Mac Uilín Ballycastle 1-08 Ciceáin Ard Eoin 1-14
A clinical ten-minute spell at the beginning of the second half saw Kickham's Ardoyne see off the stubborn first half challenge of Mac Uilín Ballycastle in Friday night's Antrim Junior Football Championship 1st Round at All Saints' Ballymena.
The North Belfast men had squandered numerous scoring opportunities in the game's second quarter and Ballycastle had taken advantage, chipping away at the Ardoyne lead to see the gap standing at two points at the break, but a clinical third quarter saw Kickham's put the game beyond doubt.
Connor Boyd, Eamonn Elliott, Conor Donnelly and Sean Kelly had all tasted disappointment with the hurlers the previous weekend and were keen to make amends, Elliott's crossfield ball allowing Stephen McGill to open the scoring for the North coast side in the opening minutes.
Ardoyne did not take their time in replying, Ciaran McNeill well out in front of his man to collect and shoot over his shoulder between the posts before Aidan McNeill notched his first score to give Kickham's the lead, capitalising on a slack ball from the Ballycastle defence.
A further point from Gary McKernan and a close-range free from Cormac Mullan saw Ardoyne open up a three-point lead, before Mark Higgins tapped over a free to ease the pressure on the men in black and amber.
Undeterred, the Belfast side roared back, Jim Óg McAuley coming from behind to win the ball off his man and swing it over the bar, before a neat Aidan McNeill free off the ground from 35 yards reopened the four-point gap.
Two more Mark Higgins frees saw the deficit halved as Kickham's became frustrated, dropping the ball into the welcoming arms of Patrick McAuley in the Ballycastle goal on two occasions and hitting five consecutive wides.
Their profligacy seemed to spur their opponents on, and Eamonn Elliott finished their best move of the game, splitting the posts after a sweeping counter attack resulted in Connor Boyd slipping a well-timed hand pass into his path.
With the lead now only one point, Aidan McNeill settled any jangling Ardoyne nerves with a textbook free kick, 40 yards out on the left hand side and neatly swung over the bar with minimum fuss to see his side two to the good at half time.
With the words 'kill the game' ringing in the ears of the Belfast men, they returned for the second half and duly carried out their direct instructions, initially helped by poor decision-making from a Ballycastle defender, who dived in to concede an early free which Cormac Mullan tapped over.
Conor Carter, who had been marauding up the wing all evening, finally got the score his endeavour deserved, collecting a breaking ball and firing it between the uprights before Ciaran McNeill hammered home for the Kickham's, finishing a sweeping counter-attack that began with a block on Stephen McGill in their own full-back line to leave the South Antrim side leading by eight points.
Thomas McIlroy then had a chance to net a goal for Mac Uilín, but his effort was a tame one straight at Patrick McCullough. To add insult to injury, Ardoyne worked the ball patiently up the field and Kevin Lynch applied the finish at the other end to raise a white flag.
Further patient build-up resulted in a Jim Óg McAuley point for Ardoyne, seeing them go ten points clear before Ballycastle raised a green flag to give them a glimmer of hope, Thomas McIlroy fielding a high Eamonn Elliott ball on the edge of the square and finishing at the second attempt after his first effort was well blocked by McCullough.
The response was swift, Jim Óg McAuley quelling any notions of a comeback with an immediate point before another Aidan McNeill free kick left the gap at nine points.
Mac Uilín went in search of a goal that might drag them back into the game, Mark Higgins raising a white flag as his effort shaved the post on the way over, before Sean Kelly had to settle for a point after they had pushed hard to work a goal chance.
As the game entered stoppage time, a dipping Sean Kelly effort had to be turned over the bar by Patrick McCullough, but the North Coast men were unable to find their way through and the final whistle saw Ardoyne through to what will be an interesting encounter with Naomh Pádraig Lisburn in the Quarter-Final.
Mac Uilín Ballycastle: Patrick McAuley (c), Joe McFetridge, Rory Magee, Mark Higgins (0-01. 0-03f), Zach McCaughan, Connor Boyd, Aaron McCaughan, Caolan McCaughan, Eamonn Elliott (0-01), Sean Kelly (0-01, 0-01f), Stephen McGill (0-01), Conor Donnelly, Thomas McIlroy (1-00), Stephen McIlroy.
Ciceáin Ard Eoin: Patrick McCullough, Eoin Gerard Crossan, Niall Conwell, Pearse Marley, Conor Carter (0-01), Pádraig Lynch (c), Joe McNeill, Gary McKernan (0-01), Kevin Lynch (0-01), Jim Óg McAuley (0-03), Cormac Mullan (0-02f), Kealan McCallan, Aidan McNeill (0-02, 0-03f), Ciaran McNeill (1-01), Conor McDowell.
Referee: Jarlath O'Donnell (Con Magee's)