Dunloy, Ballymena

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Cloughmills Close the Gap

Captains Colm Duffin (Tír na nÓg) and Liam Kearns (St Brigid's) with referee Danny O'Neill (Gort na Móna) before the match.

Tír na nÓg, Randalstown 0-15 St Brigid's, Cloughmills 2-16

A brace of goals from captain Liam Kearns and a tour de force from Michael Devlin in midfield saw St Brigid's draw level on points with their opponents in the race for that elusive second promotion spot in O'Neills Antrim ACHL Division 2 on Sunday afternoon.

As the mercury rose and the clouds broke, it was the hosts who got off to the best start, three Kevin Sheerin frees leaving them 0-03 to 0-01 up after his initial effort was cancelled out by a Michael Devlin free for the visitors.

As the opening stages settled into more of a rhythm, St Brigid's began to exert themselves and Devlin added a 65 before a huge score from his own half had the sides level, with Sheerin and Devlin responsible for all of the 0-03 apiece.

Chris McKiernan in the Cloughmills goal did well to deal with yet another Sheerin free as it dropped into his six-yard box, but his clearance fell to Sheerin who made no mistake the second time round to point before Sean Duffin broke free from a ruck and sent the sliotar between the sticks to increase the lead to two.

Sheerin then swapped points with Ruairí Laverty for the Biddies before Michael Devlin and Ciaran Logan repeated the trick, the latter breaking a big tackle from Aaron Smiley before pointing on the move.

Liam Kearns was being well marshalled by Kevin Kerr and with Colm Duffin sweeping in front, the full forward had seen little of the ball in the opening quarter but did break his duck when he won a clever ball up the line from Ruairí Laverty and swung over from a tight angle.

The Tír na nÓg response was swift, Caoimhinn Duffin breaking through another Smiley tackle and raising a white flag before the impressive Ciaran Logan again shot an excellent score on the run from the right flank.

The lively Sean Duffin then put four between the sides before Liam Kearns stamped his authority on the first half, slotting over a fine individual effort before hitting the game's first major.

Michael Devlin broke from midfield and played a long, flat ball towards the edge of the Randalstown six-yard box. Goalkeeper Rudi Graham was quickly off his line in anticipation, but Kearns was a split second quicker and got his hurl to the ball, a deft touch redirecting it into the now unguarded net to level matters.

With momentum now favouring the away side, Kearns quickly added another to take the Biddies into the lead as referee Danny O'Neill sounded the end of the half.

Tír na nÓg came out in determined fashion, but it was the visitors who took control, Michael Devlin rattling over two quick points to open a three-point gap, before poor discipline allowed Devlin and Kearns to knock over a free apiece, before the latter added another from play as the hosts struggled to get to grips with St Brigid's free-flowing hurling.

A Kevin Kerr hook denied Steven Smyth a certain point, but the relief was short-lived as captain Kearns was once again responsible for a flash of green from the umpire's arm.

Speeding out in front of the defence, Kearns took the ball first time, rounded the pursuing defenders and finished with aplomb into the bottom right corner, rendering Rudi Graham a mere spectator.

It was left to Ciaran Logan to rouse the troops, firing over Tír na nÓg's first second half score with thirteen minutes played before Kevin Sheerin added another free as the home side attempted to get back into the game.

A Martin Dobbin point for the Biddies was again cancelled out by Sheerin, who followed up with an accurate 65 as the game entered the final three minutes with the gap now sitting at five points.

Half-back James Doherty settled any lingering Cloughmills nerves with a huge score, collecting the ball in his own half and floating over a point after a brief solo run before yet another Devlin free saw the gap open to seven.

Our Brolly's Butchers Player of the Match Michael Devlin of St Brigid's Cloughmills, who finished with 0-08.

A late 65 dropped in from Colm Duffin eventually came to nothing, stout defending from the St Brigid's rearguard clearing the danger and the away side greeted the final whistle with glee as they continue their fine run of form to leave them well-poised in joint-second for the run-in.

Tír na nÓg: Rudi Graham, Michael Higgins, Kevin Kerr, Brendan Kerr, Tony Martin, Colm Duffin (c), Stephen Carey, Daniel Martin, Coimhinn Duffin(0-01), Sean Duffin(0-02), Pearse Sheerin, Ciaran Logan(0-04), Ronan O'Neill, Kevin Sheerin(0-08), Emmet Martin.

St Brigid's: Chris McKiernan, Steven Martin, John McGuckian, Sean McKendry, James Doherty(0-01), Michael Morrison, Gary McCollum, Michael Devlin(0-08), Martin Dobbin(0-01), Aaron Smiley, Conor Laverty, Steven Smyth, Geoffry Óg Laverty, Liam Kearns (2-05) (c), Ruairí Laverty(0-01).

Referee: Danny O'Neill (Gort na Móna)

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Today's coverage was powered by Brolly's Butchers, Cloughmills.