Late Murphy free rescues a point for Rossa

ACHL Division One

Rossa 1-17-2-14 Ballycran

By Kevin Herron at Rossa Park

Tiarnan Murphy landed the decisive equaliser with almost the last puck of the game as 14-man Rossa had to battle back to earn a vital point in the relegation section at Rossa Park, Shaws Road on Wednesday evening.

Leading from the outset a Calum McVeigh goal had helped the hosts to a 1-10-0-06 lead at the break – but Gerard Walsh’s early second-half dismissal handed Ballycran a lifeline with the sharpshooting of Conor Woods and a Scott Nicholson goal bringing the visitors back into contention.

Although Rossa would regain their composure a Christopher Egan goal edged Ballycran in front with five minutes remaining – the sides traded scores and it looked as though the Down side would

leave West Belfast with the full compliment, only for the Murphy brothers Deaglan and Tiarnan to combine deep into injury-time.

Rossa came into the game off the back of three straight victories – the last an impressive first leg win over Ballycastle in the preliminary round of the hurling championship on Friday evening, but this evening attention turned to matters at the bottom of the hurling league with a win almost certain to secure survival ahead of a trip to Ballygalget next mid-week.

The hosts made a blistering start on a fine evening for hurling as Gerard Walsh popped the ball over the bar from range; Deaglan Murphy doubled his sides lead from a free after Thomas Morgan was impeded and further points from Calum McVeigh and Stephen Beatty gave Rossa a four point lead.

It was a lead that would quickly diminish in the blink of an eye however as Ballycran opened their account through a fine Christopher Egan score.

Conor Woods converted a free in the aftermath and then produced a splendid point from range to close the gap to a point after ten minutes (0-04-0-03).

Deaglan Murphy had a mixed opening ten minutes – but atoned for a couple of missed opportunities with his sides next score; keeping the ball in at the byline before the tricky corner-forward made space for a shot that was expertly floated over the bar.

Just before the midway point an excellent Gerard Walsh point from close to the sideline gave his side a 0-06-0-03 advantage – but two quick scores from Ballycran again closed the gap; midfielder Liam Savage shot over the bar and then turned provider for Egan who doubled his evenings tally.

Deaglan Murphy and Conor Woods both traded frees in the aftermath as a single point separated the sides going into the final ten minutes of the opening half.

The games opening goal arrived on 21 minutes and it fell to the hosts – Gerard Walsh’s excellent sideline puck dropped to Calum McVeigh and the half-forward took a touch and rifled past Stephen Keith to make it 1-07-0-06.

Buoyed, the home side hit the last three scores before the break . A terrific burst forward from Michael Armstrong finished with a point from the midfielder, Deaglan Murphy converted his third free of the half and Thomas Morgan claimed his first of the evening after fine link-up between Tiarnan Murphy and Calum McVeigh as the hosts held a 1-10-0-06 advantage at the interval.

Conor Woods closed the gap upon the second-half resumption with his third converted free of the evening.

A fourth was forthcoming shortly afterwards but prior to Woods converting referee Fionntan McCotter dismissed Gerard Walsh and Ballycran had a numerical advantage for the remainder of the contest.

Deaglan Murphy popped over his fourth free of the evening – though Colum McManus and Woods (free) closed the gap to four midway through the second-half (1-11-0-10).

With little over ten minutes remaining the game was on a knife-edge with a point separating the sides for a third time – Woods turned provider as his free was doubled upon by Scott Nicholson and fired past Matthew Devlin in the Rossa goal.

Woods sixth converted free levelled the sides at 1-11 apiece with eight minutes left – but Rossa regained their composure with Deaglan Murphy converting his fifth free of the evening and ending a scoreless spell of over 15-minutes.

Younger sibling Tiarnan doubled their sides advantage shortly afterwards – but Ballycran hit back and edged in front for the first time in the game.

Conor Woods turned provider for his sides second goal – another free that dropped perfectly for Christopher Egan who stabbed the ball to the corner of the net to give the visitors a 2-11-1-13 lead.

Rossa had the chance to immediately restore their two-point lead as Thomas Morgan laid the ball off for Tiarnan Murphy who was chopped down with referee McCotter signalling for a penalty.

