Naomh Treasa 2-10 Shane O'Neill's Glenarm 3-15
When St Teresa's substitutes Conor O'Rawe and Jordan McAllister combined midway through the second half to net the Glen Road men's second goal of the game to give them a one-point lead, it looked like the momentum had swung the way of St Teresa's, but Glenarm steadied the ship and steered their way to a further 1-05 as they reached the Antrim JHC Semi-Final in Ballymena this evening.
Throw-in time had been moved from 7pm to 8pm only yesterday, prolonging the preparation time for two sides somewhat unaccustomed to performing under lights and referee John Carson threw the ball in against a stunning backdrop at Slemish Park as the evening sun descended behind him.
St Teresa's had not played a competitive game since July 25th, and it was Shane O'Neill's who seemed all the better for their Division 3 relegation battle, as they started brightly, a Daniel Black free and two quickfire Dylan McLaughlin points giving them an early lead before Phillip Maguire got the Naomh Treasa numbers ticking with a close range free.
With both teams conceding needless frees in their eagerness to get their hands on the sliotar, the minutes that followed were dominated by a Daniel Black v Phillip Maguire shoot out.
Black got the duel underway with a free in response to Maguire, before a brace from the St Teresa's talisman reduced the gap to a single point. Undaunted, Black tapped over following a foul on Barry Hamill, only for Maguire to again hit back with a free thirty yards in front of the goalposts.
Another foul on corner-forward Mark Petticrew allowed Black to respond in kind to put two between them again, only for two more Maguire frees to level the score, the second a huge effort from his own 65m line on the right hand touchline.
Roused by their skipper's heroics, St Teresa's then seized the initiative by netting the opening goal of the game, Conor McCann reacting fastest as Glenarm 'keeper and defence failed to deal with a high ball. McCann dipped the sliotar before guiding it past the backtracking Liam Mulvenna.
The Belfast men immediately followed up with a Phillip Maguire free that found its target with the assistance of the inside of the post and suddenly St Teresa's had opened up a four-point lead.
Glenarm, however, were not about to capitulate and wrestled back momentum with a goal of their own, Dylan McLaughlin rising highest on the 20m line to pluck the sliotar from the sky, before shrugging off his marker and hammering home to the bottom corner of James Burns' net.
A Daniel Black free then levelled proceedings once again as Shane O'Neill's produced a carbon copy of the 1-01 salvo that St Teresa's had just produced, before the centre-forward won the resulting puckout and split the uprights to put his side back into the lead.
With two minutes of the first half remaining, Black slotted yet another free, this time from wide on the left flank before Patrick McAuley saw his goalbound effort tipped wide of the post by St Teresa's netminder James Burns.
In first half stoppage time, Naomh Treasa were awarded a chance to go in at the break leading by a point as referee John Carson adjudged Kevin Burns to have been fouled, dragged down as a long St Teresa's ball floated wide of the target.
Up stepped the in-form Phillip Maguire and, to the astonishment of all assembled, he fluffed his lift, seeing his rushed strike bobble harmlessly wide of the goal as his side went in at the break trailing by two.
Dylan McLaughlin began the second half with a typically strong run that was abruptly and illegally ended, allowing Black to open his second half account from a dead ball. Not to be outdone, Phillip Maguire capitalised on a foul on Sean Maguire to slot his first of the second half.
The Glen Road men then snatched the lead back. Having introduced Conor O'Rawe and Jordan McAllister, the pair immediately repaid their manager's faith, O'Rawe winning the ball on the right hand side and squaring to the unmarked McAllister, who applied the finish neatly into the bottom corner to the delight of the blue and yellow-clad supporters on the hill.
With St Teresa's tails up, Glenarm needed an immediate response to quell the rebellion and they got it through Conal Ward, who burst through the centre of their defence with determination and finished with aplomb between the posts to see the Naomh Treasa lead wiped out within seconds.
Ward then notched his second of the evening to put Shane O'Neill's back in the driving seat, before Colm McGoldrick levelled matters again, collecting an excellent crossfield ball from Conor O'Rawe and guiding it over the bar.
With just over twelve minutes remaining, it looked like we were headed for a grandstand finale as both teams looked set to trade points, but disaster struck for St Teresa's when a high Daniel Black shot disappeared into the darkness and deceived James Burns on its descent, dropping over the beleaguered goalkeeper's head and into the Naomh Treasa net.
Phillip Maguire responded quickly with a point of his own but from the resultant puck out, his nemesis Daniel Black caught the ball, steadied himself and fired over to open up the three-point lead once again.
Mark Petticrew then increased the gap to four, collecting the ball from a ruck on the St Teresa's 20m line and lofting it over before his side got the score that effectively ended the game as a contest.
Picking the sliotar up 30 yards from goal, Barry Hamill held off the swarming St Teresa's defence and, under considerable pressure, slotted it past the onrushing Burns, galloping off in delight as he saw his side take a seven-point lead into the final few minutes.
With three minutes to go, Daniel Black eagerly massaged salt into the Naomh Treasa wound, racing through and pointing on the run to leave the margin at eight points. Despite late pressure from St Teresa's as they dropped hopeful balls in to the edge of the square, Glenarm repelled the attacks and greeted the final whistle with the cocktail of joy and relief that comes with reaching a championship final.
An entertaining game between two well-matched sides. Shane O'Neill's will now look closely at tomorrow's second Semi-Final between Cushendun Emmet's and St Paul's and will meet the winners in the 2018 Antrim JHC Final.
Naomh Treasa: James Burns, Phillip Glennon, Gerard O'Rawe, Aodhan Dugan, Pierce O'Rawe, Paul McGoldrick, Ciaran Rouse, Sean Maguire, Colm McGoldrick (0-01), Christopher Turley, Phillip Maguire (c) (0-02, 0-07f), Conor McCann (1-00), Darron McCann, Kevin Burns, Brian Curran.
Scoring Substitutes: Jordan McAllister (1-00)
Shane O'Neill's Glenarm: Liam Mulvenna, Martin Ward, Sean Moran, Ciaran Flannagan, Jake Hamilton, Darren Hamill (c), Rory Mulvenna, Patrick McAuley, Liam Mitchell, Conal Ward (0-02), Daniel Black (1-03, 0-07f), Dylan McLaughlin (1-02), Mark Petticrew (0-01), Christopher Matthews, Barry Hamill (1-00).
Referee: John Carson (Ruairí Óg Cushendall)