ACHL Division 1-2 Promotion / Relegation play-off first leg
Ballygalget 3-22-1-13 Sarsfields
By Kevin Herron at Milltown
Ballygalget took a huge step towards survival in the top tier of Antrim hurling as they outscored Sarsfields 3-07-0-02 in the final quarter of this afternoon’s promotion / relegation first-leg at Milltown.
With just a point separating the sides a Jordan Doran goal tilted the game back into the County Down sides balance after Sarsfields had chased a five-point deficit at the start of the second-half.
Tim Prenter added further goals to give his side a 15-point advantage ahead of the second-leg in a few weeks time and only a mammoth overturn would see Sarsfields clinch promotion to Division One.
The Stewartstown men started the brighter of the sides at Milltown Row and hit the opening two scores through Darragh McGuinness and Niall McKenna (free).
Although Adam Doran angled over Ballygalget’s opening point; Kevin McKernan restored his sides two-point advantage.
Doran doubled his account and Owen Clarke floated the ball over the bar to level after ten minutes with a converted Caolan Coulter free edging the County Down side ahead for the first time (0-04-0-03).
Niall McKenna drew the sides level for the second time just after the midway point in the half – converting a free after a foul on Caolan McKernan.
But back to back points from Cathal Coulter and John McManus had Ballygalget two points to the good.
McKenna twice reduced the deficit to the minimum – converting a free and landing a point from play, though points from Jordan Doran and Marc Fisher (long range free) restored their sides advantage.
Gerard Roddy plucked the ball from the air and conjured a magnificent score and a second placed ball of the half from Marc Fisher had Ballygalget in control with a 0-10-0-06 lead.
Sarsfields were thrown a lifeline with four minutes to the break as Jack Daniels launched a high ball forward that wasn’t dealt with by Ballygalget goalkeeper Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnson as Kevin McKernan profited – scooping the ball to the net to make it a one-point game (0-10-1-06).
Successive points from Daniel Toner and Tim Prenter stretched their sides lead – but Gary Lennon squeezed the ball over from a tight angle to ensure that just two-points separated the sides at the end of an enthralling opening half (0-12-1-07).
Ballygalget began the second period on the front foot and quickly opened up a five-point gap with three unanswered points.
Daniel Toner added to his two-points from the opening half with two converted frees, whilst Tim Prenter conjured up his third point of the game in-between.
Niall McKenna landed his fourth placed ball in response and then played a quick free to Caolan McKernan as the midfielder split the posts.
The Stewartstown side had the bit between their teeth and points from Darragh McGuinness and Ryan Carson reduced the deficit to the bare minimum with twenty minutes remaining (0-15-1-11).
Crucially Sarsfields failed to land the leveller that may have saw them kick on with the momentum and on 43 minutes they were dealt a setback they failed to recover from.
Daniel Toner emerged from a ruck with the sliother and fed Jordan Doran who rifled past Brendan McGibbon to give the Down men a 1-15-1-11 advantage.
Sarsfields may have replied instantly as Caolan McKernan released Gary Lennon – but credit to Gareth Johnson who made himself big and denied the wing-half forward a certain goal.
Toner (free) and Tim Prenter increased Galget’s lead with James McKernan floating the ball over at the other end.
With seven minutes remaining the game was up for the Paddies as Adam Doran’s pass across the face of goal was tucked away by Prenter to make it 2-17-1-12.
Niall McKenna (free) conjured up his sides final score in response – though Ballygalaget ended the game strongly, scoring 1-05 unanswered.
Three of the Down sides last five points came courtesy of Daniel Toner- who brought his personal tally to 0-08 (0-05) arriving from the placed ball and 0-02 of those came late-on.
Adam Doran and John McManus both pointed between times to finish their sides point scoring for the afternoon, though they weren’t finished on the score front altogether.
Sarsfields goalkeeper Brendan McGibbon parried excellently from a stinging Caolan Coulter shot, however a scramble ensued and Tim Prenter prodded the ball home to ensure his side ran out comfortable 3-22-1-13 winners at full-time.
It would take a comeback of epic proportions to see Sarsfields claim promotion to Division One as a strong final quarter looks to secured survival for Ballygalget ahead of the second-leg on September 4th.
Ballygalget: G Johnson, P McManus, M Fisher (0-02, 0-01f; 0-01 65’), J Smyth, P McManus, J McManus (0-02), B Toner, Cathal Coulter (0-01), J Doran (1-01), G Roddy (0-01), O Clarke (0-01), Caolan Coulter, T Prenter (2-04), D Toner (0-08, 0-05f), A Doran (0-02). Subs: C Watson for Cathal Coulter (46 mins); J Hughes for J Doran (58 mins).
Sarsfields: B McGibbon, J Daniels, J Cunningham, K Ward, N McAlea, C Caldwell, J McKernan (0-01), C McKernan (0-01), D McGuinness (0-02), G Lennon (0-01), N McKenna (0-06, 0-05f), R Carson (0-01), T Doherty, M Rea, K McKernan (1-01). Subs: A Stewart for T Doherty (40 mins); M Campbell for J Cunningham (48 mins); J Cunningham for M Rea (55 mins); D McKernan for K McKernan (57 mins); N McDonald for R Carson (60 mins).
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)