Portglenone pip St Brigid’s at the post

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.

Teams:

Portglenone:

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)

St Brigid’s

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)

St Brigid’s claim victory with second half blitz

Homefit ACFL Division One 

St Galls 1-06-2-15 St Brigid’s 

Kevin Herron reports from Milltown 

St Brigid’s ended their league campaign on a high as they outscored St Galls 2-09-1-01 in the second half of their 2-15-1-06 win at Milltown on Wednesday evening. 

The visitors held a narrow one-point lead at the end of a cagey opening half, but cruised to victory in a one-sided second half, thanks to goals from Paul Bradley and substitute James Smith. 

There was nothing at stake ahead of the clash which was both sides last game before the Football Championship begins next weekend. 

St Gall’s were first off the mark when Ruairi Wilson floated the ball between the posts inside of the first 60-seconds. 

Paul Bradley swung over a leveller and St Brigid’s hit the front through a converted Conor McAteer free after Marcus Lynch had his jersey tugged. 

The Musgrave Park outfit then extended their lead after Ronan Boyle dropped the ball over the bar from range. 

Ruairi Wilson doubled his personal tally in response and the hosts pulled level through a smart Niall O’Neill point, following a nice interchange with Brendan Bradley. 

Bradley would kick a fantastic point himself a few minutes later to give St Galls a 0-04-0-03 lead, but St Brigid’s regained the advantage.

Fergal Meenagh drove forward in attack and offloaded to Bradley to pop over the equaliser before Oran Boyle swung over a fantastic point. 

St Brigid’s went two ahead for the second time in the half as Conor McAteer curled over an impressive point. 

The bare minimum would separate the sides at the interval though, Niall O’Neill claimed a mark and laid the ball to Calum Walsh off the shoulder, and he guided the ball high between the posts to ensure that his side went in at the break trailing 0-06-0-05. 

St Brigid’s had an early goal opportunity at the beginning of the second half- but Ronan Boyle opted to fist over the bar. 

Peter Lundy then angled a shot over at the near post and Conor McAteer converted his second free of the evening to open up a four-point gap.

With little over ten minutes remaining St Galls were yet to register in the half and St Brigid’s pulled clear. 

Paul Bradley had the chance to hit the net, though his shot was pushed over the bar by St Galls net-minder Niall McCurdy. 

Then substitutes Jack Dowling and James Smith combined- the later claiming the fisted score. 

Any lingering hopes of a St Galls fightback went up in smoke on 52 minutes when Ronan Boyle advanced forward, Paul Bradley peeled away from his marker and took a pass before shooting low past McCurdy to give his side a 1-11-0-05 lead. 

Paul Bradley watches on as his low shot finds the net

Oran Boyle landed a point in the immediate aftermath and things got better for St Brigid’s as found their second goal in quick succession. 

Patrick Finnegan slipped the ball into the path of substitute James Smith- who thundered low to the corner of the net to make it 2-12-0-05. 

It took St Galls 27 minutes of the second period to eventually come up with a reply through an Emmet Loughran point. 

Smith and Bradley kicked successive scores to extend their sides lead before St Galls claimed scant consolation in the form of a late goal.

Niall O’Neill measured up a shot that came off the large post and landed to Emmet Loughran to shoot low to the net. 

A third score of the evening from Oran Boyle ended the evenings scoring as St Brigid’s ran out convincing winners in the end to finish their league campaign on a high. 

Ahoghill finish on a high

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)

Creggan crowned league champions after victory at Hannahstown

Homefit ACFL Division One

Lámh Dhearg 2-07-0-15 Creggan Kickham’s

Kevin Herron reports from Hannahstown

County Champions Creggan were crowned league champions for the first time in four years after a 0-15-2-07 win over Lámh Dhearg at Hannahstown on Monday evening.

The visitors made the trip to the edge of Belfast knowing that defeat would see the Eddie Fitzsimons Memorial Cup slip through their grasp and head to near neighbours Cargin instead.

And they started on the front foot, leading through a superbly taken Dominic McAteer point inside of the first 30-seconds.

