Na Piarsaigh advance to semi-final

GYMCO JFC Group 1

Laochra Loch Lao  0-03 Na Piarsaigh 0-13

Na Piarasigh travelled to the west of the city last night in search of 2 points to secure their place in the GYMCO County Antrim junior football championship semi-final. Following last week’s narrow defeat to St Agnes this round robin game was a proper championship game with both teams having to win to qualify.

The Pearses management made 2 changes from the previous week with Aidan Bannon back at centre half forward and Stephen Fitzsimon returning to the half forward line in what was a truly miserable night for players and spectators alike as Storm Ellen started to blow in across Ireland. Laochra started the brighter in the gloomy conditions attacking right from the throw in and had registered their first wide of the game before a Pearses player had touched the ball. Both teams were cagey to begin with trying to work out the handling in the wet but Pearses started to grow into the game working the ball well in the hands before a fast attack was finished off by Sean Moreland for the opening score of the game. this was quickly followed by 2 scores from frees by Liam Deegan as Pearses kept up their possession game which at times this year has looked like the Gaelic football version of total football. Laochra then scored their first of the game after 2 more wides before Oisin Grew struck a fine score coming off the left wing.

After the first water break Laochra’s changed their tactics and each time Pearses had the ball they dropped 13 men behind the ball content to let the North Belfast men have the ball further up field, nullifying the threat of full forward Daniel Magee.  Unfortunately for the West Belfast men Pearses quickly worked out that if they couldn’t go through or round them they would just shoot over them, Piaras Donaghy scored 2 excellent long range efforts and Sean Moreland added another to leave the score at the break Lochra Loch Lao 0-03 Na Piarasigh 0-07

The 2nd half started much the same as the previous half ended with conditions continuing to be extremely difficult and the home side continuing to sit in to try and frustrate Pearses. The away team kept their heads and composure though and as frustrations started to show from the home team their yellow card count continued to rise at the same rate as the Pearses score. Daniel Magee added one and Liam Deegan added 2 more frees appearing to have found his scoring boots after the St Agnes match the previous week. Laochra then added their only score of the half before being reduced to 14 men when one of their midfielders managed to talk his way off the pitch.

Coming out after the 2nd water break Pearses made their only change as Phil Murray came on for Oisin Grew who had run and run all night. Sean Moreland added another fine point and Stephen Fitzsimons finally got himself on the score sheet with a drilled effort from the right. At this point Laochra started to go for goals and Eamon McKenna who had had little to do all night cleared one off his line and then showed great agility for a big man to get down to his post to push the ball round the corner. Another good looking attack was snuffed out by Aodhan McCavana with some tenacious tackling back.

The scoring ended for the night with an excellent long range point by captain Piaras Donaghy. Overall there were some excellent performances. The back lines looked composed throughout and Tom Macfarlane won nearly every ball in the middle of the park. The forwards worked hard all night against a 13 man defence with Stephen Fitzsimon shining on his return to the team with 5 assists. Focus now turns to the semi finals and 2 weeks of continued hard work for the full squad in preparation for what is sure to be a tough championship semi-final whoever they play.

Special mention on nights like tonight has to go to Michael O’Neill former player, manager, coach, secretary, PRO, chairman and everything else in the club who remains in hospital. There was a great show from all the lads turning up on the Falls Road outside his window on the way to the game to cheer him on. Mick remains the lad’s biggest supporter and our biggest inspiration.

Na Piarsaigh: Eamon McKenna, Darren O’Neill, Frankie Davison, Aodhan McCavana, Aodhan Bannon, Paddy Nolan, Luca Gianetto, Tom McFarlane, Cormac O’Neill, Piaras Donaghy (0-3) Oisin Grew (0-01) Stephen Fitzsimon (0-01) Sean Moreland (0-03) Daniel Magee (0-01) Liam Deegan (0-04 f) subs: Phil Murray for Oisin Grew; Michael Bannon, Aaron Callaghan, Phil Parker, Tiernan Johnston, Andrew Goodall, Fionn Grew, Frank McCallan, Tomas O’Neill, Conor Davison.

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