Greater craft and experience the difference as Rasharkin pip Na Piarsaigh

ACFL Div.3

League Cup final

Rasharkin 0-12 Na Piarsaigh 0-9

Rasharkin greater craft and experience was the difference in the end in this division 3 football league cup final in Ahoghill tonight. The Dreen side came from 0-5 to 0-6 down at half time to run out winners by three points but the North Belfast side were architects of their own downfall when they had two players dismissed during a feisty second half.

Both sides had performed admirably in their respective semi-final at the weekend, Na Piarsaigh overcoming the challenge of league leaders Naomh Comhghall and Rasharkin beating Naomh Padraig and this one certainly looked like a hard one to call.

Both sides missed opportunities during the nervous opening exchanges before Stephen Fitzsimmons pointed Na Piarsaigh ahead in the third minute and Ethan Devine extended their lead from a close range free with 8 minutes gone.

Na Piarsaigh were playing early ball into their full-forward line and were causing the St. Mary’s defence problems but the South West side survived the early barrage before Gerard O’Hagan opened their account with a point at the other end and then brought the sides level with a second with 12 minutes on the clock.

The early momentum was with the Belfast side however and with the wind behind them they came storming back and Ethan Devine pointed another close range free before Fionn Grew’s shot was partially blocked by Pearce Kelly and ricocheted over the bar to leave it 0-4 to 0-2 at the first water break.

When play resumed mid-fielder Jack Quinn closed the gap to the minimum once more with a Rasharkin point but St. Mary’s suffered a setback when Gerard O’Hagan was forced to retire after 25 minutes of play.

O’Hagan was replaced by team captain Eamon McNeill who was unable to start because of a hamstring problem and the worry was, would he survive the rest of the game without aggravating the injury?

Survive he did and more than that for McNeill was to play a telling part in his side’s eventual victory with an assured performance on the edge of the square.

Andrew Hasson brought matters square for a second time before pointing Rasharkin ahead in the 27th minute but another Ethan Devine free brought the sides level, almost immediately. Stephen Fitzsimmons took over the free taking duties to edge Na Piarsaigh ahead once more and that was how it stood at half time with the North Belfast side holding a slender one point lead.

Despite playing into the breeze it was Na Piarsaigh who extended their lead through another Ethan Devine free in the second minute but an astute pass from Andrew Hasson set up Eamon McNeill who stepped inside his marker before reducing the gap to the minimum once more.

The game was now being played at real championship intensity and the hits going in hard and fast as Eamon Connor replaced Luca Giannetto in the Na Piarsaigh side but the South Antrim men received a bitter blow when they had a player shown Red in the 10th minute.

Despite being down to 14 men it was Na Piarsaigh who hit the next score from the boot of Piaras Donaghy to move two in front as Thomas Doherty replaced Kealan Darragh in the Rasharkin defence and Doherty’s introduction proved an excellent move.

Another Donaghy free came back of an upright as the game slowly began to swing in the direction of the men from Dreen and a point from Tiernan O’Boyle closed the gap to one once more as referee Kevin Parke signalled the second water break.

As the final quarter got under way Seamus Ellis sent over a good point to level matters again and Andrew Hasson pointed a ‘45’ to leave Rasharkin 0-8 to 0-7 ahead with ten minutes of normal time remaining.

Ruairi O’Boyle extended that lead to two with an excellent point and Andrew Hasson moved his side three ahead by the 27th minute as the South West side began to move the ball around confidently and keep possession.

Na Piarsaigh were still giving it everything as Eamon Connor pulled one back with a couple of minutes remaining but Rasharkin were now dominating possession and Seamus Ellis replied with his second point of the half before the Belfast side had a second player Red carded.

It was all over at this stage however and it is Rasharkin who take the division 3 title after an epic struggle with a good Na Piarsaigh side who may still have something to say when the Junior Football Championship gets under way.

Rasharkin: Ryan Doherty, Pearce Kelly, Kealan Darragh, Conor Doherty, Fearghal Kennedy, Donagh Quigg, Colm Kennedy, Jack Quinn, Ruairi O’Boyle, Gerard O’Hagan, Seamus Ellis, Oran McMullan, Tiernan O’Boyle, Andrew Hasson, Odhran McGarrell. Subs Eamon McNeill for Gerard O’Hagan, Thomas Doherty for Kealan Darragh, Dylan O’Doherty for Odhran McMullan, Callum Montgomery for Ruairi O’Boyle

Na Piarsaigh: Niall Largey, Luca Giannetto, Thomas McFarlane, Darren O’Neill, Cormac O’Neill, Patrick Nolan, Nathan Gorman, Ethan Devine, Gerard Campbell, Piaras Donaghy, Stephen Fitzsimmons, Sean Seamus Moreland, Liam Deegan, Daniel Magee,  Fionn Grew.

