Blistering finish by St Enda's as 14-man St Gall's falter
Antrim Senior Football Championship: St Gall’s 1-8 St Enda’s Glengormley 1-10
A HUGE roar went up among the St Enda’s supporters at the final whistle after they watched their footballers claim the rare championship scalp of St Gall’s in Milltown yesterday afternoon and take another step towards the quarter-final knock-out stages.
Trailing by six points (1-8 to 0-5) after 44 minutes, the Hightown Road men showed incredible heart and bags of canny football to steer themselves to a two-point win.
But sift through the small detail of the day that had beautiful sunshine and sheeting rain in one cosmic hour of championship football and St Gall’s will feel they were authors of their own downfall.
Jackson McGreevy was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 42nd minute and apart from CJ McGourty’s sixth placed ball conversion two minutes later, the home side’s scores dried up completely.
In a blistering last 15 minutes and with the St Gall’s defence trying to plug too many holes to stem the tide, Frank Fitzsimons’ men rattled off an unanswered 1-5.
The game-breaking goal came in the 53rd minute when flying wing-forward Kristian Healy breezed down the left hand side of the St Gall’s defence to pop over to substitute Ethan Gibson who fisted to the net from a yard out to reduce the arrears to 1-8 to 1-6.
And even though the home side had a couple of decent scoring chances, they couldn’t add to their tally as livewire playmaker and free-taker Odhran Eastwood bagged his fifth and sixth points of the day for the visitors to level this championship clash entering stoppage-time.
The St Enda’s contingent behind the wire had the perfect view of Ruairi Scott’s scorching effort from distant that put them one ahead before Eastwood and Peter Healy combined to allow the latter’s brother Kristian to sink the insurance point.
“To go six points down in Milltown and win by two, it was the character they showed that impressed me most,” said St Enda’s boss Frank Fitzsimons of his players.
Despite dominating three-quarters of yesterday’s round robin contest, Fitzsimons insists that St Gall’s are still in the championship shake-up.
“Look, I know people say St Gall’s are in transition but I watched them against Gort na Mona and they’re still a tasty outfit and can put you to the sword very easily. It’s another win in the group for us. It’s a big win any day you beat St Gall’s. Like, Kevin Niblock is as good as he’s ever been.
“I’d still make St Gall’s second favourites behind Cargin to win the championship. Lamh Dhearg, Creggan and Portglenone are all there too. We’re only young kids coming in here.”
Of course, nobody was buying Fitzy’s beguiling propaganda after yesterday’s impressive showing.
St Enda’s are a very settled outfit with a well-drilled counter-attacking game-plan with buckets of pace in most areas of the field.
Fitzsimons added: “Once you get out of the group stages there’s obviously a bit more pressure so hopefully they can handle it well if we can get out of the group stages.”
New St Gall’s boss Paddy Murray has handed out six debutants over the course of their two group games to date, but hasn’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater either, with Terry O’Neill, Mickey Pollock, Aodhan Gallagher being sprung from the bench in the second half.
And it looked as though that well of experience would get the Milltown men over the line when O’Neill started the move that led to their goal four minutes after the restart.
O’Neill, a 2010 All-Ireland winner, fed Eoghan McCabe before Conor Stinton found Niall Burns who rippled the St Enda’s net.
It seemed that three-pointer would soften the visitors’ resolve – but Eastwood, Scott and the Healy brothers came back swinging to wrestle control again.
Apart from CJ McGourty’s placed ball accuracy, St Gall’s struggled to create enough scoring chances in either half and were fortunate to be level 0-5 apiece at the break.
“First of all, credit to St Enda’s, they played a great game,” said St Gall’s boss Paddy Murray.
“They were five or six behind and unfortunately a lack of discipline on our part, going down to 14 men, hurt us. We’ve no complaints about the score. As a panel we’re very disappointed in our performance. It’s not acceptable to St Gall’s but, fortunately, we’re in a group situation and we’ve time to rectify this.”
Murray added: “It is a transitional period for the club but when I put the St Gall’s jersey on I went out to win. Our objective this season is to win the championship – transition or not. We’ve a lot of experience on the panel and a lot of young players who have been given an opportunity. St Gall’s are here to contest every game, we’re here to win every game. But we should've competed better with St Enda’s today.”
St Gall’s: L McCormick; M Donnelly, E McCurdy, C Burke; S O’Hagan, J McGreevy, J McCaffrey; S Burke, T Bunting; E McCabe (0-1), K Niblock (0-1 mark), C Stinton; CJ McGourty (0-6, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ’45), N Burns (1-0), M Kelly Subs: T O’Neill for J McCaffrey (h/t), A Gallagher for T Bunting (h/t), M Pollock for C Stinton (52)
St Enda’s, Glengormley: D Breen; C McAuley, C Lyttle, K Jennings; R Kennedy, J McAuley, C Thompson; M Morgan, N McKeown; P Healy, O Eastwood (0-6, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ’45), K Healy (0-1); E Nagle, R Scott (0-2, 0-1 ’45), S O’Connor (0-1) Subs: P Hamilton for Jennings (h/t), E Gibson (1-0) for R Kennedy (52), A Lamb for M Morgan (60)
Referee: B Toland