Antrim U-21 B Championship Final
Roger Casements 3 – 10 v 1 – 09 O` Donovan Rossa
New County Antrim Chairman Collie Donnelly presented his first trophy to Roger Casements as the Portgleneone men collected the last silverware of the season by beating O Donovan Rossa by seven points in a thrilling tie in Crumlin yesterday. Despite the conditions there was a high standard of play and it was only in the last ten minutes when the South west side drew clear in a keenly fought contest from start to finish.
Rossa went into the game as favourites after comprehensively defeating fancied Cargin in their semi final, and had quite a few starting from their victorious Paul Mc Girr Ulster under sixteen success of three years ago. On the other hand Portglenone had made hard work of seeing off Antrim, Aldergrove and Glenavy, the latter two being single point decisions.
Both these clubs have aspirations of their own to find that next level and lay down a challenge to county top dogs St Galls and Cargin in the next few years, and on Sundays viewing this may not be without foundation, with both clubs having some excellent players all across the pitch.
There was nothing to separate the teams in the early exchanges. Richard Gowdys long range opener was cancelled out by big Casements target man Brian Mc Manus who got his hands on a lot of ball over the hour before finishing with a creditable 1-03. Sean Pat Donnelly and Conall Delargyswapped long range frees, and then Niall Crossan and the hugely impressive youngster Michael Hagan made it three a piece.
Declan Murphy, Gavin Mc Grath and Darren Grego were to the fore throughout the opening period, helping Rossa into a three point lead before Mc Manus struck first to place a low shot to the corner of the net to level it once again at six each.
Play was stopped as tempers flared with twenty minutes gone and on the restart both teams found themselves reduced to thirteen men with referee Collie Mc Knight, who had a fine hour, laying down the law. The most impressive of those who saw red was Rossa half forward Declan Murphy who had been the tormentor in chief against Cargin and his loss in particular was huge on the day to the citymen. On the restart Conall Delargy and Gavin Mc Grath swapped points to make it level still at the short whistle.
The wind favoured the Saffron and black clad Portglenone in the second half and it was the Country lads who kicked on quickest in the opening period of the third quarter. A fantastic move involving both the hugely improving Stephen Kelly and Caolan Tierney resulted in putting the industrious MickaelKelly through for a fine score. Dermot Mc Aleese was involved in everything and at the end of a typical bursting solo he released to Caolan Tierney who in turn placed ConallDelargy who despatched to the net to put Casements four ahead.
After an infringement at the opposite end, Rossa full forward Gavin Mc Grath made no mistake from the penalty spot to reduce the deficit once again. In this non stop encounter neither team were in the mood to yield and none typified the attitude of the winners more than Portglenone full back John Lewis who time and time again dealt with every high ball that was sent forward as Rossa chased the game. On this showing we can expect to see much more of Lewis in the coming years. A great contest was simultaneously taking place between Sean Pat Donnelly and Ronan Delargy, both men with growing reputations and this continued right to the final whistle.
With ten minutes to go however it was Casements found the hunger to dig deepest and beautiful move involving twin forward line Michael Hagan and Peter Duffin resulted in a fantastic score. This in turn was followed by a sublime long range effort from captain Dermot Mc Aleese, leading from the front, now prising open a two point gap. Then the huge talent once again that is Michael Hagan unleashed itself with a great point from play which he then followed with a calmly taken goal, when others might have panicked, to put clear daylight between the teams.
The impressive Richard Gowdy and Darren Grego tried to stem the tide, but big Brian Mc Manus had the last word of the day with two clinching points to take the B championship Bannside for the first time, to add to the A title of several years previous.
The successful Portglenone management of Owen Doherty and Gareth Kelly, who were also involved in that A success,were lavish in their praise of the midfield diamond of Dermot Mc Aleese, Conall Delargy, Ronan Delargy and Perer Duffinwho won that particular battle.
Manager Doherty commented " Our big boys around the middle stood up today, but that’s what we expect from those guys. But it was the never say die attitude of younger, unsung, emerging players like goalkeeper Ryan O Neill, Conor Mc Ghee, Caolan Tierney,Stephen Kelly, Michael Hagan and John Lewis, as well as others. Our club has plenty to look forward to if we can nurture this talent. They have done us proud again.”
The man of the match award was undoubtedly Dermot Mc Aleese. Playing his last ever juvenile game, the County Under21 and Portglenone captain, county senior and QUB player had a great duel with Rossas double Ulster College All Star Gerard Walsh in midfield, and Mc Aleeses colossal performance set the tone for the winners from start to finish.
This may have been the grade B final but on this showing Antrim football has plenty of emerging talent, and both county and under twenty one management saw plenty to like on this display.
Casements team. Ryan O Neill, Conor Mc Ghee, John Lewis, Declan Lennon, Ryan Mc Gerr, Ronan Delargy, Stephen Kelly, Dermot Mc Aleese 0-01, Conall Delargy 1-02, Caolan Tierney, Peter Duffin 0-01,Michael Kelly 0-01,, Michael Hagan 1-02, Brian Mc Manus 1-03,, Anthony Webb. Subs Kelvin Loughlin & Jimmy Convery.
Rossa; Colm Walsh, Niall Devlin, Conor Mc Gowan, James Cooley, Niall Crossan 0-01, Richard Gowdy 0-01, Aidan Orchid, Gerard Walsh, Conall Mc Veigh, Padraig Mc Greevy, Sean Pat Donnelly 0-01, Declan Murphy 0-01, Chris Boyle, Gavin Mc Grath 1-02, Darren Grego 0-02.