Ardoyne bridge eight-year gap to lift junior crown

Gymco Antrim Junior Football Championship Final

Ardoyne 3-06-0-12 St Comgall’s

Kevin Herron reports from Hightown

Ardoyne regained the initiative late-on and survived the dismissal of Conor McLaughlin early in the second-half as they ran out 3-06-0-12 winners over St Comgall’s to claim the Gymco Antrim Junior Football Championship at Hightown on Saturday afternoon.

The North Belfast side were hard to stop early on and hit St Comgall’s with three goals inside the first quarter of the game thanks to Cormac Mullan, Conor McLaughlin and Aidan McNeill.

But early in the second-half McLaughlin was shown a straight red-card and St Comgall’s made the most of their numerical advantage and overturned a nine-point deficit to level the scores at 3-02-0-11.

The Antrim outfit couldn’t get their noses in front however and were forced to chase the game after Mullan ended a 40-minute scoreless period for Ardoyne who ran out 3-point winners at the conclusion to lift the junior title for the first time in eight years.

Cormac Mullan (10) turns away after getting his team off to the perfect start with a goal in the opening minute.

Ardoyne laid down a marker early on and made the perfect start to proceedings, hitting the net inside of the first 30-seconds at Hightown.

Joe McNeill played an early ball into Conor McLaughlin who slipped in Cormac Mullan and Mullan rounded Ben Johnston and slotted into the empty net.

St Comgall’s got off the mark through a converted Miles Devine free but their defence was carved open for the second time on 6  minutes with a similar outcome.

Conor McLaughlin played a one-two with Declan McCormick and applied a palmed finish to the net to ensure the North Belfast outfit were firmly in the driving seat.

Miles Devine was again on hand to respond through the placed ball- although Ardoyne struck their third goal with little over 10 minutes on the clock.

For the third time Conor McLaughlin was involved as his cross-field pass was inch perfect and gathered by Aidan McNeill who picked his spot and gave his side a 3-00-0-02 lead.

St Comgall’s James McCabe in action against Ardoyne’s Sean Joe Rooney as the men from Antrim town battle their way back into the game.

St Comgall’s were facing an uphill task and that task was made a little harder as referee Sean Laverty gave Patrick O’Connor a black-card for a cynical foul off the ball.

Ardoyne made the most of their numerical advantage and extended their lead through a converted Cormac Mullan free and a Aidan McNeill point to ensure that three-goals separated the sides at the first-half water break.

St Comgall’s came out with renewed  vigour in the remaining minutes of the first-half and tagged on three successive scores.

Joseph Webb guided the ball over the bar after back to back wides from his side, Miles Devine added his third point of the half and first from play with a curling effort and a second point from Webb ensured that the Antrim outfit trailed 3-02-0-05 at the interval.

Ardoyne almost made an identical start to the second period as Declan McCormick claimed an advanced mark- but his low shot was smothered by Ben Johnston in the St Comgall’s goal.

Two minutes later Ardoyne were reduced to 14-men as Conor McLaughlin was adjudged to have kicked-out off the ball at Ruairi Griffin and although his side were in the box-seat they were without a score since the 19th minute and were now a man light.

St Comgall’s were the side in the ascendancy and began to make the most of their numerical advantage.

Dylan Murdock swept the ball between the posts, followed by a third point from Joseph Webb.

A sixth score on the trot followed courtesy of Peter McAuley after a knock-down from Darryl McNeill and just three-points separated the sides.

A short free from Miles Devine was thundered over the bar by Dylan Murdock and back to back points from Devine levelled proceedings at 3-02-0-11 as St Comgall’s looked the likeliest victors.

Ardoyne manager Ross Carr looks on anxiously as St Comgalls eat into the Kickham’s lead.

Ardoyne were still without a score since the 19th minute and ended their scoreless run of little less than 40 minutes with Cormac Mullan converting his second free of the afternoon.

Scores were like buses for the North Belfast outfit, they waited so long on one and second arrived in quick succession as Ben Johnston’s kick-out was gobbled up and midfielder Kevin McLaughlin profited with a point.

Miles Devine converted his third free of the afternoon to half the deficit going into additional time.

But Ardoyne restored their two-point advantage thanks to an angled Joe McNeill point with Mullan sealing victory – courtesy of a converted free to ensure his side ran out 3-06-0-12 winners to claim the Junior football crown for the first time since 2012.

Things were up in the air for Ardoyne for a while in the second half but the man who hit the first and the last scores of the game Cormac Mullan had things in hand.

Ardoyne: P Fisher, N Bradley, G og McFarlane, SJ Rooney, K Lynch, P Lynch, C Carter, J McNeill (0-01), K McLaughlin (0-01), C Mullan (1-03, 0-02f), G McKernan, D McCormick, A McNeill (1-01), C McDowell, C McLaughlin (1-00). Subs: K McCallan for P Lynch (41), J Gibson for SJ Rooney (48), F Campbell for C Carter (50), F Marley for G McKernan (60).

St Comgall’s: B Johnston, C McAuley, R Griffin, P Cooke, M Devine (0-06, 0-03f), R McAuley, P O’Connor, C McKeown, L Higgins, D Murdock (0-02), J Webb (0-03), J McCabe, P McAuley (0-01), T Patchett, K Walker. Subs: D McNeill for L Higgins (HT), P Quinn jnr for R McAuley (45).

Referee: Sean Laverty (St Ergnat’s, Moneyglass)

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