Michael Armstrong seized responsibility but his driven effort crashed off the bar and out to safety as the topsy-turvy encounter took another twist.

The sides were level for the second time with two minutes remaining as Deaglan Murphy converted from 65’ yards – though Scott Nicholson popped the ball over to restore Ballycran’s slender lead.

Niall Breen’s point opened up a two-point gap that was instantly halved thanks to Deaglan Murphy (free).

The hosts desperately pushed for a share of the spoils and looked to have earned it three minutes into injury-time as Murphy landed a second 65’ – only for Conor Wood to land his second point from play in response.

Again Rossa pressed and deep, deep into added time the Murphy brothers combined as Deaglan picked out Tiarnan who conjured up a magnificent score under extreme pressure to level for the fourth and final time at 1-17-2-14.

In the end the point was enough to move Rossa a step closer to survival with a share of the spoils away at Ballygalget next week; enough to prevent the possibility of an end of season play-off.

Rossa: M Devlin, N Crossan, C McGuiness, A Orchin, G Walsh (0-02), S Shannon, A O’Brien, M Armstrong (0-01), C Shannon, S Beatty (0-01), C McVeigh (1-01), S Shannon, T Murphy (0-02), T Morgan (0-01), D Murphy (0-09, 0-02 65’; 0-06f). Subs: C Orchin for C McVeigh (40 mins); M McGreevy for A Orchin (40 mins); N Devlin for N Crossan (50 mins), C McVeigh for S Shannon (54 mins).

Ballycran: S Keith, M Hughes, P Hughes, C Gilmore, M Taylor, P Flynn, B Nicholson, J Coyle, L Savage (0-01), S Nicholson (1-01), C Woods (0-08, 0-06f), M Ennis, C Egan (1-02), C McManus (0-01), N Breen (0-01).

Referee: Fionntan McCotter (Sarsfields)

St Gall’s battle back but it may not be enough

Antrim Senior Hurling League Division 1 round-up

St Gall’s staged a late comeback to earn a share of the spoils against Ballycran at Milltown on Sunday but alas it probably won’t be enough to keep their survival hopes alive, for even if they were to win their remaining two games it would not be enough to see them survive. Things looked bleak for them on Sunday when they trailed by seven points with just ten minutes to play but a Sean McAreavey goal threw them a lifeline and points from Nial O’Neill, Kieran McGourty, Karl Stewart and Jackson McGreevy earned them a share of the spoils.

Ballygalget kept their hopes of survival alive when they travelled to Ballycastle and beat the ‘Town’ by 1-19 to 2-14 to complete a bad weekend for the McQuillan’s men. Ballygalget host St Gall’s on Wednesday evening and the Ards men need to win that game, and their final game against Rossa, and hope that results elsewhere go their way to avoid the drop. Ballycastle are not out of the woods yet either and it may well come down to their last game of the season on Tuesday week against St Gall’s to determine their fate.

In the top half of the table Dunloy put up another big score when beating Portaferry on Sunday, rattling in 5-23 to 0-18 from the home side to keep their 100% record intact.

Second place Loughgiel had a 0-20 to 0-10 win over a skeleton St John’s team at wet and windy Corrigan Park. The two will meet again in a few weeks’ time in the championship round robin so there was little given away in this game. Despite their weakened team St John’s had started well and were 0-3 to 0-2 ahead after seven minutes but the Shamrocks, who were also short a few regulars, rattled off ten points without reply to lead by 0-12 to 0-3 by half time. The second half was much more even with wind assisted St John’s adding seven points to Loughgiel’s eight but the damage was all done in the opening half.  

Watson steers the Shamrocks to victory

Antrim Hurling League Division 1

Loughgiel 3-12 Portaferry 0-14

Loughgiel took the points in Tuesday evening’s re-arranged league game against Portaferry at Fr Healy Park, winning in the end by seven points to maintain second place in the league table. With Liam Watson pulling the strings for the Shamrocks they led by double scores at half time 1-9 to 0-6. Portaferry made a promising start to the second half and closed to within two points but when substitute Watson grabbed his second goal in the 44th minute the Shamrocks were back in control and won in the end with a bit to spare.

