Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship
St Mary’s, Ahoghill 0-10 St Brigid’s 0-10
Sunday September 19
Brendan McTaggart reports from Cloney , Ahoghill
Daniel O’Neill’s third point of the game in the second minute of injury time ensured a share of the championship points between Ahoghill and St Brigids. This was an even contest played with high commitment, huge intensity and incredible desire with both sides looking like they had the upper-hand in the closing stages but in the end a draw was a fair result at the end of the hour.
With five minutes to go, the home side had just hit the third of three unanswered points to take the lead for the second time in the contest. That score from James O’Connell coincidentally the only white flag raised from a free by the Ahoghill Reds but with tired legs and minds in the closing stages, the game opened up with chances for both sides.
St Brigid’s had the lions share of possession from the first whistle with Rory Brolly opening the scoring in the third minute. Ahoghill looked dangerous on the break and mixed their game with patience when required, their opening score from Patrick Graham showcasing their ball retention and running off the shoulder with great effect.
The St Brigid’s challenge was dented early with the loss of Peter Henvey with a hamstring injury. The home side took the lead with another well worked point from Ronan Graham but it was their last score for 10 minutes as St Brigid’s took control. Scores from substitute Peter Webb and a brace of frees from the lively Conor McAleer edged the Musgrave Park men two points ahead just after the water break.
Daniel O’Neill’s first of the game broke the St Brigid’s momentum in the 21st minute but both sides were guilty of missed chances with defences on top. McAleer’s third free of the half opened a two point lead in the 28th minute but a sumptuous score from Ronan Boyle halved the deficit at the short whistle.
The second 30 minutes had everything with momentum swinging like the proverbial pendulum. A quite brilliant point from Daniel O’Neill restored parity once again soon after the restart, wide on the right and his feet on the whitewash, O’Neill pointed 30 yards from goal.
Both defences were on top with neither side giving an inch in the scoring areas of the pitch. Rory Brolly did manage to split the uprights in the 40th minute thanks to good work from substitute Paul McComiskey and while Eoin Graham tied the sides for the third time in the game, the momentum swung towards the way of the south Belfast men once again.
McComiskey and Brolly combined once again, this time it was the substitute who raised the white flag while Ronan Boyle doubled their lead just before the second half water break, cutting in from the left hand side before firing over.
With Martin Graham on the edge of the St Brigids square for the second half, it gave the home side another option in attack and they were unlucky not to score the opening goal of the game in the 46th minute. James O’Connell sent the ball high towards the Ahoghill target man and while he got a strong palm to the dropping ball, his effort cannoned back off the crossbar allowing St Brigid’s to clear to safety.
The visitors to Cloney had their own chance with their next foray into the Ahoghill half. Patrick Finnegan’s pointed effort was partially blocked and James Smith punched to the back of the net but referee Darren McKeown was well placed to call a square ball to dampen the St Brigids celebrations.
The reprieve looked to boost the home side though as they rallied at the other end of the pitch. A brace of scores from distance brought them level once again, James O’Connell and Patrick Graham with the accuracy before O’Connell split the uprights in the 55th minute from a free to give the home side the lead.
With the game in the melting pot, St Brigid’s dug deep once again. McAleer’s fourth point of the hour was worthy of this or any game with. He pointed from an acute angle and raised his hand in celebration as soon as the ball left his foot.
Ronan Boyle edged St Brigid’s ahead once again in the last minute of the hour after a well worked side line ball but Daniel O’Neill had the final say. A high ball sent to Martin Graham fell lose with O’Neill on hand to fire over in the last action of the game.
The result mean St Brigids seal their place in the quarter-final while Ahoghill travel to Portglenone in two week’s time in a winner takes all contest and the championship journey on the line.
Ahoghill: Francis Neeson; Eamon Brady, James Magee, Stephen O’Connell; Ronan Graham, Patrick Graham, Fionnbar O’Neill; Neill O’Connell, Martin Graham; James O’Connell, Michael O’Connell, Daniel O’Neill; Eoin Graham, Donal Graham, Bernard Graham
Subs: Thomas McGlone for M O’Connell (36); Conor Paul Crossey for E Graham (50)
Scorers: Daniel O’Neill 0-3; Ronan Graham 0-2; Patrick Graham 0-2; James O’Connell 0-2 (1f); Eoin Graham 0-1
St Brigids: Declan Heery; John Morgan, Conor King, Shay Campbell; Ronan Boyle, John Toner, Oran Boyle; James Loughrey, Jack Dowling; Patrick Finnegan, Conor McAleer, Rory Brolly; Peter Henvey, Joseph Finnegan, James Smith
Subs: Peter Webb for P Henvey (5); Paul McComiskey for J Finnegan (37); Ryan Tweedy for P Webb (37); Michael Cummings for S Campbell (40)
Scorers: Conor McAleer 0-4 (3f’s); Rory Brolly 0-2; Ronan Boyle 0-2; Peter Webb 0-1; Paul McComiskey 0-1
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)