St Joseph’s Glenavy reached their first county final in 23 years last week when they beat St.Mary’s Rasharkin 0-12 to 0-8 in the semi-final.
Having already beaten their opponents twice in the Antrim Division League this season, Rasharkin must have fancied their chances on reaching the final.
Not having won this Championship for 23 years, the Glenavy lads had their sights set on reaching the final.
Neither team were used to playing under the lights at Ahoghill and with the grass damp, both sides found scoring difficult particularly during in the first half.
Having said that, both were guilty of some very erratic shooting when it seemed easier to score.
St.Mary’s made the better start and had two points on the board from Conor McFerran and Conor Doherty before Niall McCann pulled one back for his side. Conor added a third Rasharkin point from play.
Urged on by their vociferous supporters, Glenavy clawed their way back into the game. With Glenavy keeper Fergal Green finding his men from his excellent kickouts, Glenavy midfielders had the opportunity to gain the upper hand.
Centre back Martin Cleneghan had a point when he raced forward to take a perfect pass from team captain Patrick Gallagher to leave the minimum between the sides. Ciaran Loney was named at number 13 but acted as sweeper where he did an excellent job with some very timely clearances.
Fergus Cunningham took an excellent point while under severe pressure from his markers Malachy McCourt to close the first half scoring at 0-04 to 0-03 in St Joseph’s favour.
From the throw-in, Rasharkin broke downfield and from a resultant foul they brought the sides level for the third time when Eamon McNeill split the posts.
Conor Hamill was just a few seconds on the pitch when he took a pass from Niall McCann to put his side back in front again. James Gallagher then joined his three brothers as he joined the fray.
Just to show they had not finished yet, Rasharkin brought the sides level for the fourth time with an excellent point from out on the wing by Benny Hasson.
Charles Gallagher ran onto a pass to put his side in front. Not to be outdone by his brother, James Gallagher got on the scoreboard with a well executed point from play. If the side from Glenavy thought they had the game won, it was a false dawn as the Dreen side to their credit came right back into the game with two excellent points to draw the game for the fifth time at seven points apiece.
The hard working Eamon McNeill pulled his side right back into the game with two excellent points.
The game could have been won or lost on the next attack when Rasharkin broke through a solid Glenavy defence only to see a goal bound effort come back off the base of the post.
With this let off, the orange men put in a tremendous effort to put their side back in front with a James Gallagher point from a free from far out on the wing quickly followed by another from the ever reliant Cunningham. St.Mary’s once again broke away and from what looked like a soft free, Eamon McNeill pointed to put a point between the sides as the game went into added time.
Owen Gallagher and Johnny Phillips put the icing on the cake with two very valuable points.
Both sides deserve great credit for their effort and skill under difficult conditions.
St.Joseph’s now play Cuchullian’s Dunloy in the County final on Saturday 17th October in Creggan at 3.30pm.
ST JOSEPH’S: Fergal Green; Martin Nelson; Oisin Hamill; Daniel McAlister (Conor Hamill) ; Fra McMullan: Martin Cleneghan; Naill McLoughlin; Michael Johnston (Owen Gallagher); Patrick Gallagher Captain; Malachy McCourt (James Gallagher); Charles Gallagher; Michael McCourt (Johnny Phillips); Ciaran Loney; Fergus Cunningham, Niall McCann.
ST MARY’S: Andrew Hasson, Shane Hasson, Cathal Mooney, Donagh Quigg, Conor Doherty, Conor Hasson, Declan McKay, Martin McGuckin, Benny Hasson, Ryan Lynch, Thomas Doherty, Eamon McNeill, Gerard O’Hagan, Johnny McAleese and Conor McFerran. Subs: Enda McFerran, Connor Gribben.