Loughgiels Ronan McCloskey in action against Portaferrys Robert Magee

The Down men led twice in the early minutes as corner forward Robert Magee pointed two early frees in reply to one by Liam Watson for Loughgiel but a run of scores from Shan McGrath (2) , Liam Watson (2) and Odhran McFadden put the home team four clear by the ninth minute. Portaferry got two of the next three scores through Ronan Blair (2) and Ronan Smyth in reply to one from Loughgiel’s ‘Duck’ McFadden to close the gap to a three but Loughgiel finished the half strongly and after adding two points from frees Watson got the first of his two goals to give his team a 1-9 to 0-6 interval lead.

Portaferry’s Conor Fay in action against Loughgiel’s Eddie McCloskey. Pic by Sean Paul McKillop

Backed by the breeze Portaferry made an impressive start to the second half and points from Blair, Conor Fay, Shane Conlan and Kevin McGarry brought them back to within two. It was eleven minutes before Loughgiel got their first score through Shay Casey and when Watson grabbed his second goal they were six clear but Ronan Blair brought the gap back to five again with a  pointed free on 47 minutes. Substitutes Nicholas McNaughton and Callum McKendry showed their worth as McNaughton added a point from play to open the gap to four before McKendry grabbed his team’s third goal to put nine between the sides and though Blair got a couple of late consolation points for Portaferry the destiny of the points had already been decided.

LOUGHGIEL: Chrissy O’Connell, Declan McCloskey, Ronan Gillan, Ronan McCloskey, Seamus Dobbin, Tiernan Coyle, Odhran McFadden, Daniel McCloskey, Mark McFadden, Shay Casey, Eddie McCloskey, Shan McGrath, Michael McGarry, Liam Watson, Paul Boyle.

Subs – Nicholas McNaughton; Callum McKendry

PORTAFERRY: Patrick McNally, Darragh Mallon, Conor O’Neill, Emmet O’Neill, Tom Murray, Conor Mageean, Kevin McGarry, Matthew Conlan, Shane Conlan, Aaron O’Prey, Ronan Smyth, Robert Magee, Ronan Blair, Nial Fitzsimons, Conor Fay.

Referee – Mark O’Neill (Armoy)

Rossa take another step towards survival

Antrim Hurling League Division One

St Gall’s 2-10 O’Donovan Rossa 4-9

Rossa took a step nearer 1st Division survival when they travelled to Belfast neighbours St Gall’s on Sunday and came away with a five point win, a result that leaves their neighbours in deep trouble.

Fresh from their win against Ballycastle two days previous Rossa started brightly and after briefly falling behind to a Jackson McGreevy free Thomas Morgan got the first of their four goals when he pulled on a breaking ball around the St Gall’s ‘square’ and drilled it home. Goal number two came on ten minutes when Deaglan Murphy picked out Callum McVeigh who finished neatly from close range and with Murphy in fine form from placed balls the Shaw’s Road men moved well clear, but a dogged St Gall’s side kept battling and they were rewarded on 25 minutes when Jackson McGreevey fired a penalty to the Rossa net to bring his team right back into contention, but Rossa responded well and were 2-7 to 1-5 clear by the time referee Hugh Torney sounded the half time whistle.

Pics by Mark Marlow

With weather conditions going from bad to worse St Gall’s showed great character as they battled back early in the second half and when Antoin McCaffrey Kieran McGourty and McAreavey added points they were back in contention. Things looked promising when they drew level with further points from McCaffrey and Eoghan Farrelly, but they were dealt a bad blow when a Michael Armstrong shot for a point dipped below the crossbar and ended up in the net.

That was the boost Rossa needed and when Tiernan Murphy added a point they had a bit of breathing space. Armstrong grabbed his second goal five minutes from time to seal the win and though St Gall’s pulled a late goal back when a McAreavey free ended up in the back of the net Rossa sealed it with another pointed free by Deaglan Murphy.  

