Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship Semi-final
St. Mary’s, Aghagallon 1-19-1-18 Portglenone
Kevin Herron reports from Dunsilly
Ruairi McCann proved to be the hero for Aghagallon as his point two minutes into the final period of extra-time in Dunsilly saw Aghagallon reach their first ever Senior Football decider after defeating Portglenone 1-19-1-18 in an epic semi-final tussle this afternoon.
There were plenty of tricks and treats on show as the sides were drawn level ten times throughout a dramatic 90 minutes.
Kevin Murray’s charges weren’t to be spooked or frightened by the occasion- contesting their first ever senior semi-final- against a Portglenone side who were in their third last four clash on the bounce.
Aghagallon were first to threaten in Dunsilly after three minutes when Ruairi McCann popped the ball off to Daniel Donnelly whose low effort was turned away by Ryan O’Neill in the Portglenone goal.
Eunan Walsh would give his side the lead with a wonderful score off the outside of the boot, although it was short-lived with Aidan McAleese converting a free in response.
The Bannsiders stole a march for the first time through a Michael Hagan point after Oisin Doherty’s high ball was parried to partial safety by Luke Mulholland, which Ronan Kelly firing between the posts to extend his sides advantage.
Gareth Magee was off target with his first free of the afternoon, but he converted at the second time of asking and followed that up with two further efforts to ensure that his side held a slender 0-04-0-03 lead at the first-half water break.
Portglenone drew level from the same scenario as Michael Hagan tapped up over from in front of the posts.
A second stunning point from Eunan Walsh edged Aghagallon ahead again and his side had the chance to further extend their lead on 21 minutes when Ronan Delargy was adjudged to have tangled with Conleth McAlindan and Sean Laverty signalled for a penalty.
Gareth Magee was tasked with netting from the spot, but Ryan O’Neill guessed the right way to deny the corner-forward at the expense of a 45’ which Luke Mulholland successfully nailed to open up a 0-06-0-04 lead.
The Ports would end the half on the front foot, Michael Hagan kicked a high shot between the posts for his third score of the afternoon and then followed that with a converted free to draw the sides level for the fourth time.
Just before the break Stephen Kelly won an attacking mark and steered the ball between the posts to ensure that his side were 0-07-0-06 ahead at the interval.
Kelly doubled Portglenone’s advantage with a converted free early in the second half, though Aghagallon hit back through Gareth Magee’s fourth free of the contest and for the foul that led to Magee’s free, Ruairi Hagan was black carded- handing Aghgallon the numerical advantage.
It was one that lasted a mere 60-seconds however as Jack Lenehan was also shown black for a cynical foul and it was 14-men apiece.
Dermot McAleese kicked an impressive point to edge his side two to the good again and the next few scores were traded equally.
Eunan Walsh shot over his third point of the afternoon and may have put his side ahead for the first time in the half after Ryan O’Neill’s kick-out was intercepted the ball was slipped through to Walsh whose low shot was turned away.
Oisin Doherty steamed through and guided the ball over the bar to restore Portglenone’s two-point lead.
Substitutes Adam Loughran and Paddy Kelly then traded the next two scores and at the second half water-break Portglenone were 0-11-0-09 ahead.
Aghagallon hit a purple patch upon the resumption of the final quarter, Eunan Walsh curled over his fourth point of the afternoon and a minute later Gareth Magee drew the sides level when his goal-bound shot was deflected up and over the bar.
Magee nudged his side in front for the first time in the half with a superbly curled effort off the right foot, almost instantly their lead was wiped out with Paddy Kelly splitting the posts and making it 0-12 apiece.
There was no separating the duo approaching injury-time until Eunan Walsh skilfully conjured up a point that was fit enough to win any semi-final from close to the wing on the left-hand side.
But three minutes into the four added Portglenone had the chance to force extra-time when they were awarded a free, under intense pressure and with the weight of expectation on his shoulders Paddy Kelly duely levelled it up and neither side could force the winner as extra-time was required.
Extra-time couldn’t have possibly started better for Portglenone as they hit the opening goal of the game just two minutes in.
Aidan McAleese charged through, and his attempted shot took a deflection and looped high over Luke Mulholland and into the net to give his side a 1-13-0-13 advantage.
Further scores arrived courtesy of Ronan Kelly and Conal Delargy as the game appeared to be slipping out of Aghagallon’s grasp.
Gareth Magee swung over a free in reply and midway through the opening period it was game on again, Eunan Walsh burst through the centre of the Portglenone defence and rifled past Ryan O’Neill to ensure the bare minimum separated the teams.
Walsh would level the game after some fine fielding from Ruairi McCann, although Portglenone would hold the advantage at the midway point through a Stephen Kelly point.
The Bannsiders would again have Ryan O’Neill to thank for that after keeping out a low drive from Adam Loughran.
Oisin Doherty doubled the lead for the Ports approaching the midway point in the second period, floating over the bar from Conal Delargy’s lay-off.
Aghagallon replied with a Paul Mulholland point and had the chance to level it up through a free from Gareth Magee and he obliged, kicking his sixth free of the afternoon to draw the game level at 1-17-1-17 as two further five-minute periods would be required and a shoot-out to follow- if needed.
Extra-time – second period:
Aghagallon nudged themselves back in front with Magee kicking his seventh converted free of the contest, Paddy Kelly levelled from the same scenario at the end of the first period.
At the beginning of the second period Adam Loughran watched on in frustration as his shot cannoned off the inside of the post and out to safety.
The winning score arrived with three minute to go; Ruairi McCann fashioned a fine point under extreme pressure.
Portglenone forged up the field in search of the leveller, but the Aghgallon defence locked down with bodies in the way and space limited.
In the end Aghagallon stood firm and held on to reach their first ever senior football decider in two weeks’ time against Creggan.
Aghagallon: L Mulholland (0-01f), P Branagan, D Donnelly, A Mulholland, P Maginnis, R O’Neill, J Lamont, D McAlernon, J Lenehan, E Walsh (1-06), D McAlernon, M McAfee, G Magee (0-09, 0-07f), R McCann (0-01), C McAlindan. Subs: O Lenehan for P Maginnis (HT), A Loughran (0-01) for C McAlindan (34), P Mulholland (0-01) for A Mulholland (50), C McAlindan for M McAfee (72), S Donnelly for P Branagan (75).
Portglenone: R O’Neill, J Convery, C McLaughlin, R Delargy, R Convery, R Hagan, D McAleese (0-01), N McKeever, M Donnelly, R Kelly (0-02), A McAleese (1-01, 0-01f), C Delargy (0-01), M Hagan (0-04, 0-02f), S Kelly (0-03, 0-01f, 0-01 attacking-mark), O Doherty (0-02). Subs: M Kelly for R Delargy (HT), P Kelly (0-04, 0-03f) for S Kelly (43), F O’Kane for C McLaughlin (53), D McNicholl for M Donnelly (68), C Tierney for A McAleese (70), G McAleese for R Kelly (80).
Referee: Sean Laverty (Moneyglass)