Ardoyne were Junior Champions in 2012

DOWN MEMORY LANEJFC Final 2012

Ardoyne held off a second half comeback by Glenravel to win the Junior Football Champions in 2012. The Kickhams did the damage in the first half and despite only scoring a single point in the second half, it proved to be the winner as they got home with just one to spare.

Ardoyne Kickhams 2-4 Con Magee’s Glenravel 0-9

Ardoyne Kickhams were crowned 2012 Junior Football champions after beating Con Magee’s Glenravel in a closely contested final at Casement Park. Both sides dropped from Intermediate into the Junior grade this year but it will be the North Belfast side who will make an immediate return to Intermediate following this one point win.

In a dour encounter it was first half goals from Aidan McNeill and Paul Baker that proved the decisive scores in the end and despite the Glensmen’s best efforts they were unable to the reel in the opposition at the final whistle. Con Magee’s certainly had opportunities but were wasteful in their finishing over the hour. The South West side kicked 12 wides and dropped a number of shots short into the arms of grateful Ardoyne keeper Tiernan Hughes.

For Ardoyne it was a case of taking their scores when the opportunities presented themselves and after a good first half they could manage only one point in the second half but it was a vital one and Cormac Mullan’s free proved the difference between the sides in the end.

Ardoyne’s Aiden McNeill (10) fires in his team’s opening goal in their 2-4 to 0-9 win over Glenravel in the Junior Football Championship final at Casement Park.

Aidan McNeill top scored for the winners and his 1-1 and his goal really ignited their challenge after a slow start to the game despite playing with the wind at their backs in the opening period. Glenravel came into this game as favourites and they hit the ground running in the early stages as they dominated around the middle third with solid displays from mid-fielder’s Conor Reid and Aidan McCafferty.

The Glensmen opened the scoring after two minutes when Martin Mulholland pumped a long ball which was gathered by Aaron Smylie but he was dispossessed and the ball broke free to Mulholland who had continued his run and the wing back sent over a fine point.

Glenravel were winning all the early breaks, playing some fine direct football but they shot four wides in the opening period to the frustration of all in green and white.

Glenravel centre-back Ally McKeown in action during the Junior Football Championship final at Casement Park.

Ardoyne looke jittery with their players slow to settle and were having difficulty in launching attacks but they finally settled into the game and eight minutes in they were level. Jim McAuley sent a lineball over to the opposite side of the field where Glenravel corner-back Mark O’Connor misjudged the bounce and Cormac Mullan took full advantage, creating an angle before firing over.

This score seemed to spark Ardoyne into life with their players looking much more assured all over the field and two minutes later they hit the front. Aidan McNeill collected a long pass and dashed forward before thumping the ball over the bar to give his side a lead they would hold until the final whistle.

Ardoyne’s Brendan Mailey then had a sight of goals from the next passage of play but his shot was snuffed out although they turned over the ball from the Glenravel defence, won a free and Cormac Mullan converted to open up a 0-3 to 0-1 lead by the end of the opening quarter.

However Ardoyne were now looking the much better side and on 16 minutes the struck with the games opening goal that really put daylight between the sides for the first time. Full-forward Michael Hawkins got out in front to collect a long delivery and he cleverly toe poked a clever ball into the path of McNeill to the left of goal who, soccer style, switched the ball to his left foot before first timing it to the net.

Ardoyne’s Jim McAuley wins the ball as Glenravel’s Ally McKeown closes in during the 2012 Junior Football Championship final at Casement Park.

Glenravel looked shell shocked but they were masters of their own downfall with poor shooting although Conor McNeill’s pointed free in the 18th minute kept them in touch. Declan Trainor then entered the fray for the Con Magee’s after Josh McKeown was forced to retire with a leg injury but his inroduction initially did little to keep Ardoyne at bay as the Kickham’s struck with a second goal on 24 minutes.

McNeill this time turned provider as he sent a high ball into the danger area and it was only clear as far as Paul Baker who gathered before expertly picking his spot in the top left hand corner of the net. This opened up a seven point lead but Glenravel finally came to life and Joseph Scullion gathered possession from a lose ball and fired over a fantastic point to leave those two Ardoyne goals dividing the sides.

They almost cut the deficit by half in their next attack when Declan Trainor picked out Aidan McCafferty in the clear, close to goal but as the mid-fielder cut in on goal and beat Tiernan Hughes with his shot, the ball was stopped on the line by Gerard Frame who cleared the danger.

A McNeill free, two minutes into added time gave Glenravel hope going into the break with Ardoyne leading 2-3 to 0-4 at the halfway stage. The second half started as the first half did with Glenravel much faster out of the starting blocks and they had another glorious chance for a goal just seconds in.

Trainor played in Conor McNeill who looked odds on to finish to the net but under pressure he scuffed his shot wide. The corner forward did make amends with a free to cut the gap to four, two minutes later and then it was down to three thanks to another McNeill conversion in the 37th minute.

With their tails up and Ardoyne unable to make any headway in attack it seemed as though Glenravel would move on and win this game but it wasn’t to be as they were unable to put scores on the board. They enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory but this counted for little when it came to putting the ball over the bar.

With 23 minutes of the second half gone there was the real prospect that Ardoyne could win the game despite not scoring in the second half but they finally broke their duck when Mullan sent over a free. This was to be their only score of the half as Glenravel finally kicked into gear and made a push at rescuing the game.

Glenravel’s Martin Mulholland wins possession during Saturday’s Junior Football Championship final at Casement Park

Aaron Smylie played a quick free into Ciaran McKeown who fired over a great point to leave a goal between the sides once more but with five minutes plus a considerable added time remaining, they had plenty of time to turn the game around. Substitute David Birt passed to McNeill who hit a great score to leave just two in it and then on 59 minutes Conor Reid floated over from 45 meters off the ground to cut the gap to the minimum.

However, try as they might, the equaliser just would not come as a determined Ardoyne defence kept them at bay. The North Belfast side put their bodies on the line and kept Glenravel outside the scoring zone and five minutes of added time later, the whistle sounded to confirm Ardoyne Kickham’s as Junior champions for 2012.

Ardoyne: T hughes, G Frame, D Toal, C McDowell, C Magee, B Mailey, G McKernan, A McNeill (1-1), J McAuley, P Lynch, P Baker (1-0), M Hawkins, C Mullan (0-3, 2 frees),

Subs: M Magill for P Baker, SR McKee for D Toal, M Maguire for C Magee, K McLaughlin for M Hawkins.

The Glenravel team who were beaten by Ardoyne in the Junior Football final at Casement Park.

Glenravel: N Black, D O’Hagan, G O’Mullan M O’Connor, M Mulholland, A McKeown, J Scullion (0-1), C Reid, A McCafferty, J McKeown, F Higgins, D Higgins, C McNeill (0-5 4 frees), C McKeown (0-1) A Smiley.

Subs D Trainor for J McKeown, D Birt for F Higgins

Referee: John McAtamney

Ardoyne captain Brendan Mailey lifts the Junior Championship cup after his team’s 2-4 to 0-9 win over Glenravel in the 2012 final at Casement Park.

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