McAteer doubled his sides advantage after converting a free and an excellent Kevin Small point was followed by an angled effort from Liam Quinn to give their side a four-point advantage after ten minutes.

Terry McCrudden’s direct run was halted and gave Paddy Cunningham the opportunity to reply and he took advantage from the free.

Cunningham halved the deficit after Ben Rice was felled, but Creggan tagged on three scores in succession.

The first of those scores came courtesy of Sean Duffin- who dropped a shot over the posts, Conor McCann then fisted over from a promising position and Oisin Kerr converted a 45’ to make it 0-07-0-02.

The hosts narrowed the margin when Ciaran Boyd swung over a nice pass to Ben Rice to clip over a response, though Conor McCann made the most of an advantage by referee Kevin Parke to shoot over his second point of the half and ensure his side went in at the interval with a five-point lead (0-08-0-03).

Lámh Dhearg upped the ante after the break and half-time substitutes Marc McGarry and Michael Hynes combined to great effect.

McGarry soloed forward and picked the run of Hynes- who charged forward, feigned a shot and rifled low to the corner past Oisin Kerr to reduce arrears to just two-points.

Captain Terry McCrudden then steered a shot over the bar to ensure the bare minimum separated the sides.

The next two scores were traded as Oisin Kerr’s converted free was cancelled out by a fantastic effort from Ciaran Boyd that sailed over the bar.

Creggan extended their lead to two-points once again when Aidan McKeown shot over on the turn and McKeown may have found the net moments later.

Conor McCann came in and swiped possession before offloading to McKeown in space, but his effort was turned around the post by Mark McIlvenny in the Lámhs goal.

Oisin Kerr landed the resulting 45’ to conjure up his third set-piece of the evening and put three between the sides.

A magnificent kick from Jamie McCann increased his sides lead, though Paddy Cunningham converted his third free of the evening in response.

With little over ten minutes remaining Creggan had re-established the five-point lead they held at the break.

Another impressive score from Jamie McCann was followed shortly afterwards by a point from substitute Matthew Rodgers.

Cormac Hannan narrowed the margins slightly with an effort that squeezed inside of the large posts, only for Killian Burke steer an effort over the other end and give his side a 0-15-1-07 lead.

It appeared that the Staffordstown Road outfit had enough to spare, however a grandstand finish was on the cards.

Michael Herron last featured for the Lámhs in a corresponding fixture in Creggan last July and a dislocated patella looked to have ended his playing days. However, he took to the field for the last ten minutes and capped his return with a goal.  

The move began at the other end though as a vital block from Marc McGarry prevented Creggan putting the game to bed.

Defence then to turned to attack and a patient move ended when Paddy Cunningham picked out Herron unmarked, and he shot low past Kerr to make it a two-point game (0-15-2-07).

Creggan managed the game out thereafter and at the full-time whistle they were crowned league Champions for the first time in four-seasons and collected the Eddie Fitzsimons memorial trophy from South-Antrim Chairman and County-board representative Frank Caldwell.

Sam Maguire had the perfect vehicle to transport the Eddie Fitzsimons Cup after Creggan’s win at Hannahstown sealed the league title

McNeilly the man as Tír Na nÓg secure safety

Homefit ACFL Division One

Saturday 16th July

Report by Niall Kelly 

Tír Na nÓg Randalstown 3-08  Naomh Mhuire Aghagallon 2-11

Randalstown solidified their position as a Division One outfit for next season after grabbing a share of the spoils in an enthralling contest with a no doubt disappointed Aghagallon side. Aaron McNeilly’s superb point with the last kick of the game to level proceedings sparked ecstatic celebrations from the home side with a draw enough to remain in the league. Aghagallon were left stunned as they squandered a five point lead going into the final five minutes of the game. The Naomh Mhuire men held the lead from the tenth minute and looked on course for a crucial victory leaving their Division One fate in their own hands. It was not to be.

The game burst into life with a rather fortuitous goal from Eamon Óg McAllister in the opening minute. The Whitehill number eleven attempted a point from range but didn’t quite catch it sweetly; the end result will surely have pleased him more though as the ball bounced in front of the goal line and into the roof of the net as the Aghagallon defence seemed to lose flight of the ball.

