Aghagallon secure Division 1 status

ACFL Division 1-2 Promotion-Relegation playoff

St.Mary’s Aghagallon 3-13 All Saints Ballymena 0-3

Photographs: Bert Trowlen

St. Mary’s Aghagallon secured their division 1 status for another season following, what in the end was a comprehensive victory over division 2 runners up, All Saints Ballymena at Dunsilly on Friday night.

The margin of victory doesn’t quite tell all the story however as the blanket defence employed by the Ballymena men frustrated St. Mary’s until 10 minutes into the second half when All Saints lost full-back, Sean McVeigh to a second yellow and after that the flood gates opened.

All Saints plan from early in the game was obvious as they set up to frustrate their division 1 opponents with a blanket defence that saw all 15 players behind the ball at times and relied on hitting on the break.

Aghagallon started brightly however and two pointed Gareth Magee frees and a point from play from Eunan Walsh saw them 0-3 to 0-0 ahead after five minutes and everything appeared to be going to plan.

Slowly though the All Saints defence began to get to grips with the opposition attack and finally broke forward for a point of their own when Shea O’Brien pointed a free in the 7th minute but they were unable to add to that early score.

Play slowed to a walking pace as the Ballymena side conceded possession and dropped deep to frustrate the opposition who were content to keep possession for long periods as they probed for an opening that was not forthcoming.

They were nearly made to pay when All Saints broke forward in the 15th minute as Conor Stewart raced through the heart of their defence but the county man blazed wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.

Naomh Muire replied with a long range point from Eunan Walsh which was hotly disputed by the opposition and manager Liam Bradley got his marching orders for protesting too strongly.

Walsh’s point was to prove the final score of the opening half but the Ballymena men might have added to their meagre total in the closing stages but were unable to convert a number of opportunities but still looked in with a shout as the sides headed to the dressing room.

It was Sunday’s beaten senior championship finalists who were first on target as play got under way again as Enda McCartan extended their lead to four with a fine point in the 4th minute but Conor Stewart replied with a good score for All Saints to keep his side in touch.

Gareth Magee restored his side’s four point advantage before disaster struck for the Slemish Park side when they lost full-back Sean McVeigh to a second yellow card in the 9th minute and suddenly the space that Aghagallon had been denied up to this point started to open up.

Two quick points from Eunan Walsh and Ciaran McGuinness and a pointed free from Gareth Magee moved the Lough Shore side seven ahead and then Jamie Lamont set Ruairi McCann up for a well worked goal after a slick move opened up the All Saints defence.

Aghagallon began to play with the swagger and confidence that saw them reach last Sunday championship decider against Cargin and suddenly an All Saints defence that had coped so well in the opening half were being stretched in all directions.

Oisin Lenehan got in for a second goal and when Adam Loughran placed Ciaran McGuinness for a third in the 23d minute it was well and truly over.

To their credit All Saints kept going to the end but it was Aghagallon’s Jamie Lamont and Adam Loughran who added to their total with late points before substitute Brendan McDonnell replied with a consolation point for the Ballymena side deep in injury time to conclude the scoring.

So it will be St. Mary’s who will play their football in division 1 again next season and it is where they belong and just how they got themselves into this situation in the first place was very much of their own making.

Relegation would have been unthinkable for a side who have contested the last two senior championship finals and with all their players back on board they are a match for anyone on their day and I would expect them to be back challenging for honours in the 2023.

Aghagallon: 1 Damien O’Hagan, 2 Stephen Devlin, 3 Daniel Donnelly, 4 Paddy Brannigan, 5 Ciaran Maginnis, 6 Padraig Gowdy, 7 Jamie Lamont, 8 David McAlernon, 9 Oisin Lenehan, 10 Eunan Walsh, 11 Adam Loughran, 12 Ruairi McCann, 13 Gareth Magee, 14 Enda McCartan, 15 Jack Lenehan.

