McAlarnon goal swings it Aghagallon’s way

Photographs courtesy of JJ Lawell

Northern Switchgear SFC Group Three

Aghagallon 1-13 Naomh Éanna 2-8

St. Mary’s Aghagallon staged a late comeback to overcome the challenge of St. Enda’s Glengormley and gain a place in the Northern Switchgear SFC quarter-final in an exciting Group 3 qualifier in Aghagallon on Sunday.

It was the men from Glengormley who looked to be on their way to join Lamh Dhearg in the knockout stages as the clock counted down with two goals from Donal Walsh putting them in a strong position but a goal from Darryl McAlarnon, five minutes from time gave the home side the inspiration they need to push on to claim victory.

With both sides tied on six points,  the winners of this one were guaranteed a place in the quarter-final while a draw would have been enough for St. Mary’s, given their superior score difference.

With the strong breeze at their backs, the home side got off to a good start with Gareth Magee (free) and Eunan Walsh shooting them into an early lead.

Naomh Éanna struggled to break down a well-organised Aghagallon defence in the early stages and the hosts were dominating the breaks.

It took 20 minutes for St. Enda’s to register their first score when Odhran Eastwood pointed though Aghagallon replied immediately with a point from Pauric Maginnis.

James McAuley sent Kristian Healy away for a well-taken score on the run moments later before Magee replied again from a free to keep his side on the front foot.

Naomh Éanna’s third point from Peter Healy was followed by an excellent point from play from Magee and Aghagallon were finding their scores easier to come by at this stage and were controlling matters.

Eunan Walsh moved the home side three clear with the last score of the half but with the wind to face in the second half and the rain that began to fall from the heavens the question was, would three points be enough?

Thankfully for both sides the rain had almost stopped as they took the field for the second half while the breeze had died significantly but still favoured the visitors. Despite that it was St. Enda’s who opened strongly and they had drawn level by the 8th minute.

Stand in keeper, Ruairi Scott stepped forward to send a ‘45’ between the sticks and Odhran Eastwood followed from a free before Fionn Nagle fired over the equaliser following a mark.

Eunan Walsh replied with a great point for Aghagallon, but St. Enda’s hit back with a splendid move that provided the game’s opening goal.

A long kick-out from Ruairi Scott found Dónall Walsh in space and the wing-forward played a one-two with Eastwood before rifling a low drive past Luke Mulholland to put his side 1-6 to 0-7 ahead.

An injury to Eunan Walsh brought matters to a halt for a time and the Aghagallon ace was forced to retire with suspected concussion following a heavy knock.

When matters got underway Magee pointed from a close-range free before the St. Enda’s Walsh, Donall struck for his second goal as Naomh Éanna moved 2-6 to 0-8 ahead.

A superb Adam Loughran point cut the gap back to three but Naomh Éanna were now calling the shots and Peter Healy clipped over a fine point to restore their four-point lead and at this stage the Hightown side looked to be heading for victory.

The home side would have been relieved to hear the whistle signalling the second water break while it probably came at the worst possible time for the visitors as they were unable to regain the momentum they had carried going into the break.

Gareth Magee for Aghagallon and Odhran Eastwood for the visitors exchanged frees before a flare-up, which was quickly halted brought a heightened edge to the game going down the home straight.

Aghagallon needed a goal to reignite their challenge and Darryl McAlernon duly obliged when his long delivery in the 56 minute deceived full-forward McCann and defender McNamee and finished in the net.

Gareth Magee tied the contest with his sixth free of the game and then Adam Loughran saw his goal bound effort come back of an upright as the home side pressed for a winner with the ball breaking to Ryan O’Neill who fired wide when a point looked on.

The momentum was now with St. Mary’s as the game moved deep into injury time and when Adam Loughran was handed another opportunity he made no mistake and after intercepting a short kick-out he returned the ball between the uprights.

St. Mary’s made victory secure when Gareth Magee punished a foul on Ruairi McCann to send over and they now look forward to a quarter-final meeting with St. Brigid’s while St. Enda’s are left to reflect on what might have been.

AGHAGALLON: L Mulholland; P Branagan, D Donnelly, A Mulholland; Darryl McAlernon (1-0), R O’Neill, P Maginnis (0-1); David McAlernon, J Lenehan; E Walsh (0-3), A Loughran (0-2), M McAfee; G Magee (0-7, 0-6fs), R McCann, C McAlinden.

Subs: O Lenehan for McAlinden (35), S Donnelly for Walsh (41).

NAOMH ÉANNA: R Scott (0-1, 0-1 ’45); F Eastwood, M McNamee, C Maxwell; C Thompson, J McAuley, C McAuley; E Nagle, N McNamee; P Healy (0-2), K Healy (0-1), D Walsh (2-0); O Eastwood (0-3, 0-3fs), M Morgan, F Nagle (0-1, 0-1M).

Subs: J Maskey for K Healy (61), C Lyttle for E Nagle (61).

REFEREE: D McKeown (St Gall’s).

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