O’Neill’s All County Football League – Division 3
Starting young! Pearses full forward Daniel Magee meeting young Iarlaith Ó Néill (held by his father Tomás) who was attending his first GAA game at 11 days old.
Na Piarsaigh 0-12 St. Comgall’s 1-6
Michael O’Neill reports from the Cricky
Pearses made it two wins out of two in Division 3 of the All County Football League when they beat St Comgall’s in Sunday’s game at the Cricky.
The sun was trying to break through the clouds as the teams took to the field for this Division 3 football clash. The men from Antrim town arrived after a convincing win over Eire Óg midweek whilst new manger Jamie Curran was hoping his charges could build on the derby victory against Ardoyne the previous week.
One enforced change was made by the home side as Ciaran McCavana came in at corner-back to replace Naoise Ó Cuilín who was unavailable due to transport issues.
Playing into a stiff breeze, Liam Deegan got the North Belfast men first off the mark as he struck over a free from distance after Piaras Donaghy was fouled in possession. This woke up the opposition as St.Comgall’s took early control of the game, three quick points in succession putting them in the lead and a great block from Darren O’Neill saving his side from conceding a more costly score. Curran’s men regrouped and gradually worked their way into the game; with Donaghy and Ciaran Magee starting to dominate midfield it give Cormac O’Neill a platform to carry out his quarterback role as they searched a way through the away defence.
Forcing fouls from the opposition was the order of the day for Na Piarsaigh as Deegan stuck over another couple of frees from distance with seemingly effortless ease, these sandwiched by one from him from play as Nolan and Donaghy combined to create the opening. Donaghy doubled the home side’s as he got himself on the scoresheet before Deegan stretched the lead to three with a well struck ’45. At this stage the North Belfast men seemed completely in control with McCavana, Gianetto and McFarlane holding firm at the back; the tremendous work rate of O’Neill and Aidan Bannon was enabling Nolan and the elder McCavana to manoeuvre up the wings.
Five minutes from the half the game was turned on it’s head. A speculative shot from wide out right by the away side drifted wide and seemingly out of play; with no whistle coming from the referee, St.Comgall’s played on, and McKenna had no chance when the ball was smashed past him from barely six yards out. This levelled the game, and the Antrim men actually took a one point lead into the break with the last score of the half. The half-time whistle also came at the right time for Aodhán McCavana who took a dangerous hit shortly before it and thankfully got the all clear to continue after the break.
Half-time Na Piarsaigh 0-6 St.Comgall’s 1-4
A change at the break saw Eamonn Connor come in for Conall Hughes as the home side looked to utilise the wind advantage in the second half. It didn’t take long for them to level the game as they conjured up a superb point; O’Neill and McCavana conspired to give Donaghy the opportunity to do what he does best and split the posts. Antrim nudged themselves two points ahead with a quickfire double as the game ebbed and flowed but, not to be outdone, Na Piarsaigh re-gathered themselves and stepped it up a gear. With Oisín Grew now in for Conal Campbell the home side took the game to their opponents; young Grew was a thorn in the side of St.Comgall’s and two successive fouls on him allowed Deegan to show his free-taking prowess again, the long range being made that little bit easier with the breeze at his back.
It was Deegan who put his side ahead for the third time with a point from play, using his blistering pace to get past his marker and smartly finding the target. By now the home side were firmly in control; defensively they couldn’t be breached with McCavana and McFarlane both making timely interceptions and indeed McFarlane at one stage turned defence into attack with a searing 50 yard run up the right flank. Curran switched Daniel Magee from full-forward to just in front of the midfield and this only increased their dominance as the Magee twins lorded it over their opponents.
A further free from the boot of Deegan doubled the lead as Na Piarsaigh entered the last ten minutes with their noses in front. All credit to Antrim as they continued to try to press though the smart possession game of the home side continued to be effective. With the game still in the melting pot it was Cormac O’Neill who took it by the scruff of the neck; slipping past two men before casually dropping the ball onto his toe and dinking it over the bar it put some daylight between the sides.
The tension amongst the home support was palpable as the final minutes were played out; a fantastic block by Ciaran McCavana late on stopped the game being levelled up whilst Daniel Magee deflected a dangerous ball played towards the square out of play.
No more scores were to come and the home side eventually emerged relieved, exhausted but most importantly, victorious.
So two league games and two victories for Jamie Curran and his men, with both teams that were in Division 2 last season now accounted for. A run of 5 games in 15 days should give a strong indication of how their season will go and the first of these is a trip to Ballycastle next Sunday (29th April) to face a McQuillan’s side that has also recorded two victories.
Man of the Match: Liam Deegan – This isn’t really a discussion that needs to be had. There were a number of standout performances from the home side with strong showings from Cormac and Darren O’Neill, Thomas McFarlane and the McCavana brothers. However Deegan’s kicking exhibition was a sight to behold even allowing himself a scuffed free in the second half. Throw in a couple of stylish points from play and you have the difference between the two sides.
Na Piarsaigh: E.McKenna, L.Gianetto, T.McFarlane, C.McCavana, P.Nolan, A.Bannon, A.McCavana, C.Magee, P.Donaghy (0-2), L.Deegan (0-9, 0-6f, 0-1 45’), C.O’Neill (0-1), C.Hughes, C.Campbell, D.Magee, D.O’Neill.
Subs: E.Connor for C.Hughes, C.Gillespie for L.Gianetto, O.Grew for C.Campbell.