Subs used: Pauric McGuinness, Daryl McAlernon, Aidan Mulholland

All Saints: 1 Connor Brennan, 2 James Gillan, 3 Sean McVeigh, 4 James McDonnell, 25 Kavan Keenan, 6 Sean O’Callaghan, 7 Connell Lemon, 8 Paddy McAleer, 9 Emmet Killough, 10 Peter McReynolds, 11 Ciaran McGarry, 12 Shea O’Brien, 13 Eoin Campbell, 14 Conor Stewart, 15 Ronan McKillop

Subs used: Cal O’Brien, Peter McNicholl, Benny McDonnell

Referee: Brendan Toland (Lamh Dhearg)

Aghagallon to retain their division 1 status

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Division 1-2 Promotion-Relegation play-off

Friday 7-30pm Dunsilly

St. Mary’s Aghagallon v All Saints Ballymena

St. Mary’s Aghagallon came agonisingly close to winning their first Senior Football championship on Sunday when they lost in extra time to Erin’s own, Cargin at Corrigan Park. This Friday evening at Dunsilly they are involved in a less glamorous but arguably more important fixture to the Lough Shore club.

A less than impressive league campaign saw St. Mary’s finish second bottom in division 1 of the ACFL, their poor finishing position exacerbated by the unavailability of a host of players through injuries and a summer spent in the states by others.

Their opponents on Friday night are All Saints Ballymena who finished second in division 2 to St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass, winning 11 of their 16 fixtures in a season that finished in disappointment when they lost to Con Magee’s Glenravel in the quarter-final of the Intermediate Football championship.

That defeat was at Fr. Maginn Park back on the 11th September and the Slemish Park side have had to wait patiently in the wings as Aghagallon have put a strong Senior Championship run behind them to reach last Sunday’s decider.

St. Mary’s were drawn in group 3 of the qualifiers with Gort na Mona and Tir na nOg and topped the group with wins over both these sides. They were drawn against St. Brigid’s in the quarter-final and St. Mary’s made it three championship wins from three starts with a 0-14 to 0-7 win over the Musgrave Park side.

This set them up with a repeat of last year’s semi-final when they were drawn against Casement’s Portglenone and St. Mary’s Aghagallon produced a great come-back to earn their place for the second year in succession in the Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship final.

That game was at Friday night’s venue, Dunsilly and the Aghagallon men will start as firm favourite to an All Saints side who have been knocking at the promotion door for a number of years but have been unable to gain access to the premier division.

St. Mary’s scored an impressive 12 goals during their Senior Championship campaign and in Ruairi McCann, Adam Loughran, Eunan Walsh and Gareth Magee they have players who can pose a serious scoring threat and Audi Kelly’s side will start as firm fasvourites.

The tag of underdogs will certainly suit All Saints and the Ballymena men have often performed better when the odds are stacked firmly against them.

James McDonnell, Paddy McAleer, Emmet Killough, Kavan Keenan, Sean McVeigh, Michael McCarry and Benny McDonnell will lead the All Saints challenge and ‘Baker Bradley’s side will give it everything but it might not be enough to prevent St. Mary’s retain the division 1 status.

Battling Rasharkin come up short

ACFL Division 2B

Rasharkin  2-14(20)  Aldergrove 2-15(21)

St. Mary’s Rasharkin’s fight for division 2 survival ended in failure in Crumlin on Wednesday night but not before a mighty second half fight-back against St. James’ Aldergrove which came up just short in the end.

The Dreen side already looked on their way to division 3 when they trailed by 8 points to a sharp Aldergrove side at the halfway point but they threw everything but the kitchen sink at their opponents in the second half but in the end it wasn’t enough.

St. James opened strongly and Conor Morris, Brian McQuillan and Fearghal Hanna shot them into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after five minutes but Rasharkin responded through Eamonn McNeill and two Ryan Lynch pointed frees to draw level with eight minutes gone.

Back came the Crumlin side and in a period of almost total dominance they kicked five unanswered points with Seamus McGarry 0-2, Conor Morris 0-2 and the impressive Brian McQuillan the men on target.

Shane Hasson briefly stopped the onslaught on the Rasharkin goal as he pointed a free in the 16th minute but the momentum was still very much with the Aldergrove men and they replied with points from Fearghal Hanna and Conor Browning to lead by six after 20 minutes.