Subs: Eamon Connor for Luca Giannetto, Aodhan McCavana for Patrick Nolan, Ruairi Bannon, Naoise O’Cuilin for Stephen Fitzsimmons.

Referee: Kevin Parke (St. Enda’s)

Free takers could decide the battle of the underdogs

ACFL Division 3 League Cup final

St. Mary’s Rasharkin v Na Piarsaigh

N.B. Tonights final has been switched to Ahoghill 7-30 pm

Tonight’s Division 3 League Cup final between Rasharkin and Na Piarsaigh looks a real cracker. No one seen it coming! If league results were anything to go by then it should have been Naomh Comhghall and Naomh Padraig lining out in opposition for the league title but, as in life, matters in football don’t always go as predicted.

Naomh Comhghall Antrim strolled through their division 3 campaign to top the ratings. Nine wins from nine starts and a score difference of 106 points suggested that they would only have to turn up in Rasharkin to beat a Na Piarsaigh side who had slipped under the radar with a win on the last day of the league campaign.

The meeting of St. Mary’s Rasharkin and Naomh Padraig at Dunsilly in the other semi-final would have attracted similar predictions. A week earlier Rasharkin travelled to Lisburn for their final game of the league campaign with the home side emerging winners by 10 points.

Once again that old cliché, league football counts for nothing when it comes to the championship came into play however with Na Piarsaigh turning the form book completely on its head. The North Belfast side raced into a 0-10 to 0-1 lead at Dreen with Ethan Devine leading the way with 0-4 and his free taking was to play a major part in his side’s victory.

Naomh Comhghall were clearly rattled. They didn’t see this coming, it wasn’t in the script. They did finally get going and had it back to a single point at one stage of the second half with Conor McAuley leading the come-back.

The Pearses men looked under pressure but they found another response and their two star men Donaghy and Devine worked the ball upfield again and Moreland provided the killer blow with a sweetly taken goal that sets up a final meeting with Rasharkin on Wednesday evening.

While this ‘shock’ was unfolding at Rasharkin the local St. Mary’s side were taking the field at tonight’s venue against favourites Naomh Padraig. Could lightning strike in two places some 15 miles apart at the same time? Indeed it could.

Tiernan O’Boyle’s goal midway through the second half helped Rasharkin to a shock, but deserving one point win over St Patrick’s Lisburn in a high-noon battle at Dunsilly. St. Patrick’s had dominated possession in the early stages but struggled to turn that possession into scores.

Rasharkin were working hard and they turned that hard work into score when two points from Seamus Ellis saw them move into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 21 minutes. The Lisburn side came back strongly however with Ben McMullan leading the way to draw level at half time.

It was in the balance during a tight second half but Tiernan O’Boyle’s goal in the 45th minute swung it Rasharkin’s way. The Lisburn men fought back to draw level late in the game but two late pointed frees from Andrew Hasson saw Rasharkin through to the final.

So who will win? Predicting the unpredictable isn’t an easy task. The last time these sides met Na Piarsaigh put six goals past a shell shocked Rasharkin in Belfast so on that form Pearses should start as firm favourites.

Na Piarsaigh’s win over St. Comgall’s would add further weight to the argument that they will have too much for their South West rivals but I’m not buying it.

I believe this eagerly awaited final could go down to the wire. Sean Seamus Moreland, Piaras Donaghy, Ethan Devine and Fionn Grew have the knowhow and fire power to lead Na Piarsaigh to their first title for a number of years and if they can produce the form of the semi-final then they will be hard to beat.

Rasharkin though have turned an unpredictable season on its head to reach tomorrow night’s final and will feel they can reverse that heavy defeat in Belfast where they were short a few regulars. They have quite a number of players who have experience of playing at a higher level with Ryan Doherty, Emmet McFerran, Donagh Quigg, Thomas McMullan, Ruairi O’Boyle, Seamus Ellis and Andrew Hasson all competent performers.

