Naomh Comhghall advance to meet Ardoyne in the final

Antrim Junior Football Championship, semi-final

St Comgall’s 1-12 Pearse’s 0-8

St. Comgall’s Antrim advanced to the final of the Antrim Junior Football championship when they defeated Pearses in the semi-final in Ballymena today. Both sides had been halted in their progress following a protest by O’Donnell’s but today matters were settled on the playing field with the Antrim town side running out seven point winners.

St. Comhghall’s hit 1-2 late in the opening half after Na Piarsaigh had Tom McFarlane Black carded and those scores were to prove decisive despite their opponents fight to the final whistle.

The New Lodge Road side gave it everything but just couldn’t find the goal that might have given them a lifeline as the Antrim Town side ran out winners to set up a meeting with Ardoyne next week.

Pearses will reflect on a number of missed opportunities that would have brought them closer and whilst St Comgall’s were just that bit more clinical in front of the posts, they too spurned a number of chances that could have made victory more decisive.

St. Comgall’s took an early lead when Miles Devine converted his first of the day from a free, with Pearses growing into the game thanks to excellent work around the middle third from McFarlane, but they just couldn’t make possession count as they missed several opportunities.

Devine doubled the St.Comgall’s lead on 10 minutes from another free and they got their first from play straight after as Tom Patchett fired over after Devine broke down Ryan McAuley’s long delivery into his path.

Pearse’s couldn’t find the target in the opening quarter despite Daniel Magee looking dangerous, but they were finally off the mark when Sean Moreland kicked a free on 16 minutes.

St Comgall’s hit back with a quick exchange of passes setting Patrick O’Connor in on the left to score, but Pearse’s were beginning to gain a foothold and Magee kicked a good score, but should have found the net on 25 minutes when through, but rolled his shot wide.

Moreland did convert a free to reduce the gap to one approaching the half way stage when Pearse’s were dealt a major blow as McFarlane was issued with a black card and 10 minutes in the sin-bin for trailing down James McCabe.

St Comgall’s took control with O’Connor immediately kicking a point and three minutes into stoppage time, substitute Peter McAuley took advantage of a slip as he got on the end of a long deliverer to finish low into the net.

There was still time for Ruairi Griffin to add another score and suddenly the ‘Town’ had moved six ahead, a lead that somewhat flattered the eventual winners.

Pearse’s needed a strong start to the second half and they opened strongly on the offensive and were rewarded with a free that Moreland converted and he followed with another straight after to leave four between the teams, but this was as close as the North Belfast men would get.

St Comgall’s hit back with Joe Webb splitting the posts off his left and this was followed by a brace from Miles Devine, (one a free) as they led 1-9 to 0-5 at the water break.

Goals were needed to get Pearse’s back into contention but they had to be settle for a couple of pointed frees from Liam Deegan and Aaron Callaghan to get to within five, but St Comgall’s were always able to find an answer to maintain a healthy gap as Dylan Murdock kicked a free in response.

Pearses pushed hard and were nearly in for a goal late on but play was brought back for a free that Callaghan tapped over and St Comgall’s had the final say with Webb and another Murdock free sending them through to a meeting with Ardoyne in next week’s final.

ST COMGALL’S: B Johnston; C McAuley, C McKeown, K Walker; P Cooke, R McAuley, D Murdock (0-2, both frees); A McGaw, L Higgins; P O’Connor (0-2), J Webb (0-2), R Griffin (0-1); J McCabe (0-1), M Devine (0-4, 3 frees), T Patchett (0-1). Subs: P McAuley (1-0) for A McGaw (15), P Quinn for C McKeown (HT), O Crilly for R McAuley (49), D O’Hara for K Walker (60+5).

PEARSE’S: E McKenna; T O’Neill, A Bannon, A McCavana; P Murray, P Nolan, D O’Neill; T McFarlane, C O’Neill; L Deegan (0-1 free), P Donaghy, F Grew; S Moreland (0-4, all frees), D Magee (0-1), L Giannetto. Subs: N Largey for F Grew (HT), A Callaghan (0-2, both frees) for S Moreland (49), C Magee for D O’Neill (49).

REFEREE: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)

Naomh Comhghall may edge a close semi-final

GYMCO Junior Football Championship semi-final

(Ballymena 1-00)

Na Piarsaigh v Naomh Comhghall

After what seems like an eternity the Junior Football Championship gets under way again with the second semi-final scheduled for Slemish Park, Ballymena on Saturday. Kickham’s Ardoyne have already qualified for the final a number of weeks ago with a win over Ballycastle but Naomh Comhghall’s meeting with Na Piarsaigh was postponed following a protest from O’Donnell’s.

I’m not going to go into the details of that protest in this preview but it appears to have been resolved and so it is St. Comgall’s v Pearses this Saturday with a place against Ardoyne the prize for the eventual winners.

Na Piarsaigh topped a Group 1 which included McQuillan’s, Ballycastle, St. Agnes, Laochra Loch Lao and St. Malachy’s recording three wins from four starts to finish level with McQuillan’s but claimed top spot because of the head to head rule.

