ACFL Division One
Rossa 0-15-0-14 St Johns
Kevin Herron reports from Pairc Rossa
Colm Fleming converted a late free that undone a superb St Johns fightback on the Shaws Road as Rossa ran out 0-15-0-14 winners over their Belfast rivals.
Trailing 0-10-0-03 at the break not too many would have banked on the Corrigan men, but they rallied and took the lead late-on for only the hosts to dig in and dig out an opening day win.
Rossa made the brighter start on a sunny Belfast afternoon, Colm Fleming steered over his sides opener and Michael Armstrong then turned and directed the ball between the large posts.
St Johns hit back through a sensational point from new recruit – Darren Bellew- who joined from Lámh Dhearg in the close season, he shimmied the ball and fired over with the outside of the boot.
Michael Armstrong restored his sides two-point advantage with a fine turn and point and Colm Fleming then picked out the run of Stephen Beatty who slotted the ball over.
The hosts were playing some sensational football in the opening quarter, they increased their lead through a Colm Fleming free after Armstrong was grounded and Fleming then saw a shot bounce in front of Padraig Nugent and over the bar to give his side a 0-06-0-01 lead.
Fleming would conjure up a third successive score and fresh from turning 29 on Saturday- Thomas Morgan executed a fine score.
St Johns were without a score since the fifth minute and on the back foot until Bellew provided his second point of the half and after being introduced for the injured Sean Wilson- Paddy McBride got his angles right and pointed.
Just before the break Stephen Beatty added two further scores to his tally, the second of which came after Paddy McBride had fed Conal Quinn at the other end for a goal chance, but Conal McDonald stood tall in the Rossa goal and at the break the hosts were in control with a 0-10-0-03 lead.
Rossa increased their lead after break as Michael Armstrong fisted over – but St Johns would slowly and surely claw their way back into contention.
Back-to-back frees were converted from Ryan McNulty and Paddy McBride, before Luke Pedan offloaded into the path of McNulty who guided the ball over the bar.
Rossa responded through Morgan with an accurately angled effort that drifted inside the posts.
But St Johns were in the grove as Bellew added two further points to bring his tally 0-04 for the afternoon and Conal Quinn then split the posts after a quick passing move through the hands as three-points separated the sides approaching the final quarter.
After the second water break in proceedings Luke Pedan squeezed the ball over the bar with Bellew claiming his fifth soon after.
The Corrigan Park side then drew level on the Shaws Road, goalkeeper Padraig Nugent made his way up field and his layoff to Paddy McBride was steered over the bar to level at 0-12 apiece.
Rossa had wilted and a poor kick from goalkeeper McDonald presented St Johns with a chance to hit the front for the first time and it was dually taken through Conal Quinn.
Without a score since the 40th minute Rossa levelled through a Colm Fleming free and got their noses back in front.
Thomas Morgan held the ball up and switched to Patrick Moyes who in turn picked out Sean-Pat Donnelly who burst forward and fisted the ball over.
It appeared as though the spoils would be shared as Paddy McBride landed an impressive point for his fourth of the afternoon.
But Rossa weren’t for settling for a point and instead pushed for the late winner and were rewarded when referee Darren McKeown awarded them a late free in the dying embers.
Colm Fleming stood over the ball and under pressure converted with the game’s final opportunity as Rossa claimed a 0-15-0-14 victory.
Rossa: C McDonald, P Moyes, C Orcin, M McGreevy, R Gowdy, C McGuinness, J Cooley, S Beatty (0-03), C McGettigan, T Morgan (0-02), SP Donnelly (0-01), C Fleming (0-06, 0-04f), A Devlin, M Armstrong (0-03), M Mallon. Subs: G McGrath for C Orcin (HT), R Currie for S Beatty (33), M Close for C McGuinness (35), O May for M Armstrong (45), C Cooley for A Devlin (50).
St Johns: P Nugent, A Douglas, P Donnelly, M Dudley, O Donnelly, P Gribben, S Wilson, R McCafferty, S McDonagh, J Garland, D Bellew (0-05), R McNulty (0-02, 0-01f), C Quinn (0-02), C Kelly, L Pedan (0-01). Subs: P McBride (0-04, 0-01f) for S Wilson (19), C Carson for P Gribben (42), J Bohill for J Garland (54).
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)