All Saints Dreams Shattered in Omagh

                          

DOWN MEMORY LANE

Ulster Intermediate Football Club Semi-Final 2011

2011 was an excellent season for All Saints, Ballymena. They reached an Ulster Intermediate club semi-final and were somewhat unfortunate to lose by two points after extra time to a strong Culloville of Armagh. When the disappointment of defeat subsided there was a feeling that further success was just around the corner but, as in life, nothing is guaranteed in football and championship success has eluded the Ballymena men in the subsequent years.

Here’s my report and photographs which were included in the Ballymena Chronicle from that memorable day back in 2011.

                          All Saints 1-12  Culloville 2-11 AET

The dream of a place in the Ulster final was shattered in cruel fashion in Omagh on Sunday but the memories of a wonderful season will last for many years in the minds of All Saints players and their wonderful supporters.

They went into this game as rank outsiders against a Culloville Blues side who ply their trade in Division 1 of the Armagh League and indeed had recorded a win over the legendry Crossmaglen Rangers in that league earlier in the year.

It was obvious from the opening whistle that Culloville had done their homework on the Ballymena side with Sean McVeigh in particular, Sean McCambridge and Peter McReynolds coming in for a lot of unsavoury attention.

The Armagh champions opened confidently and were 3-0 up after 10 minutes through the impressive Kieran Hatzer, Seamus Watters and Niall Rowland and with Andy Kelly and Michael McCarry carrying injuries into the game, it wasn’t looking good for All Saints.

Once again however the bags of character, that has carried them through the Antrim Championship and to this stage of the Ulster, started to emerge and a good move saw Peter McReynolds race clear on goal in the 11th minute but his goal bound attempt was well saved by Blue’s keeper, Kieran McMahon. Sean McCambridge collected the rebound but he was quickly closed down by a determined Culloville defence.

Gradually though the Slemish park side began to play their way into the game and a Michael McCarry pointed free in the 12th minute followed by another from Paddy Logan gave notice of their intentions.

Things were slowly swinging in favour of the Ballymena side as the Culloville hauling and dragging tactics continued to go unpunished but when Liam Cassley was felled by towering mid-fielder, John Kingham with a blatant body-check there seemed no alternative for the referee but to administer a red card.

The Derry official, after waiting for Cassley to recover, decided on the easy option of yellow and when the same player had his close range effort foot-blocked inside the large square, two minutes later referee McErlane waved away what looked like a legitimate penalty claim by the All Saints players.

All Saints were struck another blow when Andy Kelly had to retire after about 20 minutes to be replaced by Peter McCann. Michael McCarry pointed a 25th minute free to bring the sides level but after soaking up a period of pressure which produced nothing, Culloville hit back to take the lead through Padraig Caherty who moved forward from right-half-back to send over an excellent point.

The Saints were now gaining in confidence however and they finished the half well on top as Damian Kelly converted a couple of late frees to give them a slender 0-5 to 0-4 half-time lead. The unpleasant tactics of the opposition continued however as they got involved with the All Saints men in the tunnel on their way to the dressing room with Niall Rowland being issued a yellow card.

                                               EQUALISER

The large Ballymena crowd who had travelled in expectation awaited the start of the second half with relish but it was Culloville who were first off the mark as Seamus Watters fired over the equaliser after 25 seconds.

Michael McCarry restored the All Saints lead as he sent over another free in the 5th minute but the Antrim men were rocked back on their heels as the Armagh side hit back with an 8th minute goal by Johnny McGeeney who beat Brian Martin to the jump after finding himself unmarked on the edge of the square.

Once again All Saints displayed their determination and resolve as a cross field lob by Peter McCann was broken down by Sean McCambridge and Peter McReynolds got the vital touch in the goalmouth scramble that ensued to finish to the net.

Their joy was to be short lived however as their opponents again exploited gaps in the All Saints defence, who were struggling badly at this stage, and Colm Watters collected unmarked to the left of the area before rounding Brian Martin and hammering home the ‘Blues’ second goal with 11 minutes gone.

Could Kevin McCarry and Timmy Connolly’s men respond again?, well respond they did, digging deep into their reserves of character they again started to carry the game to the opposition with Michael McCarry pointing yet another free to close the gap to two at the end of the third quarter.

