Third draw of the season keeps All Saints in top spot

ACFL Division 2

St. James Aldergrove 0-11 All Saints 0-11

Top of the table, All Saints and unbeaten St. James Aldergrove could not be separated in Crumlin on Wednesday night as they fought out a draw that keeps both of their promotion hopes alive.

The league is set to split on Sunday coming with All Saints entertaining bottom club, Naomh Padraig Lisburn and St. James playing hosts to Gort na Mona but with three games un-played, just what will happen to the Crumlin side is unclear.

It would appear that the Aldergrove men were not at fault in the postponement of any of these three games but how the authorities resolve the matter remains to be seen.

That’s for another day but on Wednesday night we were treated to a dogged battle between two evenly balanced sides that looked to be going decisively the visitors way at one stage but in the end the Ballymena men will be well satisfied with the draw.

It was St. James Aldergrove who got off to the better start with Ryan Owens and Cormac McGarry kicking them into a 2 point lead by the 4th minute but All Saints replied through a Brendan McDonnell free and another from play by Ronan McKillop to draw level by the 8th minute.

Declan Gough, who had a great game for the home side, edged the Crumlin side ahead once more but during a period of dominance they kicked a number of poor wides with the visitors defence giving them little time or room to settle on the ball.

Fergal Hanna finally hit the target again to move the St. James two in front but the visitors were coming more and more into the game and Brendan McDonnell (2 frees), Kavan Keenan and Connell Lemon moved them 0-6 to 0-4 ahead by the 23d minute.

Brendan McDonnell kicked his first point from play, an excellent effort that edged them three in front but Seamus McGarry replied from a late free to leave two between the sides at the break.

The Ballymena side had enjoyed the better of the first half and a well-executed build up saw Benny McDonnell move them three in front after 7 minutes of the second half and everything seemed to be going to plan.

Aldergrove were having none of it however and they came storming back with points from ‘Jethro’ Mallon and Seamus McGarry to leave just one in it with 12 minutes of the second half gone.

The visitors were sitting deep and pulling men behind the ball and then breaking at pace and the strategy seemed to be paying dividends at Ronan McKillop hit two at the other end to restore the Slemish Park side’s three point advantage at the three quarter stage.

Once again the Crumlin side found a response however as Declan Gough and Ronan Hanna from a free brought it back to one with 12 minutes remaining and it still looked anybody’s game.

Both sides rang the changes with Shea O’Brien and Peter McReynolds replacing Luke O’Rawe and Ronan McKillop in the All Saints attack as the excellent Declan Gough brought the sides level  but ‘Pizza’s’ McReynold’s close range free in the 27th minute seemed to have sealed it for the visitors.

The home side quite simply refused to give up as they dominated the All Saints kick-outs in the closing stage with Seamus McGarry firing over the equaliser and both sides wasting late chances to claim both points.

In the end both sides will have been happy enough with the draw that keeps All Saints top of the table with 7 wins and 3 draws from their 10 starts while Aldergrove remain in third place with 6 wins and a draw from seven starts.

Aldergrove: 1 Sean O’Neill, 2 David Aiken, 3 Emmet Ervine, 4 Chris McVeigh, 5 Conor Browning, 21 Christopher Browning, 7 Gerard Mallon, 8 Brian McQuillan, 9 Ryan Owens, 10 Declan Gough, 11 Seamus McGarry, 12 Fearghal Hanna, 13 Cormac McGarry, 14 Ronan Hanna, 15 Oisin Graham,

Subs: Conlaith Hendron for Emmet Ervine, James Trowlan for Brian McQuillan, Conlaith O’Toole for Chris Browning, Conor Morris for Fergal Hanna, Andy Flood for James Trowlan,

All Saints: 1 Ryan Stewart, 2 Eoin Walsh, 3 James Gillan, 4 James McDonnell, 5 Michael Read, 6 Sean O’Callaghan, 7 Cal O’Brien, 8 Sean McVeigh, 9 Emmet Killough, 10 Ciaran McGarry, 11 Kavan Keenan, 12 Brendan McDonnell, 13 Connell Lemon, 14 Ronan McKillop, 15 Luke O’Rawe,

Subs: Shea O’Brien for Luke O’Rawe, Peter McReynolds for Ciaran McGarry, Eoghan Campbell for Ronan McKillop

Referee: Fionntan McCotter (Sarsfields)

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