Ruairi Og withstand second half comeback to close the gap on All Saints

ACHL Division 4

All Saints 2-16 Cushendall 4-12

League leaders, All Saints Ballymena suffered their first defeat in this year’s division 4 ACHL when they lost in an exciting encounter to Ruairi Og, Cushendall at Quinn Park today. The Ballymena side looked on their way to a hammering when they trailed by 4-7 to 0-8 at half time but staged a remarkable second half rally and will be disappointed that they didn’t take something from the game.

First Half goals from Donal ‘Natty’ McNaughton, Mark Emerson, McNaughton again and Chris McGrath left the home side with a mountain to climb and their defending during the opening 30 minutes was abysmal as they gave the opposition far too much time and space.

Their only threat in the opening half came from Ciaran Neeson who seemed to score every time the sliothar came his way and the excellent number 10 accounted for 0-7 of his side’s first half total with the other point coming from Cormac Magill.

Whatever was said at the interval certainly worked and All Saints tightened up considerably at the back for the second half but faced a mountain which their first half performance didn’t suggest they were capable of climbing.

When Colm McKeegan pointed a second minute free to extend the visitors lead to 12 it certainly wasn’t looking good for the home side but slowly but surely they began to get on top all over the field with their defence getting in important tackles and forcing turn over’s.

Damian Gillan got his name on the score sheet and Ciaran Cassley in the home goal brought off a superb save to deny Colm McKeegan before Ciaran Neeson began to impose his considerable talent on the game.

Neeson fired over five points in the opening 15 minutes of the second half and brought a superb reflex save from Ruiri Sharpe but a Conall McAteer point at the other end kept the visitors eight ahead and seemingly in control.

The gaps were starting to open however and Neeson added another point and then brought off another great save from Ruairi Sharpe but substitute Conrad Duffin forced the sliothar over the line in the scramble that followed.

Neeson then hammered a close range free to the Cushendall net in the 20th minute and when he fired over the equaliser with nine minutes remaining the come-back of all come-backs looked on the cards.

Colm McKeegan restored Cushendall’s lead from a pointed free, their first score for 15 minutes with Ciaran Neeson levelling the contest once more with time almost up.

Conall McAteer looked to have sealed it for the Ruairi Og as the game edged into time added on but the Ballymena men had one last chance to level matters again when they were awarded a free 20 meters from goal and straight in front of the posts.

You would have put your house on Ciaran Neeson sending it over but the All Saints talisman misread the score and mishit his shot as he went for goal and from the resulting break away Colm McKeegan made the points secure for the Ruairi Og as he converted a free at the other end to close the gap at the top of the table to two points on today’s opponents.

All Saints: 1 Ciaran Cassley, 2 Dwayne McKee, 3 Colm Neeson, 4 Kevin Brady, 5 Daniel Gray, 6 Luke O’Rawe, 7 Padraig Magill, 8 Vinny Esler, 9 Cormac Lemon, 10 Ciaran Neeson, 11 Damian Gillan, 12 Cormac Magill, 13 Eoin Magee, 14 Gary Miskella, 15 James O’Boyle.

Subs 18 Cathaoir Cunning for Dwane McKee, 20 Conrad Duffin for James O’Boyle, Darra Hasson for Cormac Magill

Ruairi Og: 1 Ruairi Sharpe, 2 Ruairi McAuley, 3 Damian Bergin, 4 Kevin McKillop, 5 Mark Emerson, 6 Eoin McAllister, 7 Pierce McKeegan, 8 Conan Brown, 9 Paddy Sharpe, 10 Eunan McKillop, 11 Colm McKeegan, 12 Finlay Walker, 13 Conall McAteer, 14 Donal McNaughton, 15 Christopher McGrath. Subs: Darren McLaughlin, James Mooney, Patrick Mooney, James McAuley

Referee: Paul McSparren (Cushendun)

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