Saints hold off late rally to make it two from two

OB Construction IFC Group 1

All Saints 1-6 to 0-7

Fourteen men All Saints held off a late rally from Tir na nOg to make it two wins from two starts in the OB Construction IFC Group 1 at Slemish Park, Ballymena today. Kavan Keenan received a straight Red, six minutes into the second half with the home side leading 1-4 to 0-3 but despite his dismissal they managed the game well and were probably good value for the win in the end.

Playing into the breeze in the first half it was visitors Tir na nOg who got off to the better start with Sean Duffin and Darragh Fagan pointing them two in front by the sixth minute but All Saints replied immediately through an excellent Brendan McDonnell point and points from Emmet Killough and McDonnell again saw them hit the front with 15 minutes gone.

The visitors tried to respond but an interception by Kavan Keenan and a lightning burst forward by the same player set up Paddy McAleer who finished to the net from close range to leave the Ballymena side 1-3 to 0-2 in front at the first water break.

Benny McDonnell extended that lead to five when play resumed but scores dried up in the second quarters as defences dominated with both sides missing scoreable chances in the difficult breeze and as the half time whistle sounded it was the home side who led by five points.

With the breeze now behind them the division 2 league winners were expected to reel in the opposition and when Sean Duffin fired over a good point after 30 seconds it seemed only a matter of time until they took control.

Their chances seemed to have taken a massive boost when Kavan Keenan was dismissed with only six minutes of the second half gone but All Saints defended superbly with players dropping back and they hit on the break at every opportunity.

Michael McCarry extended the All Saints lead from a free in the 11th minute and then Joe Rafferty looked certain to get in for their second goal, immediately after being introduced as he soloed 40 meters through the heart of the Tir na nOg defence but was thwarted as he was about to pull the trigger.

This let-off seemed to fire Tir na nOg into action and they came back strongly with a great point from Ciaran O’Neill and another from a Darragh Fagan free to close the gap to three at the end of the third quarter and at this stage they must have fancied their chances of pushing on.

All Saints were having none of it however as they closed ranks in defence, forcing turn over after turn over as the tackles went in hard and fast with this game being played at real championship intensity.

Shea O’Brien, who had just been introduced to the All Saints defence retired injured after a heavy challenge with Reece O’Mullan replacing him and Brendan McDonnell pointed a close range free with six minutes remaining to put the home side four ahead.

The visitors threw everything at the opposition during the closing stages and a Sean Duffin point from play and a pointed Aaron McNeilly free left just two in it and it still looked anybody’s game but McNeilly missed a couple from a similar distance as the clock ticked down.

The visitors had a half chance of getting something from the game but a ‘Hail Mary’ into the danger area was scrambled to safety as Karol Doherty sounded his full-time whistle and it is All Saints who now join Con Magee’s on four points from two starts in Group 1.

All Saints: Connor Brennan, Matthew Downey, Peter McNicholl, James McDonnell, Ciaran McGarry, Emmet Killough, Connell Lemon, Sean McVeigh, Paddy McAleer, Peter McReynolds, Michael McCarry, Kavan Keenan, Ronan McKillop, Conor St. Stewart, Brendan McDonnell. Subs: Joe Rafferty, Shea O’Brien, Reece O’Mullan

Tir na nOg: Sean Paul McAtamney, Ryan Crilly, Ciaran McGrellis, Peter Cullan, Ciaran O’Neill, Barry McCormick, Caoimhin Duffin, Darren McCormick, Ryan O’Neill, Aaron McNeilly, Sean Duffin, Darragh Fagan, Daniel Martin, Kevin Sheerin, Eamon Og McAllister. Subs: Kevin Kerr, Ciaran McKeown, Ciaran Logan

Referee: Karol Doherty (Rasharkin)

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