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Casements claim replay win over Johnnies

St John’s midfielder Domhnall Nugent comes under pressure from Portglenone’s Niall McKeever and Ronan Kelly during last night’s Antrim SFC replay at Coláiste Feirste St John’s midfielder Domhnall Nugent comes under pressure from Portglenone’s Niall McKeever and Ronan Kelly during last night’s Antrim SFC replay at Coláiste Feirste
By Paddy Tierney

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship quarter-final replay
Portglenone Casements 1-12
St John’s 2-6
From Paddy Tierney at Coláiste Feirste

THE sequels are never as good as the originals and last night’s Antrim SFC replay failed to reach the heights of Sunday’s thriller in Ahoghill as St John’s crashed out of the Championship following a three-point defeat Portglenone at Coláiste Feirste.

In truth, the margin of defeat flattered St John’s who, for the second game running, failed to fire.
They got out of jail at the weekend when an injury-time Pearse Donnelly goal almost plundered an unlikely victory before Conal Delargy kicked the equaliser.

The general consensus was that Casements had missed the boat and that the Johnnies would win the replay, but Portglenone boss Barry Dillon said he knew his players could better Sunday’s performance.

“We sat back too deep on Sunday, it was our own fault,” said Dillon.

“Maybe the fear of winning made them a bit apprehensive, but we knew we had more in us.

“In the first half of the drawn game, we showed we are the better team and we had that belief coming into this game that we could go and finish it.”

While Portglenone fielded an unchanged team from Sunday’s drawn game, St John’s started Domhnall Nugent, Brian ‘Bam’ Neeson and Sunday’s goal-scorer Donnelly.

Yet, as was the case on Sunday, it was Casements who made the brighter start with a hat-trick of frees from Conal Delargy and Ronan Kelly (two) helping them establish a 0-3 to no score lead after a cagey opening 10 minutes.

It took the Johnnies 14 minutes to open their account following a well-worked move finished by Matthew Fitzpatrick, but Paddy Kelly responded in kind for Portglenone minutes later.

Peter McCallin got his side’s second score on 20 minutes with St John’s struggling to break down a well-organised Portglenone defence. The Whiterock Road men then lost Donnelly to a black card and Delargy converted another free to move his side 0-5 to 0-2 ahead.

When Kieron McKenna added another from play, Portglenone looked in a strong position approaching half-time and a Paddy McBride free with the last kick of the half was badly needed by the under-par West Belfast outfit.

The second half was just four minutes old when Portglenone cut a dash through the heart of the St John’s defence to score a brilliant goal with full-forward Michael Donnelly firing past Padraig Nugent.

Less than a minute later, St John’s hit back with a goal of their own. Having been off-target with a few efforts from frees, Neeson’s fortunes changed when an attempt at a point dipped under the crossbar and beyond the reach of Portglenone goalkeeper Ryan O’Neill.

That should have been the catalyst for St John’s to kick on, but instead it was Portglenone who regained control of proceedings as another Delargy score moved them four clear once more.

St John’s continued to squander chances at the other end with Neeson (two) and Fitzpatrick firing wide of the posts.

McBride converted a free before Dermot McAleese broke forward to score for Casements.

Ryan McNulty landed a stunning point from play with 13 minutes of normal time remaining, yet their hopes of another rousing comeback were dented when they lost centre-forward Conal Kelly to a second booking.

McBride briefly reduced the gap to two points while Nugent was forced to make a great save to deny Niall McKeever at the other end.

Michael Kelly scored an excellent point moments after his introduction for Portglenone and a Ronan Kelly free gave them a four-point cushion approaching full-time.

Rather than sit back and defend their lead as they did last Sunday, Dillon’s men went for the jugular and further points from McKeever and midfielder Fergal O’Kane put them six clear.

There was one last surge from St John’s with Michael Bradley’s sideline being fisted into the net by Fitzpatrick deep into stoppage time and the Antrim star had a second goal-bound shot blocked with the final play of the game.

Yet Portglenone were the better team over the two games and they progress to a semi-final meeting with Lámh Dhearg on Saturday, September 21 at Creggan.

ST JOHN’S P Nugent; M Bradley, A Oliver, J Bohill; C Garland, R McCafferty, R McNulty 0-1; S McDonagh, D Nugent; P Donnelly, C Kelly, P McCallin 0-1; P McBride 0-3 (0-3fs), B Neeson 1-0, M Fitzpatrick 1-1.
Subs: C McGlade for Donnelly (Black Card 23mins), L Laverty for McDonagh (29mins), M Dudley for McCafferty (45mins), J Hannigan for McCallin (56mins), A McGowan for Neeson (59mins).

PORTGLENONE: R O’Neill; J Convery; S Delargy, R Convery; R Delargy, D McAleese 0-1, C Tierney; N McKeever 0-1, F O’Kane 0-1; C Delargy 0-3 (0-3fs), N Delargy, K McKenna 0-1; R Kelly 0-3 (0-3fs), M Donnelly 1-0, P Kelly 0-1.
Subs: G McAleese for McKenna (44mins), M Kelly 0-1 for P Kelly (52mins), R McGuigan for R Kelly (63mins).

REFEREE: S Laverty (Moneyglass).

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