Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship
Naomh Eánna 1-9 St Galls 1-12
Paul McIntyre reports from Páric Eánna
St Galls rolled back the years to deliver a masterclass in championship football as they left Hightown with a three-point win and also finish in top spot in group 4 of this year’s Antrim senior football championship. Three weeks ago, Naomh Eánna rode into Milltown to claim a famous two-point win and all eyes were on the Falls Road outfit tonight for a response, and what a response they gave as the old guard reassembled to grind out a win in a pulsating encounter.
While manager Paddy Murray had to come to terms with the loss of goalkeeper Chis Kerr after the devastating news that he injured the same ACL as last year, the blow was somewhat softened by the return of Sean Kelly and former captain Colin Brady. While Brady started on the bench, Kelly was as ever at the forefront of organising the visitors defence, both vocally and positionally. Last year’s player-manager showing that he is still more than capable of performing at the top level of club football. Throw in the likes of Aodhan Gallagher, Sean Burke, Terry O’Neill, Kevin Niblock, Michael Pollack and CJ McGourty and you have a team dripping with big time championship football.
Naomh Eánna greatly missed the presence of Michael Morgan at midfield, not just for his ball winning ability, but also for the physicality, and in his absence, Burke and Gallagher ruled the roost. As ever Niblock and McGourty were the focal point of the attack but credit must also go to O’Neill and Brendan Bradley. All four had their spells in the inside forward line as well as tracking back to help out defensively.
While it may have taken 9 minutes for the first score to arrive, the pace of the opening quarter was relentless. Both stepped up the intensity another gear from three weeks ago as they looked to deliver quick ball into their respective two-man full forward lines. Kevin Niblock was making his presence felt in the St Galls full forward line and he was loving the direct approach his side were deploying. After claiming a point in the 12th minute to tie the scores at 0-2 each, Niblock turned provider for McGourty to coolly finish past Declan Breen for the opening goal on 13 minutes.
It was all St Galls now as Niblock, McGourty and the impressive Bradley all helped the visitors to a five-point lead, but St Enda’s were up for the fight and Donal Walsh and Odhran Eastwood cut the arrears to just four at the break as St Galls lead 1-7 to 0-6.
Two frees from McGourty and one from Bradley kept St Galls well in control with a seven-point lead before the second half water break brought about one of the most bizarre goals that will be scored in any championship this year.
As Naomh Eánna lined out for the restart St Galls were just coming out of their huddle when referee Sean Laverty signalled for play to recommence. What followed was Naomh Eánna moving the ball forward as quick as possible while the St Galls defence sprinted back to the field, but it was all in vain as Eastwood finished into an unguarded goal. Much to the amazement of the St Galls side the goal stood and a minute later Eastwood pointed and the gap was cut to three points.
But any idea of another comeback was quickly put to bed when McGourty brought his tally for the evening to 1-5 as the scores dried up in the closing stages as the rain lashed down and St Galls saw the game out to record a deserving three-point win.
Teams & Scorers:
Naomh Eánna: D. Breen, K. Jennings, P. Hamilton, C. McAuley, R. Kennedy, J. McAuley, C. Thompson, D. Walsh (0-2), N. McKeown, K. Healy, O. Eastwood (1-4 3f), P. Healy, R. Scott (0-2 1 ‘45’), E. Gibson, E. Nagle.
Subs: J. Maskey for R. Kennedy 43 mins, F. Nagle (0-1f) for E. Nagle 50 mins, S. McBride for C. Thompson 59 mins.
St Galls: L. McCormick, C. Murray, S. Kelly, S. O’Hagan, J. McCaffrey, C. Stinton, E. McCabe, A. Gallagher, S. Burke, T. Bunting, K. Niblock (0-3 2 marks), M. Pollock, CJ McGourty (1-5 2f), T. O’Neill (0-1), B. Bradley (0-3 2f).
Subs: C. Brady for S. O’Hagan 37 mins, M. Kelly for S. Kelly 57 mins, N. Burns for S. Burke & C. Doherty for M. Pollock both 58 mins.
Referee: Mr Sean Laverty (Moneyglass).