Photographs: Bert Trowlen
O’Neills Antrim Senior Football League Division Two
St Brigid’s 1-13
Tír na nÓg 2-7
St. Brigid’s finally got themselves over the line after stumbling on the way to promotion in recent weeks but they were given a few anxious moments as they withstood a strong second half come-back from Tir na nOg at Musgrave Park today.
Promotion was still very much the prize for both sides going into today’s game and a win for either side would have guaranteed them promotion to division one next year.
.It looked like St Brigid’s were going to coast to victory and they built up a commanding 1-6 to 0-1 lead at the break thanks to a goal from Ronan McGrady.
However, the men from Randalstown launched a remarkable comeback, hitting an unanswered 1-4 midway through the second half to put themselves right back into contention.
St. Brigid’s defended strongly in the closing stages despite a late goal from substitute Darren O’Kane which ensured a nervous finish for the Belfast men.
They will join league champions Gort na Móna in Division One next season with Rossa and Glenavy dropping down to Division Two.
St Brigid’s looked to be coasting during the opening half and it looked as good as over at the half way stage with McGrady giving the visitors defence a torrid time.
McGrady got St. Brigid’s on their way from a 21 meter free in the fifth minute but decided to go low from a similar award after 12 minutes with Sean Paul McAtamney coming to the Whiehill side’s rescue with a good save.
Patrick Finnegan extended St Brigid’s lead to two as Tir na nOg struggled to get a foothold in the game. Midfielder Christy Sheerin was securing plentiful possession but they couldn’t find a way past a well-organised St Brigid’s defence with King doing an excellent man-marking job on Kevin Sheerin.
It took Randalstown 10 minutes to get their first shot away and they didn’t raise a white flag until 28 minutes into the game via an Aaron McNeilly free.
By that stage, St Brigid’s were well in control as John Blaney set up James Smith for their third point before Blaney forced another good save from McAtamney.
Midfielders Cathal Conway and Niall McDonald added two more points from play and another from a McGrady free saw the Musgrave park side move further ahead.
McGrady for St. Brigid’s and Sean Duffin for Tir na nOg found their way into Brendan Toland’s notebook as the half came near to a close andTir na nOg switched markers onto the St. Brigid’s danger man in an attempt to nullify his threat.
Unfortunately for the visitors it didn’t have the necessary effect with McGrady taking advantage of a poor kick out to fire to the net and leave his side 1-6 to 0-1 ahead at the break.
St. Brigid’s moved further ahead on the restart with a point from Finnegan after good work from Smith and althoughTír na nÓg replied with a free from Darragh Fagan it was the home side who continued to dominate hitting the next five points without reply through Smith 0-2, Blaney, Peter Webb and McGrady and it looked well and truly over, even at this early juncture.
Thirteen points in arrears Tir na nOg finally got themselves going and Duffin got them on their way with a great score before McNeilly added back-to-back frees. Tir na nOg then plundered a goal when O’Kane’s shot came off a St Brigid’s defender and fell kindly for fellow substitute Pearse Sheerin to slot the ball past Jamie Allen.
When McNeilly landed a superb long-range free moments later, only six points separated the sides with six minute of normal time remaining.
St Brigid’s centre-forward Smith eased the burden on his side with his fourth point from play, but Tír na nÓg weren’t finished and they produced a storming finish.
McNeilly added a point from play in reply before setting up O’Kane for a great goal in stoppage time but it proved to be too little, too late for the Whitehill side as the hosts held out for a three point victory and a place in division 1 next year.
St Brigid’s: J Allen; J Toner, C King, B Sinnott; M Cummings, P Finnegan (0-2), O Boyle; N McDonald (0-1), C Conway (0-1); J Blaney (0-1), J Smith (0-4), P Lundy; R McGrady (1-3, 0-3fs), J Dowling, E Carleton.
Subs: P Webb (0-1) for McDonald (39mins), E Clarke for Carleton (52mins), F McKernan for Blaney (54mins), R O’Neill for McGrady (61mins), J Blaney for Boyle (62mins).
Tír na nÓg: SP McAtamney; B Magee, C Duffin, D Martin; S Redmond, C Duffin, S Duffin (0-1); M Duffin, C Sheerin; B McCormick, D McCormick, A McNeilly (0-5, 0-4fs); R O’Neill, K Sheerin, D Fagan (0-1, 0-1f).
Subs: C Logan for Redmond (2 mins), P Cullen for Martin (33mins), K Kerr for O’Neill (35mins), D O’Kane (1-0) for K Sheerin (42mins), P Sheerin (1-0) for Fagan (51mins), C Dobbin for Logan (56mins).
Referee: B Toland (Lámh Dhearg)