A Shane Hasson goal from the penalty spot had it back to a manageable three with seven minutes remaining to the break but it was Aldergrove who grabbed the baton again as they kicked the final four points of the half through McGarry, Morris 0-2 and Glen Dunham to lead 1-12 to 1-4 at the short whistle and it looked a long way back for the visitors.

Eammon McNeill who was in fine form for Rasharkin

Rasharkin started the second half on the front foot, determined not to give up their division 2 status without a fight and Eammon McNeill and Shane Hasson kicked early points before Seamus McGarry replied with a goal for the home side in the third minute to edge his side nine in front.

Things were getting a bit heated and referee, Richard Leahy issued Red cards to a player from both sides in the 6th minute and when things got under way again it was St. Mary’s who made the running for a time as they began to eat into the Aldergrove lead.

Ryan Lynch pointed and the excellent Eammon McNeill followed with a goal in the 10th minute and suddenly it was the visitors who were calling the shots.

The momentum had swung very much in favour of the visitors at this stage as they continued to take the game to the home side as Ryan Lynch pointed three frees and further points from Eammon McNeill and Ruairi O’Boyle saw them move one ahead by the 18th minute.

A bit of nervousness and uncertainty seemed to creep into their play at this stage like the marathon runner hitting the wall as Aldergrove came back with points from Seamus McGarry 0-2 before Eammon McNeill kept the visitors hopes alive with a point in the 26th minute.

Aldergrove edged two in front once more with Rasharkin’s final response coming from a Tiernan OBoyle ‘45’ to leave the home side winners by the minimum.

Ryan Lynch kicked a number of excellent frees but couldn’t get Rasharkin over the line against Aldergrove

Not for the first time this year Rasharkin have come close to victory only to be denied in the closing stages but this one will stick in the throat for days to come and with St. Teresa’s winning at Glenavy there could be no reprieve from the Dreen side.

They can hold their head up high despite this defeat and the consequent relegation but they have been competitive in division 2 all season but sometimes the ball just didn’t bounce their way but if they can keep this squad together they are capable of making a quick return to the higher grade.

Aldergrove: 1 Sean O’Neill, 2 David Aiken, 3 Chris McVeigh, 4 Oisin Graham, 5 Andy Flood, 6 Brian McQuillan, 7 Christopher Browning, 8 Ryan Owens, 9 Conor Browning, 10 Declan Gough, 11 Seamus McGarry, 12 Fearghal Hanna, 13 Glen Dunham, 14 Conor Morris, 15 Ronan Hanna

Rasharkin: 1 – Tiernan O’Boyle, 2 – Conor Higgins, 3 – Emmet McFerran, 4 – Pearse Kelly, 5 – Donagh Quigg, 6 – Conor Hasson, 7 – Colm Kennedy, 8 – Ruairi OBoyle, 9 – Thomas McMullan, 10 – Shane Hasson, 11 – Eammon McNeill, 12 – Seamus Ellis, 13 – Ryan Lynch,

14 – Conor McKeever, 15 – Andrew Hasson.

Referee: Richard Leahy (Naomh Comhghall)

Team captains, Eammopn McNeill, Rasharkin and Ryan Oqwens, Aldergrove with referee Richard Leahy

St. Teresa’s complete the great escape

ACFL Division 2B

St.Joseph’s 0.10 v 2.08 St.Teresa’s

The old saying “goals win matches” was proven to be true when St.Teresas’ scored two goals against the run of play which saw them heading home with two very valuable points to retain their place in division 2. This defeat leaves the home side in a playoff against division three runners up St.Comgall’s in order to retain division 2 status for next season.

A draw would have ensured division two football for Glenavy but it didn’t happen as the visitors took full advantage of two mistakes by the home defence. Both sides had a number of changes in their teams due to a variety of reasons.

The game started with the Chapel Hill side on the attack and they were rewarded with two points in the first three minutes. From the throw in young Fiontáin O’Boyle got the ball through to full-forward Charles Gallagher who cooly slotted the ball over the bar. Fergal Henry then showed all his class when he sent a free between the sticks but he home side could have been in trouble only for an excellent save from

St.Teresa’s then struck for their first goal when a mix up in the home defence allowed Joseph Ramsey the opportunity and he made no mistake from close range.

