ACFL Division 1B
Ahoghill 3-15 Tir na nOg 0-8
With the prize of division 1 safety for both sides already secured prior to this, the final game of the campaign it was no surprise that this one took a time to come to life. Indeed during a less than inspirational opening half only a point separated the sides at the break but it was Cloney Gaels who came to life in the second half.
Both sides started with a string of regular starters missing with the visitors more affected by absenteeism but there was little between the sides during the opening period as poor finishing on the part of both sides kept the scoring at a premium.
The sides were level at 0-2 apiece after 14 minutes with Neil O’Connell and Ronan Graham on target for the Ahoghill side and Kevin Sheerin and Daragh Fagan from a free replying for the Whitehill side. Conor McKenna edged the visitors ahead for the first time before Sean Paul McAtamney in the visitor’s goal brought off a great save to deny the lively Michael O’Connell at the start of the second quarter.
Both sides had been guilty of poor shooting up to this point though it was the home side who had been creating the better chances and James O’Connell from a free and Ronan Graham from play in the 22nd minute gave them a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
Late points from James O’Connell and Ronan Graham for ahoghill and a couple from Ciaran O’Neill for the Randalstown men left it 0-6 to 0-5 for the home side at the end of the opening half and at this stage it certainly looked like anybody’s game.
When Daragh Fagan levelled matters on the restart it looked like we might be in with another dose of the mediocrity that we had suffered in the first but a great Michael O’Connell point at the other end suddenly brought the contest to life.
O’Connell’s willingness to run at the opposition coupled with his blistering pace then saw him place Thomas McGlone for another point before Ciaran O’Neill replied with a point at the other end to leave just one in it with 10 minutes of the new half gone.
Ronan Graham’s fisted point edged the Gaels two in front again and then the same player got on the end of a flowing move to finish to the net in the 13th minute and suddenly the Ahoghill’s side’s pace and movement was creating big gaps in the visitors defence.
Michael O’Connell added a fine point and Eamonn Brady and Ronan Graham tagged on two more before Michael O’Connell palmed the ball to the net in the 21st minute with James McGlone and Boris O’Connell setting up the opportunity.
It was all Cloney Gaels at this stage and when Tir na nOg did manage to get forward they were lacking in ideas and were being continually turned over and a couple of James O’Connell points had the home side 2-14 to 0-7 ahead with five minutes still remaining.
The scoring virtually dried up at this stage with both sides emptying their bench with an Aaron McNeilly point for the Whitehill side and another reply from James O’Connell for the Ahoghill men concluding the scoring.
Cloney Gaels will have benefited more from the evenings proceedings and it will have given them something to build on going into the championship in a few week’s time but Tir na nOg will take comfort from the fact that their division 1 status had been already been secured for a second term and in the knowledge that they will have a much stronger panel available come championship time.
Cloney Gaels: 1 Noel Crossey, 2 Francis Neeson, 3 Martin Graham, 4 Bernard Graham, 5 Owen Neeson, 6 James McGlone, 7 Eamonm Brady, 8 Neil O’Connell, 9 Patrick Graham, 23 Michael O’Connell, 11 Donal Graham, 12 Dan O’Neill, 26 Fionnbar O’Neill, 22 James O’Connell, 15 Ronan Graham.
Subs: Stephen O’Connell,Shay Neeson, Ryan McPerake, Ryan Martin, Conor McGarry
Tir na nOg: 1 Sean Paul McAtamney, 2 Declan Mallon, 3 Brandon McLarnon, 4 Jude Carey, 5 Ciaran McKeown, 6 Peter Cullen, 7 Oliver McAtamney, 8 Kevin Kerr, 9 Ryan O’Neill, 10 Conor McKenna, 11 Ciaran O’Neill, 12 Daragh Fagan, 13 Darren O’Kane, 14 Kevin Sheerin, 15 Conor Hastings.
Subs: Charlie Elliott, Ciaran Byrne, Michale Higgins, Aaron McNeilly, Daniel Martin.
Referee: Kevin Parke (St. Enda’s)