ACFL Division Three
St Pauls 1-16 Ardoyne 0-10
By Kevin Herron at Shaw’s Road
St Pauls claimed two vital league points in the race for promotion from division three with a 1-16 to 0-10 win over Ardoyne at Shaw’s Road on Wednesday evening.
The hosts forged ahead early on and Liam McKenna’s goal ten minutes into the game opened up a four-point gap which was extended to six at the break.
Ardoyne were wasteful in front of the target in the opening stages of the second-half and despite a brief rally it was St Pauls who ended the game in the ascendancy to avenge their opening day defeat at the Cricky.
Micky-Joe Cooper converted an early free to open the scoring on a miserable evening on the Shaw’s Road – but Cormac Mullan replied from the same scenario.
Niall Peoples then burst forward with confidence and shot over the bar and a well worked training ground move saw Liam McKenna play a cross field pass from a free that was popped over the bar by Liam McLarnon.
Ardoyne hit back and halved the deficit through Mullan once more after some neat interchange from Kevin McLaughlin.
Just before the tenth minute the opening goal of the game arrived – Ardoyne goalkeeper Patrick McCullough easily dealt with a snapshot, moments earlier but could only watch as Liam McKenna powerfully rifled to the net at the end of a probing move forward as St Pauls took a 1-03-0-02 lead.
Conor Burns hit back to back scores as the hosts took a firm grip on proceedings at the midway point in the half.
Ardoyne were without a score in eight minutes but hit back through a converted Kevin McLaughlin free off the ground – the visitors were momentarily reduced to 14-men as McLaughlin departed for an emergency toilet break.
His momentary absence wasn’t felt however as Cormac Mullan slotted over the bar from Kiefer Toolan’s kick-out to make it 1-05-0-04.
St Pauls hit three unanswered scores to open up a seven-point gap before the interval – Liam McLarnon held off pressure and shot over his second point of the evening, Liam McKenna then converted back to back frees.
Aidan McNeill converted a late free in reply but at the interval it was the hosts that were in a much commanding position; leading 1-08-0-05.
Ardoyne began the second period with some purpose – however their dismal shot selection in front of the posts cost them dearly with four successive wide balls.
Instead of trailing by just two – the North Belfast men went eight behind; Liam McKenna weaved forward and shot over the bar and Niall Peoples followed suit.
Aidan McNeill then squeezed the ball over the bar in response to end the visitor’s misery in front of the posts.
Liam McKenna restored his sides eight point lead before the midway point in the half – collecting a short free and popping the ball over with ease.
St Pauls were arguably guilty of taking their foot of the gas for a shot period and Ardoyne kicked back to back scores through Joe McNeill and Cormac Mullan (free) to leave the score 1-11-0-08 with ten minutes to play.
Two points from Liam McKenna; a converted free and another from play got his side motoring once more and midfielder James Farrell almost saw his name in lights after bursting forward towards Patrick McCullough’s goal – in the end Farrell opted for a point to leave the margin at nine (1-14-0-08).
The sides traded scores in the final five minutes; Gary McKernan’s point was replied to by a delightful Liam McKenna score.
Joe McNeill kicked his second score of the evening but Liam McKenna again responded and brought his evenings tally to 1-08.
The ace marksman may have felt aggrieved not to have a second goal to his name late on – McKenna burst through one-on-one and saw his initial shot parried by Patrick McCullough, McKenna dinked the rebound over the Ardoyne keeper and the umpire signalled for a goal. The referee disagreed with that assertion though.
It didn’t have any real significance in the final outcome as St Pauls ran out 1-16-0-10 winners and victory over Pearse’s in a rearranged Monday night game would draw the Shaw’s Road men level with Ardoyne and the their North Belfast neighbours at the top of a congested promotion race that is hotting up in Division three.
St Pauls: K Toolan, P Copland, S Bradley, A Kavannagh, J Duffy, D Burns, D Magee, C O’Hanlon, J Farrell (0-01), N Ward, N Peoples (0-02), MJ Cooper (0-01), C Burns (0-02), L McLarnon (0-02), L McKenna (1-08, 0-04f). Subs: D Lacery for MJ Cooper (40 mins), C Finnegan for D Magee (53 mins).
Ardoyne: P McCullough, SJ Rooney, G McFarlane, P Marley, N Bradley, J McNeill (0-02), C Carter, G McKernan (0-01), K Lynch, C Mullan (0-04, 0-02f), C McDonnell, P Lynch, C McLaughlin, A McNeill (0-02, 0-01f), K McLaughlin (0-01). Subs: A Davison for N Bradley (31 mins), K McCallan for K Mc Laughlin (31 mins), J McAuley for C McLaughlin (51 mins).
Referee: Danny O’Neill (Gort na Mona)