ST GALL’S: K McGreevy; L O Ciarain, S Burke, L McCluskey; R Irvine, N O’Neill (0-1), C McCaffery; K Stewart, J Hopkins; J McGreevy (1-2, 1-0 penalty, 0-2 frees), K McGourty; S McAreavey (1-3, 1-0 free); E Mullan (0-1), A McCaffery, E Farrelly (0-1).

ROSSA: C Breathnach; N Crossan, C McGuinness, M McGreevy; G Walsh, Stephen Shannon, A O’Brien; M Armstrong (2-1), C Shannon; T Murphy (0-2), C McVeigh (1-0), Seaghan Shannon; Deaglan Murphy (0-6, all frees), T Morgan (1-0), A Orchin. Subs: P McGreevy for T Morgan (HT), Daire Murphy for C McVeigh (50).

REFEREE: Hugh Torney (Ballycran) 

Clarke’s class steers Ballycastle through the storm

Antrim Hurling League Division 1

Ballycastle 1-17 Ballycran 2-11

By John McIlwaine

Ballycastle players stand for a minutes silence in memory of former club legend Paddy McShane who was buried during the week.

A man of the match display by centre half forward Ciaran Clarke which yielded a goal and fourteen points steered Ballycastle to victory over Ballycran in Sunday’s Antrim Hurling League Division 1 at Pairc MacUilin. In a game played in atrocious conditions, heavy rain and driving wind, Clarke gave a display of accuracy from frees and play that proved the difference in the end. Ballycastle won the toss and decided to face the elements in the first half and when they turned around with a one point advantage they were favourites to push on to win with a bit to spare. However the Down men fared much better in the third quarter and when Niall Breen got a goal and a point in the opening three minutes of the second half they were a goal clear. Clarke then had a massive slice of luck when he dropped a 65 into the Ballycran ‘square’ and the ball skidded off the hand of the visitors goalkeeper and ended up in the net. Clarke took advantage to add a series of good points and though Ballycran drew level again with a Christoher Egan goal three more Clarke points saw the Town home for a victory that all but guarantees them Division 1 hurling next season.

Ballycrans Scott Nicholson in action against Ballycastle’s James McLister.

Clarke had two points on the board in the first three minutes, both from frees but Christopher Egan had Ballycran level by the fifth, one from play and the other from a free. It was score for score during the next fifteen minutes as Clarke and Scott Nicholson had a bit of a shootout but the men from the Ards appeared to be getting on top when Nicholson (2) and Michael Ennis added points to go a point ahead on 26 minutes. The lead was short lived however as Clarke added two more before the break to give his team a 0-9 to 0-8 lead.

Man of the match Ciaran Clarke in action against Ballycran

Niall Breen’s two early second half scores pulled Ballycran a goal clear within three minutes of the restart before Clarke’s slice of luck brought him a goal from a 65 and bring his team level.  A point from Cormac McAlister edged Ballycran back ahead but one from Dairmuid McShane and three from Clarke gave the home team a three point lead by the three quarter stage. A Christopher Egan goal got Ballycran back into the game but Ballycastle finished strong and Clarke picked off the points to give his team a three point cushion going into injury time. Ballycran had a chance to draw level with the last puck of the game when they were awarded a twenty metre free but ‘Charlie’ McGarry in the Castle goals was equal to Conor Dorrian’s shot and Francis Traynor sounded the final whistle as McGarry cleared.

The timber flies and Ballycran’s Scott Nicholson and Ballycastle’s Shane McCarry pull on a dropping ball.

BALLYCASTLE: Ryan McGarry, Sean Kelly, Matthew Donnelly, Oran Kearney, James McLister, TT Butler, Conor Boyd, Shane McCarry, KB McShane, Ciaran Butler, Ciaran Clarke, Dairmuid McShane, Oisin McAuley, Owen Kinney, Saul McCaughan.

BALLYCRAN: Declan Ennis, Michael Hughes, Padraig Flynn, Padraig Gilmore, Patrick Hughes, Thomas McManus, Brett Nicholson, Scott Nicholson, Brendan Ennis, James Coyle, Michael Ennis, Niall Breen, Rory Brown, Cormac McAlister, Colum McManus.

Referee – Francis Traynor (Loughgiel)