Antrim Football League Division One
St Brigid’s 1-9 Gort na Móna 2-4
SCORES proved hard to come by in Musgrave Park on Wednesday night, especially during the first half, but St Brigid’s found just enough to them to see off Gort na Móna to maintain their strong start to the season.
Both sides hit a number of wides in a disjointed opening quarter with Ryan Tweedy hitting the only point of the first 15 minutes for the home side.
Gort na Móna didn’t score any points in the first half, but goals from Dermot McVeigh and Patrick McCaffrey had them a point in front at the interval.
However, St Brigid’s got their noses in front midway through the second half and they were able to engineer the vital scores in the closing minutes to edge an extremely cagey contest – although Gort na Móna spurned a goal chance in injury-time which would have won the game for the Turf Lodge men.
With two wins from three game to their credit going into Wednesday night’s game, both St Brigid’s and Gort na Móna were hoping to keep tabs on the early-season pacesetters.
Perhaps, the teams were too keen in the early exchanges as some poor shot selections led to a flurry of wides.
Indeed, St Brigid’s had missed six chances before Tweedy eventually broke the deadlock after 13 minutes.
Anthony McGrath’s side would have to wait another 13 minutes for their next which came moments after Gort na Móna landed their opening score of the game.
Having failed to find the target after 24 minutes, the Gorts got off the mark with the game’s first goal after Aidan McDonagh’s pass set up McVeigh and the full-forward showed great composure to chip the ball over the advancing Declan Heery to move his side 1-0 to 0-1 ahead.
A free from Peter Webb was followed by another goal in reply from the visitors.
McDonagh was involved again and centre-back Neil Henry did well to recover after initially losing possession before playing the ball back to in the incoming Patrick McCaffrey. The midfielder had only one thing on his mind and he beat the St Brigid’s ’keeper with a fine shot into the left-hand corner with 27 minutes played.
The South Belfast side weren’t having much joy shooting for points as their wides tally reached double digits so they replied with a goal of their own on the cusp of half-time.
Webb’s pass into the full-forward line wasn’t deal with by Gort na Móna and wing-back Oran Boyle was on hand to finish at the near post to close the gap to a single point at the break with the visitors leading 2-0 to 1-2.
It took Gort na Móna just 30 seconds of the second half to register a point from play, their first of the contest, via the boot of captain Padraig McHugh, who spent most of the game in a sweeper role.
St Brigid’s closed the gap back to one when corner-forward Joe Finnegan opted against taking a point when winning an offensive mark. Instead, he played an excellent cross-field pass to Tweedy, who split the posts.
The centre-forward converted a free minutes later to tie the game.
Not long after being introduced, Gort na Móna substitute Darren Boyd drilled a long ball into McVeigh at full-forward with McCaffrey coming in to win the breaking ball before firing over the bar on the turn.
Another free from Tweedy brought St Brigid’s back level once again but, following a series of missed chances from the Gorts, McGrath’s men took the lead when centre-back John Toner found the space to get a shot away among a mass of defenders.
A foul on Michael Cummings then allowed Tweedy to put his side two ahead as the game entered the closing 10 minutes.
Niall Ward’s side came back fighting with back-to-back points from McVeigh and substitute Niall Melaney to draw level at 2-4 to 1-7.
Yet, the West Belfast failed to score for the remainder of the contest and a brilliant point from play from Tweedy nudged St Brigid’s back in front with 58 minutes gone.
The hosts missed a number of chances to kill to the game off and hit 20 wides throughout and dropped another couple of efforts short.
However, it was Gort na Móna who were to leave Musgrave Park disappointed as wing half-forward Tiarnan Morton’s shot on goal in injury-time flew across the face of the St Brigid’s goal and harmlessly wide after excellent work from McDonagh and McCaffrey in the build-up.
The visitors felt they should have had a free in moments later when Toner appeared to foul the ball under pressure from the Gort na Móna forwards. To add insult to injury, the home side broke down the pitch and full-forward Peter Henvey ended the game with a point from play to give his side a 1-9 to 2-4 win.
The victory keeps St Brigid’s just one point behind league-leaders Rossa ahead of next Wednesday’s trip to Naomh Éanna while Gort na Móna host neighbours St John’s.
ST BRIGID’S: D Heery; J Morgan, C King, C Webb; P King, J Toner (0-1), O Boyle (1-0); M Cummings, C Conway; R Boyle, R Tweedy (0-6, 0-3 frees), P Finnegan; P Webb (0-1 free), P Henvey (0-1), J Finnegan. Subs: N McDonald for Conway (50), C McAleer for Webb (50), N Lundy for King (55), C McNicholl for J Finnegan (56)
GORT NA MÓNA: T McCaffrey; M Savage, T Keenan, J Connolly; C Donnelly, N Henry, P Cournane; C Magee, P McCaffrey (1-1); S Campbell, C Carson, T Morton; P McHugh (0-1), D McVeigh (1-1), A McDonagh. Subs: D Boyd for Magee (36), B Burns for Campbell (39), N Melaney (0-1) for Cournane (46)
REFEREE: Conal Roberts (St John’s)