Blair’s accuracy give Portaferry the edge in Ards derby

Antrim All County Hurling League Division 1

Ballycran 0-19 Portaferry 1-19

Paul McIntyre reports from McKenna Park.

An early goal from Daithi Sands proved to be the difference as Portaferry saw off neighbours Ballycran with three points to spare in Wednesday evening’s league clash at McKenna Park.

Sands pounced for the game’s only major in the second minute.

The home defence failed to deal with Conor O’Prey’s surging run along the endline, and when he picked out Sands in the square, the Portaferry marksman fired past Stephen Keith in the home goal.

Try as hard as Ballycran did to reel them in, the accuracy of Ronan Blair was enough to ensure that Portaferry left McKenna Park with six wins from as many matches.

Blair registered a tally of 0-11 over the hour but they also had to thank a watertight defence that was superbly marshalled by Callum Smyth and Ciaran Savage, which goalkeeper Pearce Smyth also looked very assured when called upon.

Conor Woods did his best to help drag his team over the line and finished the contest with 0-9, but Ballycran were unable to create any clear-cut goal chances over the hour and ultimately had to settle for scores from deep or from frees.

Sands early goal made the scoreline 1-1 to 0-0 as the visitors threatened to pull away but efforts from Liam Savage, Michael Hughes and Stuart Martin meant that just one point separated the sides after fifteen minutes with Portaferry leading 1-3 to 0-5.

But the second quarter belonged to Portaferry and four frees from Blair and an effort from play from Matthew Conlon helped the Ports to a five-point advantage at the break, 1-9 to 0-7.

Blair claimed the first two points of the second half to extend Portaferry’s lead to seven but Michael Hughes and Niall Breen helped to kick-start a revival.

Four points from Woods and another effort from Hughes cut the lead to two points with nine minutes to go as the momentum seemed to be swinging in favour of the homeside.

But the introduction of Tom McGrattan gave Portaferry another scoring option and the Ulster Colleges All-Star showed all his class with a wonderfully taken point in the 54th minute.

Woods replied with two ‘65’s but points from Blair and McGrattan wrapped up Portaferry’s sixth win of the season, and a win that sees them leapfrog Loughgiel at the top of Antrim division 1.

Teams and Scorers:

Ballycran:  Stephen Keith, James Clarke, Sean Ennis, Lukas Boyd, Brett Nicholson, Gerard Hughes, Cormac McAlister, Michael Hughes (0-3), Liam Savage (0-2), Conor Woods (0-9 4f 2 ‘65’), Stuart Martin (0-2), Niall Breen (0-1), Scott Nicholson (0-2f), Ayrton Gleeson, Conor Dorrian.

Replacements: Christopher Egan for Dorrian (HT), Phelim Savage for Gleeson (47).

Portaferry: Pearce Smyth, Ciaran Savage, Callum Smyth, Ryan Convery, Deaglan Mallon (0-1), Caolan Taggart, Barry Trainor, Matthew Conlon (0-1), Padraig Doran (0-1), Conor Fay, Conor O’Prey (0-2), Conor Mageean, Daithi Sands (1-1), Ronan Blair (0-11 10f), Eoghan Sands.

Replacements: Tom McGrattan (0-2) for Fay (49), Sean Milligan for Blair (61).

Referee: Mr Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)

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