Kieran Hartzer again edged Culloville three ahead and Peter McReynolds, direct from a ‘45’ and Rowlands exchanged further points to keep the gap at three with ten minutes remaining.

Sean McVeigh, who was outstanding throughout, began to exert his influence even more as he ran 40 yards before splitting the uprights and his mid-field partner Paddy Logan hit another to level the contest as the Ballymena side threatened to take control once more.

Culloville continued to look dangerous on the break however and the impressive Johnny McGeeney fired over to give them back the lead and it looked like this score would prove to be the winner but Peter ‘Pizza’ McReynolds kept his cool to fire over the equaliser once again, direct from a ‘45’ to send the game into extra time.

                                                       EXTRA TIME

Ten minutes each way extra time was ordered and again it was Culloville who took the initiative with Fergal Rowland and Kieran Hartzer both finding the target in the 6th minute to open up a two point lead but a Michael McCarry pointed free in the 9th minute kept the Antrim men in contention at the short whistle.

When Johnny McGeeney again extended the Culloville lead to two, two minutes into the second half of time added on things looked set for a barn storming finish but it was to prove to be the last score of the game.

The Ballymena side, led by Sean McVeigh drove forward unrelentingly in an effort to pull the game out of the fire but despite incessant pressure they were unable to gain the scores that would give them victory.

They kicked four wides during this period but looked set to take the lead as Peter McReynolds placed Liam Cassley in the clear but his low shot at goal sailed just wide of the upright. With time almost up and All Saints pushing for that all important goal the ball broke to Paddy McAleer but his goal bound ground shot was blocked by corner-back Sean Liddy and cleared to safety as the full-time whistle sounded.

                                              BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT

Bitter disappointment for All Saints and their supporters who will justifiably feel that they deserved something more for their efforts. They recovered from another poor start to take a half-time lead, might have had a goal while their opponents were fortunate to start the second half with 15 men.

In the end injuries to Kevin McAllister, Andy Kelly and Michael McCarry, who gave his all despite carrying an injury into the game, conspired to beat them and the rub of the green deserted them when it was most needed.

No one should be disappointed or desponded however. To lose by two points in extra time, seven games into a tough Championship campaign which included wins over Glenavy, St. Teresa’s, Aldergrove before beating Portglenone in the County final and then wins over Drumgoon and St, Molaise of Irvinestown in Ulster is hard to take.

Going back to the early stages of the league when Kevin McCarry and Timmy Connolly were coaxed into taking over the management of a struggling side, no one could have predicted just how successful the season was going to be.

A strong finish to their league campaign saw them finish fourth and indeed they were the equal or better than any side in their division. A Feis Cup Football final win over Division 1 side, Rasharkin added to their confidence while the emergence of Paddy McAleer, Peter McReynolds, Emmet Killough and Dara Walsh as serious senior players augers well for the future. Others from the present successful Minor side can follow, but only if they have the desire and commitment show by the afore mentioned.

Finally a hearty word of thanks from this scribe who, I believe speaks for our ever growing support for a mind bending adrenalin rush that has been my greatest in many years following the Saints. You have been great ambassadors for the club, wonderful footballers, wonderful sports men and a real pleasure to know.

And a word of praise too for our Senior Hurlers who turned in two excellent Junior Championship performances in defeating Ardoyne and St. Agnes before losing to a Creggan side who went on to win the Championship and are now in an Ulster final replay.

What a night this year’s Presentation Dinner is going to be. The futures bright. The futures Black & White!

Action continues in divisions 2 & 3

Football League Fixtures (Sunday March 15th)

With both the county footballers and hurlers in action at the week-end, the fixtures as established by the CCC may well be subject to change.

The Hurlers play Kerry in Croke Park in the Division 2A final while the footballers are away to Wicklow in a ‘must win’ division 4 game.

Division Two (all games at 1.00pm)

Kickham’s Ardoyne v St James Aldergrove

Newly promoted Ardoyne have struggled in their opening two games. They lost out to Tir na nOg in the opening round and fared no better last time at St Teresa’s and they are faced with a similar searching task again as reigning Intermediate champions Aldergrove visit.