Hasson scored 0-7 (0-6 frees) of his side’s total against Naomh Padraig and this one is likely to be keenly contested with the game played at real championship intensity and a tight, close contest could be decided by the free takers with Andrew Hasson of Rasharkin and Ethan Devine of Na Piarsaigh holding the keys that could unlock the respective doors.

Rasharkin edge it at Dunsilly

Homefit Antrim Football League Division 3 Semi-Final

Rasharkin 1-12 Lisburn 1-11

Paul McIntyre reports from Dunsilly.

Photographs: Mark Hasson

Tiernan Boyle’s goal midway through the second half helped Rasharkin to a shock, but deserving one point win over St Patrick’s Lisburn in a high-noon battle at Dunsilly on Saturday afternoon.

Only as recently as last Wednesday night, St Patrick’s recorded a 10 point victory over today’s opponents, but the St Mary’s were able to raise their game a couple of gears to near championship level to advance to Wednesday nights final against Na Píarsaigh.

Both teams took time to settle and were guilty of some wayward shooting and after ten minutes the game was tied at one point a piece. Andrew Hasson for Rasharkin before Conor Dixon replied for Lisburn.

The St Patrick’s were dominating possession and were working with an excellent kick out strategy, but more often than once, they were too easily turned over by a tenacious Rasharkin defence.

Rasharkin started to turn their hard work into scores, and two Seamus Ellis efforts and one each from Hasson and half back Donagh Quigg helped open up a four point lead, 0-5 to 0-1 after 21 minutes.

Two Benjamin McMullan frees kept Lisburn in touch but another Hasson free and an effort from Fearghal Kennedy restored Rasharkin’s four point advantage.

They game turned on its head in first half injury time. Colm Burns popped up from wing back to point for Lisburn before disaster struck in the St Mary’s defence.

In an attempt to see out their three point lead to half time, Ryan Doherty in the Rasharkin goal was disposed by Benjamin McMullan and the Lisburn attacker was on had to score the easiest of goals to leave the half time score, Lisburn 1-4, Rasharkin 0-7.

The momentum was now with the Lisburn outfit and Benjamin McMullan Conor Dixon helped give the Lisburn the lead for the first time as the pre-match favourites looked to be taking control, but Maxwell replied with two frees for Rasharkin before Josh McMullan restored Lisburn’s lead from a forward mark.

The games big turning point arrived in the 45th minute. Tiernan Boyle did well to keep the ball in play along the end line and worked the ball to the far post, but Oran McMullan could only hit the post from close range. Thankfully the rebound found it’s way to Boyle who crashed the ball to the net.

Quigg instantly extended Rasharkin’s lead to three but Lisburn replied with two Josh McMullan points before a sweetly struck free from Tighearnán Ómeallaigh levelled the contest with only five minutes of regulation time remaining.

With extra-time on the horizon Andrew Hasson kicked two frees in as many minutes as Rasharkin regained the lead, and in the 66th minute, Ruairi O’Boyle had a chance to wrap up the contest but Peter O’Neill saved smartly to keep his side in the contest.

Lisburn went in search of a winning score but a resolute Rasharkin defence restricted the St Patrick’s to a solitary Dixon point from a free, and in the 69th minute, an absorbing contest was brought to an end.

Teams & Scorers:

Rasharkin: Ryan Doherty, Pearce Kelly, Emmet McFerran, Conor Doherty, Fearghal Kennedy (0-1), Donagh Quigg (0-2), Fergus Quigg, Jack Quinn, Thomas McMullan, Gerard O’Hagan, Ruairi O’Boyle, Seamus Ellis (0-2), Tiernan Boyle (1-0), Andrew Hasson (0-7 6f), Oran McMullan.

Subs: Odhran McGarrell for O McMullan (46), Colin Kennedy for T McMullan (52).

Lisburn: Peter O’Neill, Paddy Quigg, Thomas Burns, Jack McMullan, Oisin Gorman, Tighearnán Ómeallaigh (0-1f), Colm Burns (0-1), Sionán Ó Súilleabháin, Mark Torbitt, Kevin Gallagher, Benjamin McMullan (1-3 0-3f), Aaron Thompson (0-1f), Josh McMullan (0-3 1 Mark), Conor Dixon (0-2f).

Subs: Conor Ewing for D Taggart (9), Niall Dixon for C Burns (40), Che Smyth for K Gallagher (56).

