O’Neill’s All County Football League Division One
Creggan 1-13 St John’s 2-11
Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Chiceam, Creggan
St John’s made it back to back wins on Sunday afternoon as they saw off the challenge of Creggan with the minimum to spare. Trailing by two points at half time, the Johnnies were helped to victory by a superb second half cameo from Brian ‘Bam’ Neeson, including a blistering goal in the 43rd minute that gave the Corrigan Park side the lead for the first time in the match.
Creggan were full value for their half time lead and probably should have been ahead by more at the short whistle. They dominated possession and held a four point lead midway through the first half but were less economical in front of goal than St John’s. A run of six wides to just two from their opponents in the first 30 minutes didn’t help their cause with the St John’s first goal came from fortuitous circumstances to keep in touch.
St Johns played with more vigour and intensity after the restart with Neeson sublime and Creggan floundering, they held on to win by a single white flag at the end of an entertaining hour of football.
Playing with the aid of a biting cold wind in the first half, Creggan settled into the contest quicker than the Johnnies. Three points in the opening six minutes from Dominic McAteer, Fintan Burke and Liam Quinn got the Kickhams men off and running with Quinn’s point the highlight of the opening exchanges.
Conor Small’s first of five white flags over the hour opened a four point lead before the Johnnies responded through Ryan McNulty to open their account in the 11th minute.
St John’s were struggling to come to terms playing into the elements, guilty of dropping the ball short on a couple of occasions but while Creggan were ahead, they too were guilty of missing the target with four wides in the same period.
Kevin Small split the uprights with a long range strike to restore the Creggan four point advantage as their defence remained organised and on top with Ricky and Martin Johnston impressive along with Ruairi McCann.
The first goal of the game came under fortuitous circumstances but it gave St John’s a lifeline. They were second best in the opening quarter but Conal Bohill was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a rare error from Creggan ‘keeper Oisin Kerr. He failed to deal with a high dropping ball and Bohill punched ball to the back of the net in the 21st minute.
Creggan regrouped and once again controlled the game but St John’s were happy to soak up the pressure from the home side. Conor Small hit a brace of frees before Paddy McBride’s first free of the match left two between the sides at the interval.
Half Time: Creggan 0-7 St John’s 1-2
St John’s would have been more than happy with the half time score and halved the Creggan lead with Matt Fitzpatrick firing over his first of three second half points. Creggan responded with Conor Small (free) and Martin Johnston splitting the uprights to open a three point lead but St John’s found another gear.
White flags from Fitzpatrick and Bohill breathed fresh impetus into the St John’s challenge and while a swift counter attack and point from Ruairi McCann edged Creggan into a two point lead again in the 41st minute, St John’s had all the momentum with Neeson taking centre stage.
A pointed free reduced the Creggan lead to one point before he scored their second goal. Collecting the ball 40 yards from goal, ‘Bam’ carried forward and unleashed an unstoppable drive from 30 yards out into the bottom corner in the 43rd minute.
Creggan’s response was almost game defining. A swift counter attack lead to the ball falling to Conor Small who had an eye on goal. He sidestepped two challenges before firing the ball goal ward. The ball clipped the bar and went over but better was to come for the home side.
Liam Quinn dancing down the left showed his marker a clean pair of heels before unselfishly passing across the face of goal to Mark Dougan. The Creggan substitute finished with composure to restore the Creggan lead to two points going into the final quarter.
With the game in the melting pot, tempers began to fray with a number of off the ball incidents leading to some ugly scenes. The game was held up with Conor McEvoy having to be stretchered off the pitch with a knee injury and when referee Darren McKeown restored calm, St John’s dominated.
A run of four points in as many minutes from Fitzpatrick, Neeson (two) and McBride (free) gave them a two point lead going into injury time. St John’s remained in control in the time that remained. Creggan looked to use their pace and play through the St John’s defence but a brace of frees from Conor Small either side of Bam Neeson taking his personal tally to 1-4 for the half meant St John’s held on for a one point lead at the final whistle.T
CREGGAN: Oisin Kerr; Aidan Maguire, Richard Johnston, Conor McCann; Martin Johnston, Thomas McCann, Ruairi McCann; Kevin Small, Odhran McLarnon; Fintan Burke, Tiarnan McAteer, Paddy Coey; Liam Quinn, Conor Small, Dominic McAteer.
Scorers: Conor Small 0-5 (3 f’s); Mark Dougan 1-00; Martin Johnston 0-1; Ruairi McCann 0-1; Kevin Small 0-1; Fintan Burke 0-1; Liam Quinn 0-1; Dominic McAteer 0-1.
ST JOHN’S: Padraig Nugent; Oisin Donnelly, Aaron Douglas, Paul Gribben; Sean Wilson, Ciaran Johnston, Jack Hannigan; Simon McDonagh, Matthew Fitzpatrick; Conal Bohill, Paddy McBride, Ryan McNulty; Stephen Tierney, Andy McGowan, Conor McEvoy.
Scorers: Brian Neeson 1-4 (2 f’s); Conal Bohill 1-1; Matthew Fitzpatrick 0-3; Paddy McBride 0-2 (2 f’s); Ryan McNulty (0-1)
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)
Pics by Brendan McTaggart