Naomh Comghgall enjoyed mixed fortunes in Group 2 beating O’Donnell’s in round 1 before suffering a heavy defeat to Ardoyne in round 2. They got back on track with a resounding win over Eire Og on day three of the qualifiers before a facile victory over Mitchells in round four.

Na Piarsaigh’s only defeat came to St. Agnes back on the 12th August but they have impressed in wins over McQuillan’s, St. Malachy’s and Laochra Loch Lao and will go into Saturday’s semi-final with confidence.

Eamon McKenna has been solid in goals and Frankie Davison, Paddy Nolan and Luca Gianetto have been sound in defence for the Belfast men. Tom McFarlane and Cormac O’Neill form a strong mid-field while Piaras Donaghy, Sean Moreland, Liam Deegan and Oisin Grew can be relied on for scores.

Naomh Comghgall manager Adrian Dougan will look to the likes of Miles Devine, Paddy O’Connor, Ruairi Griffin, Dylan Murdock, Louis Higgins, Colm Griffin, Tom Patchett, Joe Webb, Caolan McKeown and Patrick Quinn and the Antrim town mentor will be hoping that the break from play will not have disrupted his side’s momentum.

Verdict: Both sides are capable of putting up big scores on their day but St. Comhghall’s have been knocking at the championship door for a while and may just edge a tight contest.

Na Piarsaigh advance to semi-final

GYMCO JFC Group 1

Laochra Loch Lao  0-03 Na Piarsaigh 0-13

Na Piarasigh travelled to the west of the city last night in search of 2 points to secure their place in the GYMCO County Antrim junior football championship semi-final. Following last week’s narrow defeat to St Agnes this round robin game was a proper championship game with both teams having to win to qualify.

The Pearses management made 2 changes from the previous week with Aidan Bannon back at centre half forward and Stephen Fitzsimon returning to the half forward line in what was a truly miserable night for players and spectators alike as Storm Ellen started to blow in across Ireland. Laochra started the brighter in the gloomy conditions attacking right from the throw in and had registered their first wide of the game before a Pearses player had touched the ball. Both teams were cagey to begin with trying to work out the handling in the wet but Pearses started to grow into the game working the ball well in the hands before a fast attack was finished off by Sean Moreland for the opening score of the game. this was quickly followed by 2 scores from frees by Liam Deegan as Pearses kept up their possession game which at times this year has looked like the Gaelic football version of total football. Laochra then scored their first of the game after 2 more wides before Oisin Grew struck a fine score coming off the left wing.

After the first water break Laochra’s changed their tactics and each time Pearses had the ball they dropped 13 men behind the ball content to let the North Belfast men have the ball further up field, nullifying the threat of full forward Daniel Magee.  Unfortunately for the West Belfast men Pearses quickly worked out that if they couldn’t go through or round them they would just shoot over them, Piaras Donaghy scored 2 excellent long range efforts and Sean Moreland added another to leave the score at the break Lochra Loch Lao 0-03 Na Piarasigh 0-07

The 2nd half started much the same as the previous half ended with conditions continuing to be extremely difficult and the home side continuing to sit in to try and frustrate Pearses. The away team kept their heads and composure though and as frustrations started to show from the home team their yellow card count continued to rise at the same rate as the Pearses score. Daniel Magee added one and Liam Deegan added 2 more frees appearing to have found his scoring boots after the St Agnes match the previous week. Laochra then added their only score of the half before being reduced to 14 men when one of their midfielders managed to talk his way off the pitch.

Coming out after the 2nd water break Pearses made their only change as Phil Murray came on for Oisin Grew who had run and run all night. Sean Moreland added another fine point and Stephen Fitzsimons finally got himself on the score sheet with a drilled effort from the right. At this point Laochra started to go for goals and Eamon McKenna who had had little to do all night cleared one off his line and then showed great agility for a big man to get down to his post to push the ball round the corner. Another good looking attack was snuffed out by Aodhan McCavana with some tenacious tackling back.

The scoring ended for the night with an excellent long range point by captain Piaras Donaghy. Overall there were some excellent performances. The back lines looked composed throughout and Tom Macfarlane won nearly every ball in the middle of the park. The forwards worked hard all night against a 13 man defence with Stephen Fitzsimon shining on his return to the team with 5 assists. Focus now turns to the semi finals and 2 weeks of continued hard work for the full squad in preparation for what is sure to be a tough championship semi-final whoever they play.

Special mention on nights like tonight has to go to Michael O’Neill former player, manager, coach, secretary, PRO, chairman and everything else in the club who remains in hospital. There was a great show from all the lads turning up on the Falls Road outside his window on the way to the game to cheer him on. Mick remains the lad’s biggest supporter and our biggest inspiration.

Na Piarsaigh: Eamon McKenna, Darren O’Neill, Frankie Davison, Aodhan McCavana, Aodhan Bannon, Paddy Nolan, Luca Gianetto, Tom McFarlane, Cormac O’Neill, Piaras Donaghy (0-3) Oisin Grew (0-01) Stephen Fitzsimon (0-01) Sean Moreland (0-03) Daniel Magee (0-01) Liam Deegan (0-04 f) subs: Phil Murray for Oisin Grew; Michael Bannon, Aaron Callaghan, Phil Parker, Tiernan Johnston, Andrew Goodall, Fionn Grew, Frank McCallan, Tomas O’Neill, Conor Davison.