Aldergrove did lose their opening game to Dunloy and the Crumlin men will be hoping to make amends on this their first trip to the city in 2020.

Ardoyne will hope to open their account but they may well struggle this time with an away win the most likely result.

St Teresa’s v Tir na nOg Randalstown

This one features likely contenders for honours in the division as St Teresa’s, who were relegated from division 1 last year play hosts to Tir na nOg who have been up there in contention in this grade for a while.

Tir na nOg have recorded a couple of wins to date with victories over Davitt’s and Ardoyne and they will be hoping to retain that winning habit.

St Teresa’s did open account at the expense of the visiting Ardoyne last time and that victory suggested they are well prepared and intent on a quick return to the top flight.

A close affair does seem in prospect in a game which could go either way, but ground advantage may just tilt the balance in favour of the Glen road men.

Cuchullian’s Dunloy v St Paul’s

A win at Crumlin in the opening round of the league strongly suggested that Dunloy have wintered well and the dual club look to have an eye firmly fixed on the big ball at present.

That win underlined current well-being as they welcome newly promoted St Paul’s to Pearse Park.

All Saint’s proved too strong for the Shaw’s road men last term and this looks like another stern test as they take the road to the country.

Dunloy will start this one as strong favourites and they may well gain another positive result.

All Saints Ballymena v Patrick Sarsfield’s

All Saints were impressive in a win over St Paul’s in the opening round but will face a much stiffer test against the visiting Sarsfields.

Sarsfield’s lost out to the visiting Moneyglass last time and they will be hoping for a better result at Quinn Park.

The Ballymena men will start as favourites and they should secure another couple of points.

Division Three (all games at 1.00pm)

Eire Og v St Patrick’s Lisburn

St Patrick’s Lisburn, the reigning Junior champions have suffered back to back defeats in their two outings to date and they will be seeking to turn the proverbial corner in this one as they visit Eire Og.

St Agnes v Patrick Pearses

St Agnes have started the season very much on the positive with back to back wins over O’Donnell’s and St Patrick’s ensuring table topping status at present.

The Woodlands men will be looking to keep on the winning trail here as the play hosts to Pearses and they may well prove up to that task.

St Comgall’s Antrim v Cardinal O’ Donnell’s

Adrian Dougan’s St Comgall’s got off the mark with a win over Laochra Loch Lao last time and they may well retain the winning habit again in this one as Mc Crory Park residents O’ Donnell’s pay a visit.

St Malachy’s v Laochra Loch Lao

St Malachy’s opened their account with a win over Ballycastle in round one and although this looks a tougher assignment the men from the Markets may well gain another brace of points over visitors Laochra Loch Lao.

Another win for Tir na nOg

ACFL Division 2

Tir na nOg 0-15 Davitt’s 1-8

Tir na nOg recorded their second win of the season when they entertained Michael Davitt’s at Whitehill on Sunday. They certainly didn’t get it all their own way against a Davitt’s side who could be a force in the division this season and will be looking forward to their first home game at their brilliant new complex.

 Indeed it took a great double save from Tir na nOg net minder, Sean Paul McAtamney after ten minutes to keep the opposition at bay and there was still nothing in it early in the second half when Davitt’s levelled the game from the penalty spot.

Aaron McNeilly gave the home side the perfect start with a point after 37 seconds and another from Toland in the sixth minute suggested that the home side were in the mood to push on but it took that double save from McAtamney to keep their noses ahead as the visitors served notice that they were not there to make up the numbers.

A pointed free from Daryl Fegan and another from play by Ciaran O’Neill late in the half had the home side leading by the minimum at the halfway stage but when Davitt’s player Daniel Largey fired home from the penalty spot to level the contest early in the second half the momentum seemed to be with the visitors.

It was at this point Tir na nOg found another gear hitting seven points without reply with Christy Sheerin driving them on from mid-field.  Sheerin pointed in the 35th and 36th minutes and points from Aaron McNeilly, Daryl Fegan, Christy Sheerin, Ciaran Duffin and Sheerin again had the Whitehill side very much in the driving seat and it looked as good as over.