 To their credit Glenavy won the resulting kick-out which was played through to Charles Gallagher who raised the white flag once again to level the contest. Back came the Belfast side with an excellent point from Niall McCann to put his side back in front and there was little between the sides at this stage.

Both sides were having difficulty with the strong cross field breeze which made passing difficult but Patrick Gallagher got in on the scoring act when he made a run forward to level the scores.

The visitors have shown improvement in recent weeks and took control of the game with with four unanswered points to put themselves in a lead they never lost. Conor O’Rawe broke forward to take a pass and put his side ahead and John Mallon pointed two frees and an excellent point from Eoghan Hamill left the halftime score Glenavy 0.04 St.Teresa’s1’05

Whatever Glenavy team manager Martin Clenaghan said to his players in the dressing room had the desired effect as they started the second half brightly with Fiontáin O’Boyle, Fergal Green and Fergal Henry adding three points in the first six minutes to narrow the gap to one.

Eoghan Hamill stopped the rot when he split the posts from an acute angle but once again Fergal Henry closed the gap raising another white flag. The home side mounted another attack but were turned over and St Teresa’s broke forward and quickly got the ball to Joseph Ramsey who gave the keeper no chance as the ball nestled in the corner of the net.

Once again young Fergal Henry replied for the home side and split the posts but Paul McGoldrick steadied the ship for the blue and gold side with a well-executed point. The momentum was now with the Glen Road side and Niall McCann made sure his side was staying in division two with two excellent points before Malachi Doherty replied with a consolation score for Glenavy.

Moneyglass complete the double over All Saints

ACFL Division 2A

All Saints 2-11 Moneyglass 3-12

St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass completed their division 2 winning campaign as they had started it with a win over All Saints. Two points separated the sides on the opening day of the campaign and last night the visitors extended that winning margin to four at Slemish Park.

The league winners led by 1-8 to 2-3 at the break with their goal coming from Shay Madden in the 17th minute and Colm Duffin 0-2, Connlaodh McCann 0-3, Patrick McCormick and Shay Madden getting the points.

All Saints were well in it as the sides switched ends and goals from Shea O’Brien after 4 minutes and Emmet Killough with 27 minutes gone and points from Ciaran Campbell, Michael McCarry and Conor Stewart left them trailing by two at the change of ends.

Two from Conor Stewart in reply to a Dermot McErlain point for the Marian Hill side had the gap down to one with only 4 minutes of the second half gone but a Patrick McCormick goal for Moneyglass edged them four ahead after 7 minutes.

Three points from the returning Michael McCarry between the 39th and 49th minutes in reply to one from Connlaodh McCann left just one in it again and when Emmet Killough sent over the equaliser with 10 minutes remaining it looked like anybody’s game.

The newly crowned league champions were always able to find a response and Colm Duffin edged them two ahead once more before Stewart replied for the home side again with six minutes remaining.

The Slemish Park side pushed for an equaliser but the visitors struck a killer blow when Dermot McErlain got in for their third goal in the 59th minute to put the game out of reach and complete the double over the Ballymena men who can still gain promotion and now await a play-off with the second bottom team in division 1, a position that has not yet been decided

All Saints: 1 Connor Brennan, 2 Michael Read, James McDonnell, 4 James Gillan, 5 Cormac Lemon, Rhys O’Mullan, 7 Conall Killough, 8 Emmet Killough, 9 Kavan Keenan, 10 Conor Stewart, 11 Michael McCarry, 12 Shaun O’Callaghan, 13 Ciaran Campbell, 14 Eoin Campbell, 15 Shea O’Brien

Moneyglass: 1. Gary Murray, 2. Luke O’Donnell,  3. Tiernan Duffin, 4. Callum McStocker, 5. Fearghal Duffin, 6. Conor Boyd,  7. James McCormick,  8. Colum Duffin, 9. Dermot McErlaine, 10. Connlaodh McCann, 11. Paddy McCormick, 12. Miran Neeson, 13. Connor O’Kane, 14. Conaill Prenter, 15. Shay Madden

Subs: Peter McCormick for Miran Neeson. Declan Neeson for Colum Duffin