O’Neill’s ACHL Division 2
Tír na nÓg 1.13 Naomh Éanna 0.17
Report and Photographs: Séamus Mac Domhnaill NaomhÉanna CLG PRO
Wednesday evening at Whitehill saw the renewal of old friendships and the fiercest of rivalries, the battles between near neighbours is worth entrance fee alone and tonight would be no different, having already met in the league, the home team at Páirc Éanna came away with that result and on the night and so it would be again in the return fixture (two from two).
That was round five of the league, since then there has been, breaks, holidays and the resumption of games, this was three in a week for both teams and with the preparation for Championship well on the way, the compression of games can add to management headaches with the increased risk of further injuries, these factors can and does lead to players missing out with injuries and players who missed out earlier in the season have done the rehabilitation and are getting back to match pace, for others in particular the recent injuries are unwelcome, the visitors see Cúl baire – Marty Curran and Captean na Foireanne – Cormac Jennings missing for the rest of the season, both having had a significant influence on the previous meeting.
AS both teams locked horns in this battle, both are in the search to secure Division two hurling for next year, with the winner having the possibility of being in the promotion shakeup; however that could depend on other results in other games and elsewhere too. On Sunday the home side pushed Ballycastle all the way to the end and with the game finishing with a one point difference to Ballycastle, their promotion and return to the top flight seems secure.
Other games in Division two, would see Sarsfield’s (last year’s intermediate winners) looking to secure division two status with a win against Glen Rovers in Armoy and the match between Cloughmills and Glenariffe would be of interest to more than just the participants, a win for Naomh Bríd could jump them to second place and a win for Glenariffe would be crucial for their survival.
It was a beautiful evening for hurling as Mark McNeill took charge of the match, the visitors opted to play with the slight wind advantage, and from the start Tír na nÓg won the throw in and had the first attack, Ciarán Logan with the evenings first score with one minute played.
The second score and first for the visitors side was from a sweetly struck free by John McGoldrick, Killian Jennings looked like he would get the nights first goal, but for the catlike reflexes of Rudi Graham in the Tír na nÓg goal but from the resulting 65, John McGoldrick pointed, to put his side ahead.
The second 65 of the night would come as a result of save from Cúl Baire Philly Curran and from the free Kevin Sheerin made no mistake to level the contest.
His recovery from injury and inclusion in the full forward line was rewarded in the fifth minute with a fine point from play as Diarmuid Maguire split the uprights and the pressure from the visitors attack was rewarded with a penalty. However the save and clearance was intercepted by McGoldrick and returned for a point to make it, (Tír 0.02, NÉ 0.04)
It was five to two on eight minutes and frees in the scoring zones were going to make the difference and again McGoldrick was the man on target for Naomh Eanna to edge them three in front and they were looking good at this stage of the game.
Things took a dramatic turn however in the 11th minute as the Whitehill men responded with a well taken goal by Darragh Fegan to bring proceedings level and it looked like anyone’s game . A minute later the home side was forced to make a change with Emmet Martin replacing Tony Martin and as the half wore on, the introduction of Joe Maskey for St. Enda’s would pay dividends.
Kevin Sheerin and John McGoldrick swapped scores all the way, a point for Sheerin on nineteen minutes made it (Tír 1.03, NÉ 0.06) then Conor Mc Steen and Ruairí Donaghy pointed on twenty to edge the visitors two in front.
Conor Fitzgerald responded from a twenty metre free with five minutes remaining to the break but there would be additional time due to stoppages. John McGoldrick marked the period with another pointed free and piling on the pressure and driving at the home side Cormac Ross converted his first and brought his teams score tally to ten, (Tír 1.04, NÉ 0.10),
Two more frees before half time for the visiting side, McGoldrick in the 29th and again a minute later edged the Hightown side five in front at the break and laid down the challenge to Tír na nÓg for the second half.
Tír na nÓg 1.04 Naomh Éanna 0.12
The second half began with the home side on the defensive, na fhir Éanna won possession from the throw in, winning a free and keeping the pressure on and Aidan McGowan added his first from play and the first score of the second half to edge the visitors lead to six.
With an uphill battle on their hands, Pearce Sheerin cut the difference back to five, for the home side but as the second half progressed, Naomh Éanna had the opportunity to extend their lead but were wayward in their shooting.
A change in the forward line, saw Eoin Maguire replace Diarmuid Maguire and this brought about improvement to the ranks of the visitors. In the fourteenth minute of the second half, Tír na nÓg won a free from a side-line and from the strike on the forty five, Conor Fitzgerald easily pointed to close the gap to four.
Tír na nÓg had hit a purple patch and another score for Kevin Sheerin closed the gap to three and then two and the pressure was on. The response from the visiting side was instant and clinical as John McGoldrick replied with a point with seventeen minutes played.
Fitzgerald had taken over the free taking responsibilities and added another on nineteen minutes to cancel out McGoldrick’s point but in this tit for tat affair John McGoldrick answered from another free.
On twenty four minutes a forced change at full forward saw Colm Duffin replace Darragh Fegan, and Conor Fitzgerald was off target from a free as Tir na nOg battled to get back into contention. As the wides tally rose, so did the frustration.
The reintroduction of Michael McNicholl in place of Brendy Cormican added fresh legs to a tired Naomh Eanna defence as free taker Fitzgerald added another to make it, (Tír 1.10, NÉ 0.15) with twenty six minutes of the second half gone.
St. Enda’s responded again as Killian Jennings looked in for a goal but his effort was cleared for a sixty five which John McGoldrick converted to extend his sides lead to three. further changes on the visitors side saw Jack Arthurs replace Conor McSteen.
The introduction of Duffin a full forward paid dividends for the Whitehill side and his point on twenty eight minutes cut the deficit to two once more and the game was still finely balanced. Corner forward Ciarán Logan , who worked tirelessly throughout, closed it to the minimum on twenty nine minutes and with four minutes of additional time to be played, a free from Kevin Sheerin levelled matters .
Both sides went for broke in the closing stages but Pearce Sheerin was off target for Tir na nOg and from resulting the puck out Naomh Éanna went on the attack and were awarded a free which the ever reliable McGoldrick pointed to edge his side ahead once more and it was to prove the winning score.
Naomh Eanna headed back to Gleann Ghormlaithe with the points safely on the board and this win moves them onto 14 points and into third place while Tir na nOg will reflect and rue a four day period where they lost by a single point to the league leaders Ballycastle and last night’s defeat that sees them drop to fifth.
John McGoldrick (0.12)
Michael “Eggy” McQuillan
Tír na nÓg
Pics by JJ Lawell