It was always expected to be a close affair between Glenavy and Saffrons Minors in this Antrim Football Championship match.
Last time they met in the All County League, there was only a couple of points in it.
And so it proved again as Glenavy edged the tightest of games 2-11 to 2-09 thanks to Eoin Henry’s late extra-time goal.
The game was played at a hectic pace at St.Teresa’s on a cold blustery evening.
That resulted in both sides being guilty of taking the wrong options, particularly when it came to shooting. Alex Gallagher, though, had the visitors in front with a pointed free.
From the kickout, the Belfast side gained possession in midfield and quickly laid the ball into the forwards. On 12 minutes, Chris Gallagher was fouled and he pointed from the free. Liam Gault added one from play quickly followed by a Mathew Mallon point to put their side two up.
With both defences making sure no would pass scores were in short supply. It took another ten minutes until the next score.
This one was worth waiting on as Glenavy full-back Liam Henry breaking up a Saffron attack passed to Malachi Doherty and with a jinking run put a beautiful pass into the path of Lorcan Heenan who gave the home keeper no chance as he blasted to the net.
Back came the City side and only for a finger tip save by the Glenavy keeper a goal looked on. With their tails up the Saffrons soon had the ball in the Glenavy net with an almost carbon copy of the Glenavy goal.
This left the score Saffrons 1.03 v 1.01 Glenavy as referee Fionntan McCotter blew the half-time whistle.
Daniel Henry had a point for the city side. The Chapel Hill side were now gaining the upper hand in midfield and with a good supply of ball to the forwards, the home defence committed several fouls which Malachi Doherty punished with two points.
Declan Smith put his side two in front with a well-worked goal. Malachi Doherty put the minimum between the sides from a placed ball. Eoin Henry pointed to level the scores.
Pearse Green pointed to put their side in front by one. Owen Gallagher once again came to his side’s rescue with a point blank save from Paul Kennedy before Mathew Mallon brought the sides level with an excellent point.
With time running out, Chris Gallagher pointed to level the scores and the referee blew full-time with the scores at 1.06 each.
Extra time started with Lorcan Heenan converting two well worked points. But the home side didn’t give up and closed the gap to one when Liam Gault pointed.
From the kick-out, Saffrons took the catch and with swift passing against a tiring Glenavy defence, got through for an opportunist goal from Daniel Henry. Somehow the visitors mustered up the energy to put Pearse Green through for a well-taken point only to see it nullified by Paul Kennedy.
With darkness closing in, both sides were going for the win. Alex Gallagher, now playing in a deeper role, burst through for a point to put his side one behind.
Fired on by the vocal support from the visiting fans, the lads dug deep and worked the ball through to Eoin Henry who gave the home keeper no chance to put his side two up with a superb goal.
When Malachi Doherty added another point, it looked like the country side were through to the next round.
As the amalgamated side pushed through for the equalising goal the visitors defence committed a foul and when Chris Gallagher stepped up with a blaster, it sailed over the bar.
The full-time whistle sounded to leave the fulltime score Saffrons 2.09 v 2.11 St.Joseph’s.
Both sides deserve full credit for the standard of play they produced without any cynical play-acting or nasty fouls.