Con Magees bounce back from bad start to seal semi-final place

OB Construction Intermediate Football Championship Quarter Final

Sunday 11th September

Report by Niall Kelly 

Con Magee’s Glenravel 0-14    All Saints Ballymena 0-12

Con Magees Glenravel secured a place in the semi-final of the Intermediate Football championship when they beat old rivals All Saints in Sunday’s quarter final at Fr Maginn Park. Trailing by five points in the first ten minutes, the signs were looking ominous for the Con Magee’s. Ballymena had established a stranglehold on the game and their fluid movement in transitions and constant pressure had the hosts camped in their half. However, Eamon Fyfe spearheaded a Glenravel resurgence and his rasping point from range on the twenty fifth minute was the perfect exclamation mark for their revival. It would be a lead that they would refuse to relinquish for the remainder of the game.

This much anticipated game was always going to be a hard one to call and predictions of a tight and feisty affair proved to be correct as the pendulum of momentum swung to and fro throughout. The arrival of Irish Autumn was all too evident as the players were forced to battle a deluge of rain. What ensued on Father Maginn Park was a gruelling and heavy hitting duel between two battling sides.

All Saints started the game in scintillating fashion and talisman Paddy McAleer fired over the opening score a mere thirty seconds into proceedings after rising like a salmon from Kevin Park’s throw-in and surging relentlessly through the Glenravel rear guard. Eamon Fyfe replied with a well despatched free off the carpet but Ballymena’s sheer power driving forward was to be a thorn in the side of their hosts. Benny McDonnell slotted over three trade-mark frees before corner back Shaun O’Callaghan embarked on a marauding run at the heart of the Con Magee’s defence, firing over as competently as a seasoned forward. Peter ‘Pizza’ McReynolds has been a welcome inclusion back in the starting fifteen for All Saints and made his presence known after linking well with Eoin Walsh before tapping over from an acute angle.

Ballymena’s breathless opening had the hosts on the ropes and Eoin Hynd’s pointed free from range on the twelfth minute offered the hosts a much-needed respite. Glenravel started to look brighter following this and their ability to win countless second balls in midfield would provide the fulcrum they required to mount their comeback. Hynds would pop over another from the placed ball before Connor McNeill offloaded for Ryan McQuillan to finish with aplomb. Eamon Fyfe then put on a forward’s masterclass as he would fire over a further five points without reply. Ball after ball went in to Fyfe and despite often being marshalled by two All Saints defenders, he still managed to negotiate space for himself with his weaving, powerful surges before finishing with devastating accuracy. Indeed, it turned out to be a first half of two halves with Ballymena retreating to the changing rooms at half-time perhaps scratching their heads at the Glenravel revival.

The second half was a gruelling battle for the ascendancy with Ballymena trying to force the issue. Eoin Hynds was on hand for the hosts two minutes into the second half as fired over from a free after tenacious work from Ryan McQuillan. The visitors though began to dominate the ball in the first quarter of the half. Deploying Emmet Killough back to his more familiar midfield position was reaping rewards, giving them an outlet in the engine room to springboard attacks. Benny McDonnell’s two precise efforts from frees cut into the Glenravel lead and prompted Baker Bradley’s charges to heap the pressure on the Glenravel defence but the hosts responded tigerishly with Cathal Hynds and Niall Swann marshalling their resolute back-line.

After withstanding the barrage of All Saints attacks, Eoin Hynds steered over an excellent effort assisted ably by his brother Cathal on the forty fifth minute. Hynds then exchanged further points with Conor Stewart whose presence on proceedings was becoming more influential. Stewart then caressed over another as he put the finish touches on a move very much constructed by the trojan-like Kavan Keenan.

With the gap down to two and less than ten minutes on the clock, the home faithful watched with baited breath as nerves were no doubt frayed. Declan Traynor was to be the man who answered their prayers as he bombed forward from his defensive role to put the finishing touches on a fluid move after industrious work from Niall Swann. Traynor doubled his tally minutes later following intelligent play from Sean McKay.

With the game approaching added time, Ballymena’s resilience and mentality was never in question as they continued to surge forward in their droves searching for that all-elusive goal. High balls were launched in the hope of unlocking the door but it was to no avail. Benny McDonnell’s trusty right foot despatched two more scores but it was to prove too little too late as Glenravel clung on for victory.

Ballymena will no doubt be despondent as their Intermediate Crown dreams are no longer. Last year’s finalists will rue their missed opportunities and how they couldn’t replicate their form in the opening exchanges over the course of the game. Conversely, for Glenravel the win will no doubt galvanise their efforts to be atop the Intermediate grade come its conclusion. Nothing has been won today for them, but there can be little no doubt that knocking out one of the big favourites will only serve to bolster their momentum and it will be an intriguing proposition when they meet a resurgent Sarsfields side in two weeks’ time.  

Teams:

Con Magee’s Glenravel:

J McEvoy; C Henry, C Hynds, C Carey; R Lennon, N Swann, D McQuillan; C Higgins, D Higgins; A O’Donnell, E Hynds (0-05,) C McNeill; D Traynor (0-02,) E Fyfe (0-07,) R McQuillan (0-01)

All Saints Ballymena:

N Shannon; S O’Callaghan (0-01,) J McDonnell, J Gillan; C McGarry, P McAleer (0-01,) K Keenan; E Killough, S McVeigh; C Stewart (0-02,) B McDonnell (0-07,) M McCarry; S O’Brien, P McReynolds (0-01,) E Walsh

Referee Kevin Parke (NaomhEanna)

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