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Ballycastle join Pearses in semi-finals

GYMCO JFC Group 1

St Agnes 0-3 McQuillans 1-5.

McQuillan’s, Ballycastle jopined Pearse as qualifiers from Group 1 for a place in the semi-finals of the Junior Football Championship following this five point win over St. Agnes in Belfast last night.

On a night where conditions were poor, St. Agnes Junior Championship hopes ended, the football was sub-standard as both teams failed to produce their best football in the atrocious conditions.It was the visitors however who showed the greater accuracy and produced the scores that mattered.

At the first water break both side had failed to register a score and the second quarter wasn’t much better. The first score for the Aggies came from a free by Conor Gilligan and didn’t come until the 23rd minute. Mark Higgins from a free two minutes later equalised for the visitors and the home side shot two wides and dropped 4 short while McQuillan’s recorded five wides as players fought to master the difficult conditions leaving the half time score 0-1 each.

The second half continued in much the same vein with the home side dropping four short including a free kick whilst the visitors chalked up four wides. The Aggies cause wasn’t helped with the sending off on a second yellow for Briondan McLarnon.and the score at the 2nd half water break was 2-1 for McQuillan’s and it still looked anyone’s game. .Ballycastle gained the initiative during the closing quarter and edged further in front with two points with a solitary point reply from Ronan Carroll leaving the score 0-3 to 0-2 for the away side with  five minutes to go. The Aggies had a chance to go in front with a goal chance which went agonisingly wide. Two points from ‘The Town’ edged them further in front with ‘Slim’ McLean replying with the Aggies final score. A goal from Ronan McCarry sealed it for the North Antrim men as St. Agnes continued to waste chances and it is Ballycastle who go forward to the semi-final draw while Naomh Una will reflect on what might have been.

Scorers: St Agnes: Conor Gilligan 0-1(free),Ronan Carroll 0-1, Conor McLean 0-1.

McQuillans: Ronan McCarry 1-0,Mark Higgins 0-2(0-1free),Ciaran Butler 0-1,Conleth McCaughan 0-1,Stephen McGill.

Naomh Comgall’s almost there

GYMCO JFC Group 2

Naomh Comhghall 3-19 Eire Og 1-03

The feeling going into last night’s GYMCO JFC game at Dunsilly was that a win for Naomh Comhghall would almost certainly give them a place in the JFC quarter-finals but O’Donnell’s amazing result in defeating Ardoyne means that the Antrim men are not quite there yet.

Naomh Comhghall went into last night’s game knowing that nothing less than a win would suffice if they were to maintain their qualification hopes and the team produced the performance and the result that they required with a comprehensive victory over visitors Eire Og.

The home side raced into a 1-3 to 0-0 score after ten minutes courtesy of scores from Miles Devine and Tom Patchett. The visitors replied with a great goal from their corner forward after a great mark taken by their number 11 who traded passes on the way up the field and finished to the top corner of the net.

This score sprung Naomh Comhghall to life and Dylan Murdock fired to the net as the home side went on to dominate the opening half to leave the score at half time 2-7 to 1-2 in favour of Naomh Comhghall.

The second half saw the Antrim town side continue to press forward at will to run out convincing winners and but for some great saves from the Eire Og goalkeeper and staunch defending by the full back line it could have been a lot worse for the visitors.

Naomh Comhghall: Ben Johnstone, John Brady, Stephen Webb, Kian Walker, Dylan Murdock, Ryan McAuley, Paddy Cooke, Arron Megraw, Caolan McKeown, Joseph Webb, Ruairi Griffen, Paddy O’Connor, Tom Patchett, Miles Devine, Peter McAuley, Subs: 16 Colm Logue 17 Callum McCabe 18 Michael McCabe 19 Eoin Lynott 20 Shaun McLarnon 21Danaan OHara 22Niall Taggart

Scorers: Miles Devine 1-5 Tom Patchett 1-2 Dylan Murdock 1-4 Paddy O’Connor 0-3 Kain Walker 0-2 Joe Webb 0-1 Peter McAuley 0-1 Paddy Cooke 0-1

A week ago Ardoyne looked odds on favourites, not just to win the group but to win the championship and they might well do that yet. The Kickham’s have a massive score difference advantage over both Naomh Comghgall and O’Donnell’s but have played all four of their games and sit top of the table on six points with both Naomh Comghall and the McRory Park side on 4 points from three starts.

O’Donnell’s are away to Eire Og in their final game while Naom Comhghall visit Mitchells where they are certain to improve their score difference. It’s my understanding that when two or more sides finish with the same points then head to head results decide who goes through but Ardoyne have defeated Naomh Comhghall but lost to O’Donnell’s while Naomh Comhghall have defeated O’Donnell’s but lost to Ardoyne. In that scenario I believe score difference will come into play so both sides will be looking for a big win on the final day while listening anxiously for their rivals result.