephen Beatty who rescued a point for Rossa with virtually the last kick of the game. Tonight, it was the Johnnies who grabbed a draw from the jaws of defeat as Michael Bradley kicked an equalising point in the dying minutes. In the end a draw was probably a fair result, but both sides will look back and feel that they left more than a point behind.

The end result also means that St Johns will be hoping that Lamh Dhearg can record a win by nine points or more against Rossa next Wednesday evening at Hannahstown (throw-in 7pm). Anything else will see Rossa go through as group runners up and leave the Johnnies out.

Played under poor light and in damp, slippery conditions, the newly built stand at Rossa Park was a welcome addition for supporters and press alike as the rain battered down from Sean Laverty’s first whistle to the very last, but great credit must go to both sets of players for serving up an entertaining encounter.

Rossa suffered an early blow when after just four minutes Cormac McGettigan received a black card for a trip on Fitzpatrick, and four minutes later Fitzpatrick found the back of the Rossa net to give his side an early four-point lead. Bradley claimed a mark and quickly played in Fitzpatrick who saw his initial shot blocked by Rossa full-back Stephen Shannon, but ‘Fitzy’ reacted quickly to dispatch the rebound to the bottom corner.

It was all St Johns now and before McGettigan returned to the field of play St Johns had built up a seven-point lead, 1-5 to 0-1 as Fitzpatrick and Nugent ran amok. Rossa did respond through Sean Pat Donnelly and Thomas Morgan, but it got better for the visitors on 25 minutes when they claimed their second major.

After holding off the challenge of Gerard Walsh, Fitzpatrick carried the ball into the heart of the home defence before playing a one-two with Nugent and then placing the ball into the bottom left hand corner of Michael Byrne’s goal. It opened up an eight-point gap but Rossa rallied before the half time whistle and cut that gap to six thanks to points from McGettigan and Michael Armstrong.

St Johns opened the scoring at the start of the second half but Rossa kept up the good fight as Fleming and Morgan cut the arrears to just five points. On 40 minutes Rossa introduced Christopher McGuiness and Conal McDonald and this brought a new dynamic to their attack.  McDonald in particular, started to run at the visitor’s defence and as the home team took a strangle hold on possession, they slowly began to make their mark on the scoreboard.

As Donnelly began to find his range from frees, St Johns sent out a warning that they were still in this game as Conor Carson put Nugent in the clear, but the full forward dragged his shot well wide of the Rossa goal.

With just seven minutes remaining Rossa drew level when Donnelly’s free cam back off the post and into the arms of Richard Gowdy, and the half back smashed the ball high into the Johnnies net. Donnelly then thought he had kicked the winning score but alas, there was still time and Bradley gave the Johnnies fans hope when he popped up to rescue a deserved point for the men from Corrigan.

Teams:

O’Donovan Rossa: M. Byrne, C. Orchin, S. Shannon, N. Crossan, G. Walsh, M. Armstrong (0-1), R. Gowdy (1-0), S. Beatty, C. McGettigan (0-1), D. Armstrong, S.P. Donnelly (0-4f), D. Murphy, D. McEnhill (0-1), C. Fleming (0-1f), T. Morgan (0-2).

Subs: C. McGuiness for D. Armstrong (40) & C. McDonald for C. Fleming (40).

St Johns:

P. Nugent, C. Garland, A. Oliver, J. Bohill, C. Carson, L. Laverty, R. McCafferty, A. Douglas, D. Nugent (0-2), R. McNulty (0-1), P. McBride (0-2f), M. Bradley (0-2), C. Bohill, M. Fitzpatrick (2-0), C. McEvoy.

Subs: P. McCallin for C. Bohill (48), O. Donnelly for L. Laverty (53) & S. Tierney for C. McEvoy (54).

Referee: Mr Sean Laverty (Moneyglass)

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