Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-final
St Johns 1-16-0-15 St Galls
From Kevin Herron at the Bear Pit
A 53rd minute goal from substitute Conor Johnston proved to be the difference as St Johns held off the challenge of St Galls to book their place in the last four of the Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship with a 1-16-0-15 win at the Bear Pit on Saturday afternoon.
The west-Belfast affair was full of excitement and bite with tempers fraying on a couple of occasions- notably when St Galls Sean Burke caught Ciaran Johnston with a high challenge and referee Kevin Parke produced a red-card.
It was in the aftermath of that incident that the younger Johnston sibling popped up with the game’s only goal to set-up a clash with Loughgiel in the semi-final next weekend.
The Johnnies entered the game as favourites against a St Galls side that were without influential stalwarts Karl Stewart, Conor Burke and Tomas O’Ciarnan. Meanwhile Conor Johnston was only deemed fit enough to start on the bench for St Johns.
St Galls landed the opening two scores of the game- both converted frees from CJ McGourty.
Domhnall Nugent hit back with a converted free from range and the sides were level when Shea Shannon picked out the run of Conall Morgan who fired the ball between the posts.
A third CJ McGourty free restored St Galls advantage but Conall Bohill was on-hand to steer over a leveller almost instantly.
Just after the first water-break St Johns hit the front for the first time through Domhnall Nugent (free) with CJ McGourty replying for St Galls.
St Johns then opened up a three-point gap with Shea Shannon converting a close-range free and landing a 65’ in the aftermath- before Padraig Nugent slipped the ball to Andrew Magowan for a smart score.
For the fifth time in the half CJ McGourty successfully nailed a place ball but St Johns increased their lead with Shea Shannon adding a further two-points, one a free and the other a fantastic effort from play. Ciaran Johnston then gave his side a 0-10-0-05 lead midway through added time.
But St Galls closed the deficit through an impressive angled point from Mark Napier and a sixth McGourty free to leave three-points between the sides at the interval (0-10-0-07).
The sides traded early second-half scores through CJ McGourty and Shea Shannon. St Galls were heavily reliant on talisman McGourty with two further successes to ensure the bare minimum separated the sides.
On the 40th minute Sean Burke appeared to slide in and catch Ciaran Johnston accidently- but tempers frayed and Kevin Parke had a decision to make. After taking a while to consider his options the Hightown official opted to show Burke a red-card and St Johns had a numerical advantage for the remainder of the game.
St Galls pulled themselves level though on the 45th minute with CJ McGourty landing his 10th free of the contest.
Although St Johns replied immediately through Padraig Nugent – their lead was chalked out instantly through a terrific Jackson McGreevy point which had the sides level at 0-12 apiece.
Half-time substitute Aaron Bradley landed a monster score to edge St Johns back in front- but St Galls had an instant response with Aodhan Gallagher linking with Aidan Irvine for the leveller.
A water-break in the aftermath was just enough time for the crowd to catch their breath and St Johns emerged the hungrier side in the aftermath and landed a knock-out blow.
Conall Bohill led a charge forward and popped a high diagonal pass onto Conor Johnston who passed the ball to the net to give his side a 1-13-0-13 lead.
The Whiterock men were in the box-seat and landed two further points on the spin through Domhnall Nugent and Simon McCrory
St Galls were thrown a lifeline on the hour-mark when Conall Morgan fouled Kieran McGourty and Kevin Parke signalled for a penalty.
Jackson McGreevy seized responsibility but Johnnies keeper Declan Creggan emerged victorious in the battle of wits and saved the penalty.
The Johnnies then landed their final score of the afternoon through goal-scorer Johnston. St Galls were in need of goals but late points from CJ McGourty and brother Kieran were in vein as the Johnnies held out to secure their semi-final place next Sunday afternoon.
St Johns: D Creggan, S Wilson, D Nugent (0-03, 0-02f), C Carson, C Morgan (0-01) , S McCrory (0-01), C Bohill (0-01), J Peoples, A McMahon, O Donnelly, C Johnston, P Nugent (0-01), S Shannon (0-05, 0-03f, 0-01 65’), A Magowan (0-01), M Bradley. Subs: A Bradley (0-01) for O Donnelly (HT), R McNulty for J Peoples (HT), C Johnston (1-01) for C Johnston (46), D McKernan for S Shannon (60+4), D McKeogh for C Johnston (60+11).
St Galls: K McGreevy, C McCaffery, J McDaniel, S Morrison, N O’Neill, A Gallagher, A Irvine (0-01), J Hopkins, J McGreevy (0-01), CJ McGourty (0-11, 0-10f), S Burke, K McGourty (0-01), S McAreavey, A McCaffery, M Napier (0-01). Subs: M Donnelly for A McCaffery (43), L McCluskey for A Irvine (58), A McCaffery for S McAreavey (60+1).
Referee: Kevin Parke (St Endas)