Lámhs take huge stride towards top spot

Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC Group 3 

Lámh Dhearg 0-16-1-11 St Enda’s 

Kevin Herron reports from Hannahstown 

Photos by J.J Lawell

Lámh Dhearg virtually secured themselves a top place finish in Group 3 of the Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC with a nervy 0-16-1-11 win over St Enda’s at Hannahstown on Sunday afternoon. 

In a nip and tuck encounter that saw the sides level on five occasions in the second period, the hosts finished strongly as substitute Owen O’Neill came off the bench to kick back-to-back points and seal a victory that takes the Hannahstown men two-points clear of St Enda’s and Aghagallon in the battle for a top spot and a place in the last eight. 

Both sides went into the game tied on six-points with St Enda’s leading the group thanks to their four-point win in the corresponding fixture at Hightown last month. 

The hosts were dominant in the opening stages and quickly found themselves three points to the good. 

Ben Rice guided the ball into the path of Ryan Diamond who opened the scoring inside of 30-seconds, Marc Jordan then shot over from close range after Ryan Murray’s simple layoff and Conor Murray squeezed over a third.

Kristian Healy got St Enda’s off the mark and despite their slow start the Hightown men had the opportunity to hit the front after Odhran Eastwood was felled in the area and Gerard Crossey tucked the resulting penalty past Mark McIlvenny. 

Marc Jordan levelled with his second point- again Ryan Murray was involved in the build-up and older sibling Conor added his second of the half to restore his sides advantage. 

St Enda’s levelled at the first water-break courtesy of Kristian Healy’s second point, but Lámh Dhearg forged ahead again through Ryan Murray’s simple score and a converted Paddy Cunningham free. 

Ruairi Scott swung over a fantastic point in response with Conor McAuley running straight towards the target and slipping it over to level. 

It looked as though St Enda’s were going to take a slender lead at the interval when Kristian Healy took a pass off the shoulder and shifted it between the posts for his third point, Paddy Cunningham would ensure it was all square at the break though with his second converted free drawing the sides level at 0-08-1-05. 

St Enda’s were quickest out of the traps after the break with Eoin Nagle fisting them back in front, only for Ben Rice to come up with an instant reply and level matters for the fourth time in proceedings. 

Odhran Eastwood curled his side back in front and Paddy Cunningham hit back with his third converted free of the afternoon. 

The pattern of the half continued with St Enda’s getting back in front through a converted Odhran Eastwood free and Conor Murray swinging over a response to ensure the sides were level 0-11-1-08 at the second water-break as a tense finale was on the cards. 

For the fourth time in the half the Hightown men stole a march with Eastwood kicking his third free- yet again Lámh Dhearg found the response, this time through half-time substitute Kevin Quinn. 

Eastwood would nudge his side ahead for the final time before the hosts stepped it up a gear in the final ten minutes. 

Conor Murray landed his fourth score of the contest to level at 0-13-1-10 and Paddy Cunningham gave his side the lead with a converted free a few minutes later. 

Owen O’Neill was sprung from the bench and made an immediate impact kicking back-to-back points to give his side some breathing space going down the home straight. 

Odhran Eastwood could only muster a point in response, but it wasn’t enough to prevent his side falling to a defeat which leaves their qualification hopes on a knife-edge. 

St Enda’s must travel to Aghagallon in two-week’s time and win by five-points if they are to claim a place in the last eight. 

For Lámh Dhearg, a win or a draw against Aldergrove would secure a top place finish in the group.  

Lámh Dhearg: M McIlvenny, P Larkin, A McAufield, M McGarry, E Matassa, D Lynch, B Rice (0-01), P Mervyn, P Fitzsimons, R Diamond (0-01), R Murray (0-01), M Jordan (0-02), P Cunningham (0-04f), C Murray (0-04), T McCrudden. Subs: K Quinn (0-01) for R Diamond (HT), O O’Neill (0-02) for R Murray (45), C Maxwell for P Cunningham (57). 

St Enda’s: P Flood, F Eastwood, M McNamee, C McAuley (0-01), P Healy, C Maxwell, C Thompson, M Morgan, N McKeown, C Lyttle, E Nagle (0-01), G Crossey (1-00p), O Eastwood (0-05, 0-04f), R Scott (0-01), K Healy (0-03). Subs: J McAuley for G Crossey (13), D Walsh for C Lyttle (35), F Nagle for N McKeown (46), N Heatley for M Morgan (56). 

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)

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