2010 was a great season for St. Mary’s Rasharkin. The men from Dreen recorded a memorable double, clinching the division 2 league title with a 2-16 to 0-6 win over Rossa at Dreen. It was their 15th league win in 17 games that season.
Their championship campaign began with a win over St. James Aldergrove at Creggan on the 21st September in the quarter-final. The clubs previous meeting had been back in 1977 semi-final where St. James ran out winners by two points and went on to claim the Intermediate title. On this occasion Rasharkin just shaded a tight encounter to run out winners by 0-9 to 1-4 and set up a semi-final meeting with All Saints.
This was the fifth meeting of these sides that season with the Dreen men claiming four points from their two league encounters. Ballymena however gained some compensation when narrowly defeating Rasharkin at Dreen in the North Antrim Feis final following a draw after extra time at Slemish Park in June. These statistics meant very little however when it came to the passion and expectation of championship football. In a riveting semi-final at Creggan, Rasharkin, despite enjoying a four point interval lead, just held on to win by the narrowest of margins on a scoreline of 1-11 to 2-7.
Dunloy had beaten Aghagallon in the other semi-final and the teams met at Clooney with the 2010 title at stake. A desperately close encounter ensued as Rasharkin gained the upper hand to lead 0-6 to 0-3 at the break. On the resumption Dunloy, despite being reduced to 14 men, staged a spirited come-back to level the scores at 0-7 each at the final whistle.
The intermediate final replay took place at Creggan on Saturday the 16th October with the following report appearing in the Ballymena Guardian on the 19th October.
When Kevin McQuillan and Benny McGarry knocked over two injury time points to level this Intermediate Championship final replay, it seemed there was no separating Dunloy and Rasharkin.
With both sets of players playing themselves to a standstill there was no option this time but to go into extra time, adding to what had already been a dramatic affair. In a nail biting extra 20 minutes Rasharkin did just enough to capture the title, their last one at this level coming some 32 years ago. It ended 1-5 to 2-10, the winners adding three points and Dunloy just one in the second half of the added time period.
Despite the disparity in the division 2 league positions, Rasharkin winning the title and Dunloy relegated to division 3, this was a tough close encounter with neither side prepared to throw in the towel.
After the drawn affair it was soon clear that these side knew each other inside out and Dunloy, with Chris Brogan reinstated after a Red card incident in the first encounter, they were prepared to give it everything. They led twice in the first half and came back with two late points to level matters at 2-9 to 1-12. But when the crunch of extra time kicked in they were only able to add one more score as Rasharkin finished the stronger, Jonathan McAleese, Cathal Mooney and Brendan Etherson points giving St. Mary’s a unique double.
Benny McGarry fired Dunloy into an early first half lead with a point in the opening minute but Rasharkin made their intentions known immediately with a Brendan McMullan response. Another exchange between Thomas Doherty and McGarry left the game level again after ten minutes before Brendan Etherson and Kevin McQuillan were involved in a further exchange.
The winners appeared to have taken off in the following 15 minutes with four unanswered scores. Eamon McNeill led the charge from a free with Declan McKay converting another one by the 18th minute. McKay was again on the mark with a fine score from play, six minutes later with Jonathan McAleese making it 0-7 to 0-3 with five minutes remaining to the break.
Dunloy however had other ideas and when Gareth McAllister side footed the ball to the net a minute later it was clear they were in for the long haul. Declan McGarry then fired over to level matters and Stephen McAlonan put them to the front in first half injury time.
It took a fisted goal from McAleese after Joey Quinn delivered the telling pass in the 34th minute to send Rasharkin in with a smile on their face, leading 1-7 to 1-5, but they knew in their hearts that it wasn’t over.
A strong start to the second half saw Rasharkin move into a five point lead by the 5th minute when McKay, McNeill and Etherson added points but it soon became clear that Dunloy were not going to roll over. Kevin McQuillan and Declan McGarry responded immediately with good point and it took another effort from full-forward McNeill to again put Rasharkin in the comfort zone at the end of the third quarter.
The closing ten minutes belonged to Dunloy who came back with a vengeance. A penalty award, nine minutes from time saw McGarry make no mistake although goalkeeper Donal McLernon did get a touch. Eamon McNeill picked up his fourth point of the game, four minutes later and McLernon made a super save from Kevin McAllister as they just about held on.
As in the first game Dunloy came back with a vengeance and Kevin McQuillan and Benny McGarry added points to take the game to extra time at 1-12 to 2-9.
What a tense time the additional 20 minutes proved to be. Neither side was on target in the opening ten minutes but Rasharkin managed to break the deadlock when Jonathan McAleese fired over on the change of ends. Substitute Cathal Mooney then made his presence felt with another score four minutes later as Dunloy appeared dead on their feet.
They had one last throw of the dice when Declan McGarry, their hero in the first game, scored with time running out only to see Rasharkin mid-fielder, Brendan Etherson seal it with a point almost on time.
This was truly an excellent encounter and not one for the feint hearted. Both sides gave it everything and it is a pity there had to be a loser. For the winners it was celebration all the way having completed a unique double but absolute misery for a good Dunloy side who have absolutely nothing to show for all their efforts.
Donal McLernon made his customary match winning saves in the Rasharkin goals with Michael Hasson, Paul Doherty and Alan McNeill all excellent in defence. Brendan Etherson was the big man at mid-field with Joey Quinn, Jonathan McAleese and Eamon McNeill on top of their game in attack.
Dunloy put up a brave fight and certainly didn’t look like a team deserving of relegation. With performances like this they will be straight back up. In Kevin McQuillan, Declan McGarry, Conor McKinley, Gareth McAllister, Cahir Cunning, Paudie Shivers and Benny McGarry they had class acts and certainly deserved better.
St. Mary’s team: Donal McLernon, Cahir O’Kane, Adrian Scullion, Michael Hasson, Sean Hasson, Paul Doherty, Alan McNeill, Diarmuid Quinn, Brendan Etherson, Joey Quinn, Thomas Doherty (0-), Conor Hardy, Conor Hasson, Jonathan McAleese (1-2), Declan McKay (0-3), Eamon McNeill (0-4), Brendan McMullan (0-1) Subs: Conor Gribben, Cathal Mooney (0-1),
Ulster Club Campaign
The Ulster club campaign began at Casement Park on the 31st October with Derry champions, Castledawson in opposition. In their best performance of the year the Dreen side just shaded a tense encounter 1-10 to 0-11. The Derry champions led 0-06 to 0-05 after an evenly balanced first half. On the resumption, two long range efforts from Johnny McAleese and one from Paul Doherty restored St. Mary’s advantage. The Derry champions came back once more and levelled an absorbing game for the fifth time mid-way through the second half. The game’s vital scored arrived in the 16th minute when Brendan Etherson was on hand to finish to the net following a goalmouth scramble. Both sides missed scoring opportunities in a frantic last ten minutes but, with St. Mary’s holding a one point advantage, the outcome was put beyond doubt when Declan McKay hand passed the ball over the head of Michael O’Kane to put two between the sides in the third minute of injury time.
The Ulster Club campaign ended in disappointment at a fog-bound Healey Park in Omagh on the 14th November when Lisnaskea Emmets (The eventual All Ireland champions) finished strongly to run out winners on a scoreline of 2-12 to 0-9.
The Senior management team for 2010 was: Paddy McNeill, Thomas Donaghy and Paul Hasson.