Aghagallon responded well through two points from the potent Gareth Magee which seemed to steady the ship and provided a platform to build on. The momentum was now swinging in favour of the men in green and they took the lead on the tenth minute with a sensational individual effort. Davy McAlernon marauded through the home side’s defence from midfield before unleashing a low drive into the back of S.P McAtamney’s net.

The visitors continued to push forward and were linking up in attack nicely. Niall McShane pointed from close range before Gareth Magee was on hand again to split the posts after some intricate play among their offence.

The hosts needed to respond but couldn’t seem to get their range right with efforts curling wide of the mark. Ciaran O’Neill, however, sent over a floated effort off the carpet to settle his side.

Aghagallon responded with a hammer blow just before the interval though with another superb major. This time, it was all about the collective rather than the individual. A cleverly constructed and incisive move was finished off by that man Magee once again. The dangerous corner forward fisted Daryl McAlernon’s cross field ball beyond the reach of the onrushing keeper.

Aghagallon started the second half in the same vein of form as much of the first. Ruairi McCann and Gareth Magee fired over before Oisin Lenehan’s delicately curled effort split the posts to stretch the lead to eight points with nearly forty minutes played.

It was perhaps this point that sparked the hosts back to life. ‘Oggie’ McAllister notched his second goal of the game and there was nothing fortuitous about this one. The Whitehill man powered his way through the Aghagallon defence selling a few delicious feints and dummies before releasing a thundering effort low into Damien O’Hagan’s net.  Aaron McNeilly, who had been at the heart of everything Randalstown created, followed this up by slotting over two points to close the gap to three.

Yet again though, the balance of play swung in favour of the men in green as they were determined to achieve victory. Jonny Hannon, Gareth Magee and Niall McShane each fired over points to stretch the lead further with ten minutes to go.

In response, Tír Na nÓg introduced captain Caoimhin Duffin from the bench. Making an immediate impact, Duffin fired over a point which ignited the touch paper. The final five minutes were relentless as both teams went hammer and tongs. Aghagallon were desperately trying to keep the barrage of Randalstown attacks at bay but eventually the defences broke. With three minutes to play, Aaron McNeilly latched onto a loose kick out and burst through a packed defence and finished with aplomb to the back of the net to a raucous roar from the home support.

With one minute of normal time remaining, McNeilly stepped up yet again, keeping his composure to dispatch a tricky free and tie things up. Aghagallon were shell-shocked but to their credit, kept their cool and tried to negotiate an opening of their own. In the second minute of added time, Ruairi McCann pointed for the visitors to retake the lead and with little left to play, they thought they might just have done enough.

But it was to end in heartbreak and that man McNeilly was once again the incessant thorn in the Aghagallon rear-guard. With the last kick of the game, he curled a stunning point over the bar and in doing so ensured Tír Na nÓg will continue to ply their trade with the elite of the county.

Credit to both teams for an enthralling encounter. Aghagallon can still join Tír Na nÓg if they can emerge victorious from the play off meeting with second place All Saints, Ballymena in Divison Two.

Teams:

Tír Na nÓg:

S.P McAtamney; O McAtamney, E Higgins, P Cullen; C O’Neill, B McLarnon, A McNeilly; R O’Neill, C Sheerin; D Mallon, E Óg McAllister, C McKeown; C Dobbin, K Sheerin, D Martin

Scorers:

Aaron McNeilly 1-05, Eamon Óg McAllister 2-00, Ciaran O’Neill 0-02, Caoimhin Duffin 0-01

Aghagallon:

D O’Hagan; A Mulholland, S Devlin, A Doherty; Daryl McAlernon, J Lenehan, P Branagan; O Lenehan, Davy McAlernon; E McCartan, J Hannon, C Maginnis; G Magee, N McShane, R McCann

Scorers:

Gareth Magee 1-05, Davy McAlernon 1-00, Niall McShane 0-02, Ruairi McCann 0-02, Oisin Lenehan 0-01, Jonathan Hannon 0-01