Ahoghill Exit the Drop Zone

Matthew Mallon of St Teresa's tries to find a way through the Ahoghill defence.

St Mary’s Ahoghill 3-13 St Teresa’s Belfast 0-12

A 55th minute Gerard Graham penalty proved the catalyst for a late St Mary’s scorefest as the Ahoghill side picked up their third win in four games against St Teresa's to climb out of Antrim ACFL Division 1’s bottom two.

Although the sides were level at 0-05 apiece at half-time, the visitors had built up a four point lead by the 43rd minute, but James O’Connell’s free and a quickfire brace from Man of the Match Fionnbar O’Neill clawed the hosts back into the game before Graham’s intervention from the spot.

Anton Taylor had raised the first white flag of the afternoon in the 4th minute of this early throw-in, cutting through to finish right-footed over the bar, but after James O’Connell had slipped over an equalising free, a poor Aaron Thompson kick out fell into the arms of PJ O’Connell who duly punished the error to give the Cloney men the lead.

A further Taylor free saw St Teresa’s restore parity but Owen Neeson swept the ball left-footed over the bar to regain the lead for his side, before the first goal chance of the game fell to the visitors.

Having won a hop ball on their own 20m line, the Glen Road side poured up the field in numbers, their quick passing cutting through the ranks of Ahoghill defenders, only for Francis Neeson to acrobatically deny Conor Mallon a green flag. Neeson tipped Mallon’s dipping effort over the crossbar to leave the sides level again on 20 minutes.

Mallon was now finding space all over the field, collecting kickouts from his own goalkeeper and working them upfield. The tricky St Teresa’s corner forward was rewarded for his industry, taking a Phillip Maguire pass and firing his side into the lead once again.

Ahoghill were back on terms immediately through Eoin Graham, finishing a fine counter attack after a Martin Graham block had denied St Teresa’s John Mallon, before Neil O’Connell and Conor Mallon traded scores to see the sides level at the break with 0-05 apiece.

An early missed PJ O’Connell free saw the hosts begin the second half in frustrating fashion and their profligacy was compounded when a Robert Gallagher brace opened up a 0-07 to 0-05 lead. Gallagher’s efforts were followed by points from substitute Sean Maguire and Anton Taylor, with James O’Connell responding for the home side.

Manager Dualtagh Johnston then made the change that reaped reward in spades in the final quarter, sending on Tom McGlone and moving Neil O’Connell to the edge of the square. The move took effect almost immediately, O’Connell winning a high ball and laying it into the path of Fionnbar O’Neill who floated over a beautiful score off the outside of his right boot.

Man of the Match Fionnbar O'Neill.

O’Neill then won the kickout and repeated the trick to leave a single point between the sides, but the Belfast men hit back almost immediately with the score of the game, John Mallon collecting the ball on the left touchline and unleashing a lovely left-footed strike that split the posts to restore the visitors’ two-point lead.

Ahoghill were then handed a gilt-edged opportunity in the 55th minute when another ball into Neil O’Connell was broken into the hands of PJ, only for the centre forward to be dragged down in the box.

Yesterday we watched a Galway corner back miss his penalty, but there was no missing today as Gerard Graham coolly slotted the ball past Aaron Thompson to raise a roar from those basking in July sunshine on the grassy bank.

It seemed like a weight had been lifted off the Cloney men as Daniel O’Neill increased the lead to two points, before substitute Patrick Graham beat Thompson to the ball and fisted Neil O’Connell’s flick on to the net.

Points followed from Daniel O’Neill and Eamonn Brady before a shell-shocked St Teresa’s responded through Robert Gallagher, but the Belfast side were overwhelmed again in the 64th minute, PJ O’Connell capping a fluid counter attack by punching the ball home for a third time.

Anton Taylor ended the scoring as he began it with a late free, but it was St Mary’s who claimed their third win in four games to climb out of the relegation zone following Naomh Éanna’s defeat to Gort na Móna.

The Great Escape is very much still on for the Ahoghill escapologists.

St Mary’s Ahoghill: Francis Neeson, Bernard Graham, Stephen O’Connell, Gerard Graham (1-00p), Eoin Graham (0-01), Fionnbar O’Neill (0-02), Eamonn Brady (0-01), Neil O’Connell (0-01), Martin Graham, Daniel O’Neill (0-02), PJ O’Connell (1-02), Diarmuid Graham, James O’Connell (0-01, 0-02f), James Magee, Owen Neeson (0-01).

Subs: 38’ Tom McGlone for James Magee, 54’ Patrick Graham (1-00) for Owen Neeson.

St Teresa’s Belfast: Aaron Thompson, Pierce O’Rawe, Darren McCann, Eoin Connolly, Matthew Mallon, Phillip Maguire, John Mallon (0-01), Joe Reavey, Niall McCann, Anthony Varndell, Anton Taylor (0-02, 0-02f), Conor McCann, Robert Gallagher (0-02, 0-01f), Paul McGoldrick, Conor Mallon (0-03).

Subs: 30’ Sean Maguire (0-01) for Anthony Varndell.

Referee: Cathal McDermott (Tír na nÓg)

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Dunloy, Ballymena

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