The dismissal of new boy Mac Raillias following a yellow and black after 52minutes looked like providing the visitors with a way back but the home defence stood strong and late points from McNeilly, O’Kane and man of the match, Christy Sheerin ensured there would be no way back for the city side. 

Tír na nÓg

1. SP McAtamney 2. N. Cassidy 3. C. Mac Raillias 4. B. Magee 5. D. Mallon 6. C. Duffin 7. O. McAtamney 8. C. Sheerin 9. C. O’Neill 10. B. McCormick 11. A. McNeilly 12. D. Fagan 13. C. Mckeown 14. K. Sheerin 15. A. Tolan 17.K. Kerr 18. E. Murray 19. P. Cullen 20. D. O’Kane 21. C. Fitzgerald 22. E. Higgins 23. D. McCormick 24. D. Martin

Scorers: 

A. McNeilly (0.37sec)

A. Toland (6mins)

D. Fagan Free (21mins)

C. O’Neill (29min)

C. Duffin (49mins)

A. McNeilly free (56mins)

D. O’Kane (58mins)

C. Sheerin (60mins +7) 

Subs: P. Cullen for O. McAtamney (38mins), D. O’Kane for C. McKeown (50mins), E. Murray for K. Sheerin (56mins)

St Teresa’s take control in second half

All County Football League Division 2

Naomh Treasa 1-17 Ardoyne 0-9

Ard Eoin were visitors to a blustery McDonnell/Doherty Park in this Div 2 game on Sunday. Playing with a strong wind behind them, Ard Eoin turned around with a one point lead of 0.06 to 0.07 at half-time. With the wind at their backs, Naomh Treasa dominated the second half and ran out comfortable winners with a scoreline of 1.17 to 0.9 at the final whistle. 

Photos by Brian McKee

Gillan steers Dunloy to victory over Aldergrove

All County Football League – Division 2

Aldergrove 1-06 Dunloy 2-08

An early goal for Dunloy in this first league outing of the season gave the Cuchullian’s a lead that they would keep to the final whistle and take the 3 points home.

Caolan Gillan was the man in form for Dunloy with a return of 2-05 for the away side as his 2 first half goals allowed the away side to lay an early marker down for the season ahead.

Dunloy started the game with an early goal in the first minute of the game with Caolan Gillan firing past the Aldergrove keeper. A good passing exchange between Kevin McQuillan, Paudie McGilligan and Seaan Elliott allowed Gillan to raise the green flag for the Dunloy men.

Aldergrove got themselves settled down with a well worked score to reduce the gap to 2 points but this was wiped out again from some quick thinking and flat-footed defending.

A free was awarded to Dunloy which was taken quickly and worked into the box for Seaan Elliott to be fouled and the referee award a penalty.

Caolan Gillan stepped up and fired into the corner to leave the score line 0-01 to 2-00 to Dunloy.

Aldergrove then started to gain the upper hand for the next 15 mins of the game but could only score a further 2 more points from play. In fact, both sides were guilty of hitting some wasteful shots throughout this period of the game.

Dunloy finished off the first half the stronger side with Caolan Gillan scoring 3 points, 2 from frees and one from play, to take the half time interval total to Aldergrove 0-03 Dunloy 2-03.

Aldergrove started the second half 6 points down but that didn’t matter as they started the second period much better than the first half as they got themselves back into the game with two more points. A period of domination for the home side and some really good defensive work showed their County Champions pedigree to reduce the gap down to 4 points.

Dunloy did raise their first white flag of the half with a Ryan McFarline point but this reprieve was short lived as Aldergrove got themselves back into the game with a penalty goal.

A goal mouth scramble resulted in the referee awarding the home team which was fired to the net making it 1-05 to 2-04. Game on.

The home side really were on top now and got back on level terms with 2 points from play to make it 1-07 to 2-04 but they ran out of steam and couldn’t keep the high work rate going to the end.

Dunloy needed a score and it was that man Gillan who stood up when needed with 2 more points to give the men in green a 2-point lead. Anthony Smith then added a further 2 points to give Dunloy a 4-point lead and a lead that wasn’t to be given up.

Dunloy scorers: Caolan Gillan 2-05, Anthony Smith 0-02, Ryan McFarline 0-01