Mac Uilín Ballycastle 1-15 Naomh Eoin 5-17
A Michael Dudley brace along with major efforts from Donal Carson, Shea Shannon and Jim Peoples saw off Ballycaste and give St John's a fourteen-point lead to take into the 2nd Leg of this Bathshack Antrim SHC tie.
The visitors went into the game with the benefit of a Division 1 campaign in which they have been more than capable of challenging the top three teams in the county, while the hosts have had things much their own way in Division 2, only St Brigid's Cloughmills managing to take a point from them.
Both sides traded early wides as the game got underway, the championship nerves perhaps bubbling under the surface, before Donal Carson fed Michael Bradley for the game's opening point and Conor Johnston followed up immediately with a score to settle the visiting team.
Shea Shannon then ensured that the game got an early green flag to ignite it, a neat hand pass finding the corner forward in acres of space and he made no mistake, firing home from point blank range past Ryan McGarry in the Ballycastle goal.
Reeling from the opening salvo, it took Ciaran Butler to open the hosts' account, controlling a neat ball in and finishing between the posts to reduce the gap to four, before two Conor Johnston frees saw it extended to six points.
Ballycastle free-taker Diarmaid McShane was in the early stages of a fine display from dead balls and he notched a free either side of a Donal Carson point to leave the visitors leading 1-05 to 0-03 before the Belfast side hit their second goal of the evening.
A breakdown in communication in the home defence saw two men attempt to lift the same ball, only for it to squirm from their grasp and bounce nicely for Jim Peoples to rifle it home on the half-volley as the visitors increased their lead to eight.
A further Conor Johnston point from play followed before the hosts began to find their rhythm, two McShane frees and a Ciaran Butler finish over the shoulder saw them begin to edge their way back into the game with seven minutes to play until half time.
Michael Bradley and the lively Diarmaid McShane swapped scores before referee Colum Cunning awarded the home side a penalty, Tiernan Butler dragged down after making a fine catch at full-forward.
McShane finished the penalty low and hard past Simon Doherty to bring Mac Uilín back to within four, but the goal was immediately cancelled out as St John's again exposed some frailties in the home defence.
A Conor Johnston sideline from the right flank caused chaos in the Ballycastle penalty area, and into the space nipped Donal Carson to flick the ball home and restore the visitors' lead.
As the game entered stoppage time at the end of the half, Diarmaid McShane had time to slot another free to leave his team trailing by six points at the break.
Donal Carson got the second half underway with a neat finish, collecting the sliotar on the left flank before cutting inside to split the posts. The reliable McShane again pointed for Mac Uilín but his effort was matched as Conor Johnston reaped the rewards of good pressure from the St John's forwards, firing over from the left flank.
A further Conor Johnston brace followed, Diarmaid McShane replying in between with another placed ball before the visitors took advantage of slack marking in the home defence to rattle the net again.
Ciaran Johnston found himself completely unmarked on the left hand side and his neat stick pass found Mícheál Dudley all on his own inside. The full-forward drew a defender, cut inside and fired the ball into the roof of the net to give St John's a comfortable eleven-point lead.
Diarmaid McShane and Tiernan Butler then led a mini-revival from Ballycastle, a 65 and free from McShane and a neat finish on the turn from Butler reduced the lead before St John's again showed their clinical side by netting a fifth goal.
Dudley again found himself in swathes of open grass in the visitors' forward line and finished to the top corner with aplomb as St John's underlined their superiority in attack.
Substitute Domhnall Moran was immediately into the action for the visitors, sending over from the left flank after Ciaran Johnston found him with a neat pass, before Michael Bradley sent over a score from a similar position minutes later.
Ballycastle substitute Cathal Connor traded scores with Conor Johnston before the hosts had goalkeeper Ryan McGarry red-carded for an off-the-ball incident in the home goalmouth.
There was still time for Tiernan Butler and Mícheál Dudley to raise two late white flags before Cunning's whistle sounded the end of this first leg and left Ballycastle with a fourteen-point mountain to climb in Corrigan Park on August 26th.
Mac Uilín Ballycastle: Ryan McGarry, Oran Kearney, Matthew Donnelly (c), John McLister, Shane McCarry, Neal McAuley, Oisín McAuley, Ronan McCarry, Connor Boyd, Ben McQuillan, Kevin Barry McShane, Eamonn Elliott, Diarmaid McShane (1-09f 0-01) , Ciaran Butler (0-02), Tiernan Butler (0-02).
Naomh Eoin: Simon Doherty, Sean Wilson, Aidan McMahon, Stephen Tierney, Barry McFall, Ryan McNulty, Ciaran Johnston, Jim Peoples (1-00), Conor Johnston (0-05f 0-05), Michael Bradley (0-03), Colm McFall (c), Shea Shannon (1-00), Mícheál Dudley (2-01), Donal Carson (1-02).
Referee: Colum Cunning (Cúchullain's Dunloy)