O’Neill’s Antrim Senior Football League Division One
St John’s 0-12 St Gall’s 0-15
ST Gall’s opened their account for 2018 with an impressive three-point win over a wasteful St. John’s in the opening round of this year’s division 1 league at Corrigan park on Wednesday night.
Michael Pollock was the man who did most of the damage and his personal tally of 0-9 on the night was a big contributing factor in a good victory for the Milltown Row side. It was St. John’s however who made the better start and with Simon McDonagh and Ronan McCafferty on top at mid-field they took the game to the visitors.
Significantly the Johnnies squandered five scoring chances during this period with. Matthew Fitzpatrick off target from a ‘45’ before Paddy McBride and Fitzpatrick hit back-to-back wides.
A well-taken Pollock point got St Gall’s on their way after four minutes before Jack Hannigan missed the target at the other end when he had better options inside. Full-forward Conor Johnston then hit the posts and it started to look like it wasn’t going to be the Johnnies day.
Back came the visitors and Kieran McGourty hit a good point in the 10th minute to put his side two ahead before Pollock added his first free of the game. Pollock followed with another following a slip by Ciaran Carlan as St. Gall’s started to get on top.
Mícheál Bradley replied with a point for the Corrigan men to finally get St John’s off the mark on 14 minutes and two Paddy McBride points in quick succession had them back within striking distance.
Pollock replied from a couple of well executed frees to edge the visitors further ahead again before St. Johns John’s were dealt a blow late in the opening half when Ryan McNulty was forced to retire after appearing to go over on his ankle.
A fine point from Niall O’Neill ensured that St Gall’s went in at half-time with a 0-7 to 0-4 lead and at this stage they were full value for their lead though their hosts would surely reflect on the number of chances they had squandered.
Eoghan McCabe extended the St. Gall’s lead on the turnover after good work from Michael Pollock and Kevin Niblock before Johnston replied in kind less than a minute later, but St Gall’s were getting a better return from their possession and Pollock moved them four clear following good work form Mark Kelly.
Pollock then punished a foul on Kevin Niblock to move his side five ahead and it looked to be slipping away from the Corrigan men at this stage but they came back with a fine individual score from Matthew Fitzpatrick to keep them in touch.
This score seemed to lift them but Fitzpatrick and Johnston both kicked wides before McBride dropped a routine free into Chris Kerr’s arms as they fought to turn the game around. McBride made amends with a great individual effort but again St. Gall’s were able to respond.
Pollock (free) and Niall O’Neill (two) kept the scoreboard ticking over before McBride slotted over a free after drawing a foul with 10 minutes remaining. As the game entered the final ten minutes St. John’s looked like they would need a goal if they were to pull this one out of the fire.
As they pressed forward a long delivery from Hannigan dropped into the six-yard box, but Kerr failed to claim the ball and it fell kindly for McCallin. Surrounded by defenders the corner-forward rushed his shot and it sailed over the bar when a goal was needed.
McCallin’s point closed the gap to three and when Paddy McBride added another it was down to two and the comeback still looked very much on. However, St Gall’s emptied their bench bringing on CJ McGourty who held his nerve to convert a long range free on the hour mark to put three between the sides once again.
St. John’s pressed for that all important goal in time added on but the St. Gall’s defence stood firm as a Paddy McBride shot sailed wide of a packed goalmouth to bring proceedings to a halt.
St Gall’s are on the road again on Sunday, April 29 when they face Glenavy while St John’s travel up to Hannahstown to face Lámh Dhearg in a repeat of last year’s SFC final in a game that is sure to attract a lot of interest.
ST JOHN’S: E Lambert; C Carland, P Gribben, C McEvoy; J Hannigan, M Bradley 0-2, S Tierney; S McDonagh, R McCafferty; P McBride 0-6 (0-4fs), A McGowan 0-1, R McNulty; P McCallin 0-1, C Johnston 0-1, M Fitzpatrick 0-1.
Subs: M Dudley for McNulty (29mins), L Peden for Gribben (50mins), J Carland for McGowan (52mins).
ST GALL’S: C Kerr; C Brady, R Irvine, S O’Hagan; M Kelly, S Kelly, J McGreevy; C Burke, A Gallagher; M Pollock 0-9 (0-5fs), K McGourty 0-1, E McCabe 0-1; T O’Neill, K Niblock, N O’Neill 0-3.
Subs: T O’Ciaran for O’Hagan (45mins), CJ McGourty 0-1 (0-1f) for K McGourty (49mins), R Wilson for M Kelly (56mins), J McCaffrey for Gallagher (62mins), C Stinton for Brady (64mins)
REFEREE: B Toland (Lámh Dhearg)