Referee: Mr Peter Tumelty (Lamh Dhearg)

Pearses secure semi-final spot

Antrim Football League – Division 3

Pearses 2-14 Eire Og 0-8

Pearses booked their place in Saturday’s Division 3 Football League semi-final when they proved too strong Eire Og side at Woodlands on Wednesday evening. Ahead by 1-7 to 0-3 at half time Pearsees were never really troubled, though it has to be said Eire Og made them work all the way and in right half forward Conor McKenna and centre forward Conall Smyth they had two excellent performers.

Caomhan Daykin gave Eire Og an early lead but four points from frees, three by Stephen Fitzsimons, two from Fionn Grew and one from Liam Deegan put them 0-6 to 0-1 up by the twelfth minute.

Pearses Liam Deegan in action against Eire Og’s Connor Ellis

They appeared to lose their way a little at this stage and it was a further 14 minutes before they raised their next flag, while in the mean time Eire Og narrowed the gap with points from Stephen Erskine and Conor McKenna.

Pearses broke their scoreless spell four minutes from half time when they were awarded a penalty after Eire Og goalkeeper Kyle Tinney was adjudged to have taken down Pearses full forward Daniel Magee as he bore down on goal, a foul that saw Tinney black carded. Up stepped Pearses corner forward Fion Gregg to slot the ball past stand-in keeper Joe George and when Stephen Fitzsimons added another point from play Pearses were seven clear at half time.

Eirie Og certainly didn’t give up the fight and during the second half they matched Pearses score for score. However they never really closed the gap, and when Fitzsimons finished brilliantly to the net five minutes from time there was no way back for Eire Og.

It hasn’t been confirmed just yet but by my reckoning Pearses with now meet St Patrick’s Lisburn in Saturday’s semi-final with Naomh Comgall’s meeting Rasharkin in the other semi-final.

PEARSES

Niall Largey, Luca Giannetto, Thomas McFarlane, Rory Bannon, Cormac O’Neill, Aidan McCavana, Nathan Gordon, Ethan Devine, Gerard Campbell, Piaras Donaghy, Stephen Fitzsimons, Darren O’Neill, Liam Deegan, Daniel Magee, Fionn Grew

EIRE OG

Kyle Tinney, Connor Ellis, Joe George, Dermot Murray, Jarlath Devlin, Conor McKenna, Tomas Malone, Caomhan Daykin, Peter McKeown, PJ Toal, Conall Smyth, Stephen Erskine, Adam McKenna, Darragh Doonan, Ciaran Rice.

REFEREE – Richard Leahy (St Comgall’s)

St. Comgall’s relentless pursuit continues

ACFL Div.3

Naomh Comhghall 0-12 Ballycastle 0-4

St. Comgall’s Antrim continued their relentless pursuit of the division 3 title when they proved too good for McQuillan’s Ballycastle in Antrim on Wednesday night. Tom Patchett was the man who again led the way in attack and weighed in with three points over the hour, providing problems for the visitors defence throughout.

The visitors hung in there during the opening half and made life difficult for the hosts who led 0-3 to 0-1 at the first water break. Despite enjoying plenty of possession the home side were only able to add a further point before half time and at the change of ends the score was 0-4 to 0-1 in favour of the Antrim town side.

The visitors didn’t offer much in attack but continued to defend resolutely and at half time a come-back still looked possible if a little unlikely. St. Comgall’s continued to call the shots with Dannan O’Hara and Lewis Higgins dictating matters at midfield but still had a bit of work to do at the second water break where they led by four.

It was only in the final quarter that the league leaders finally found top gear with Patchett, Joe Webb and Miles Devine finding space and their shooting boots and they went on to add six points without reply to provide the total that their overall superiority deserved.

St. Comgall’s: Anto Watson, Peter McAuley, Aaron McGaw, Ruairi Griffin, Kain Walker, Dylan Murdock, Paddy O’Connor, Lewis Higgins, Dannan O’Hara, Caolan McKeown, Miles Devine, Tom Patchett, Caolan O’Loan, Joe Webb, Paddy Quinn.

Scorers: Tom Patchett 0-3, Paddy Quinn 0-2, Miles Devine 0-2, Joe Webb 0-2, Ruairi Griffin 0-1, Dylan Murdock 0-1, Caolan O’Loan 0-1