Antrim Hurling League Division 4
Ardoyne 3-14 All Saints 2-15
All Saints hurlers were presented with the Division 4 League trophy at the Cricky on Tuesday night but their hosts Ardoyne spoiled the party by coming from eight points down ten minutes into the second half to beat the Ballymena men by two in the end. Apparently the All Saints management had been made aware earlier in the day that the title was already secured, but decided not to tell the team until after the game. The match itself was a good contest, and although All Saints were short six regulars, they competed well against an Ardoyne side who were playing their last game of the season. After falling behind to two Ardoyne points from Sean Searle, wearing 14 but playing more around the middle of the field, but Damian Gillan had them level by the sixth minutue. Gillan and Cassley put them three clear by the midway stage of the first half but Ardoyne hit back with a goal to retake the lead.
A strong last ten minutes by the visitors to the opening half saw them pull clear with four points in a row, three of them from Damian Gillan and one from Cassley, and when Gillan got in for a goal on 30 minutes they were six clear. It could have been nine had Ardoyne goalkeeper JP Agnew not made a brilliant save from Liam Cassley deep in injury time, and when Oisin McVicker came back with a point for the home side there was just five in it at the break.
When Damian Gillan got his team’s second goal early in the second half the signs were good for the Ballymena men, but they only scored four more points for the remainder of the game as Ollie Bellew’s side took over. A goal from long distance got the north Belfast men going, and after adding two more points Sean Searle drew them level when he blasted a penalty to the All Saints net.
Gillan briefly got All Saints back ahead, but Ardoyne finished strong hitting three in a row from Sean Searle frees, and though Conor O’Rawe pulled one back in injury time it was a case of too little too late.
The reaction after the game was a little strange as the Ballymena players showed their disappointment, but when the management broke the news that they were already champions the mood was greatly lifted and the celebrations soon began.
Match referee Chris Brown from St Paul’s, who did a very good job during the game, had the honour of presenting a trophy to the All Saints captain Damian Gillan and it was a nice touch to see the Ardoyne team sportingly applaud the presentation.