Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship – Group 2
Sunday 31st July
Report by Niall Kelly
Roger Casements Portglenone 0-14 St Brigid’s 1-07
James Smith’s emphatic goal on the forty fifth minute for the Malone men proved to be the catalyst for a dominant last quarter from their hosts. Smith’s major saw his side go two points in front but Portglenone rallied superbly to score seven points in the fifteen minutes that remained while the visitors could only muster one more from substitute Peter Webb. The game itself was a perfect advertisement for the intensity and vigour attributed to Championship football with both sides going hammer and tongs. Both sides attacked with blistering place and big hits came flying in.
It was the hosts who got off the mark first with Conal Delargy sending over one of his trademark frees from off the carpet on the second minute. Wing back Ryan Convery doubled the lead after he powered through the St Bride’s defence at pace, coolly splitting the posts as he weaved in and out.
Despite having the lion’s share of much of the first half, Portglenone struggled to accelerate into a larger lead. St Brigid’s were doing a superb job in stifling the home side as their deployment of a sweeper caused frustration in the ranks of the Bannsiders. The visitors’ ability to counter attack was a prominent feature of their offence and one they utilised to great effect. Ronan Boyle got the men in blue and white on the scoreboard on the tenth minute with a pinpoint effort from range.
The battle in midfield between Niall McKeever and Jack Dowling was an integral theme of the game with both men the fulcrum of attacks for their sides. Dowling levelled matters soon after Boyle’s effort as he breached the Casements defence with a powering run before caressing a curling effort between the sticks.
The game was nip and tuck as both sides battled for the ascendancy and further points were exchanged by Michael Hagan and Patrick Finnegan. The hosts were presented with a golden opportunity on the twentieth minute. Midfield maestro Niall Delargy’s penetrating drive from deep resulted in a penalty when he was brought down as he was about to pull the trigger on goal. St Brigid’s shot stopper Declan Heery was to come out on top though as he telegraphed Conal Delargy’s effort from the spot diving low to his right to deny the hosts a goal.
In the typical tit for tat fashion of the first half, the teams exchanged further points as the first period approached its climax. Two excellent efforts saw white flags raised from the boot of St Brigid’s centre forward Conor McAleer. Portglenone’s Oisin Doherty and a fisted effort from range from Niall McKeever levelled matters deadlocked at five points apiece at the short whistle.
Jack Dowling opened the scoring three minutes into the second half with a delicate curling effort from range but the hosts responded positively notching two points of their own with Michael Hagan on target and arguably the score of the game with Conal Delargy finishing a slick and fluid Portglenone move.
The game changing moment came half way through the second period. Jack Dowling’s marauding run and vision for a killer pass presented James Smith with an opportunity on goal. The big full forward made no mistake and rifled a thundering effort into the roof of the net as the raucous cheers from the loyal travelling support echoed around Kelly Park. St Bride’s would’ve hoped that their major would provide the platform for victory. Two points up with fifteen to go, they needed to keep their composure and continue in the same vein. The hosts though had different ideas.
Conceding the goal seemed to revitalise the Casements men as they outscored their opponents 0-07 to 0-01 in what remained of the game. Conall Delargy’s earlier penalty miss was certainly put out of his mind as he sent over two succulently curled efforts off the deck to level matters. Ronan Kelly then reinstated the host’s lead with an excellent effort from a dead ball. The tails were well and truly up for the men in black and yellow when Niall McKeever powered his way through from midfield and tapped over much to the delight of the home fans.
Substitute Ciaran McKenna put his stamp on the game with a well taken point from range on the fifty fifth minute as the pendulum had swung well in favour of Portglenone. Peter Webb brought the gap back to two as the game approached injury time but again the hosts would have the final say. Ronan Kelly calmly despatched another free and there was just enough time for Niall Delargy to get his name on the score sheet. A typically industrious and searching run from the Portglenone number eight before splitting the posts to send the home dugout delirious. A fitting end to an excellent game of football with Delargy at the centre of all that was positive about Portglenone.
St Brigid’s will perhaps be licking their wounds after this one. They were well in this game and put together some scintillating passages of play themselves. Indeed, they can take heart from this performance and build on it when they meet Division Two Champions Moneyglass in two weeks’ time. Portglenone will use this victory as a springboard and will no doubt be looking to make it two from two when they meet local rivals Ahoghill. A win for Portglenone there would surely end the hopes of their neighbours and further bolster their own position in attaining a quarter final spot.
R O’Neill; K O’Kane, J Convery, R Delargy; C Tierney, D McAleese, R Convery (0-01;) N Delargy (0-01,) N McKeever (0-02;) R Hagan, M Hagan (0-02,) S Kelly; R Kelly (0-02,) C Delargy (0-04,) O Doherty (0-01)
Substitute scorer: C McKenna (0-01)
D Heery; F McKernan, C King, J Morgan; P Finnegan (0-01,) J Toner, N Lundy; M Cummings, J Dowling (0-02;) O Boyle, C McAleer (0-02,) P Bradley; R Boyle (0-01) J Smith (1-00,) J Finnegan
Substitute scorer: P Webb (0-01)