GREENCASTLE Rovers travelled to Ormeau Park last Saturday to take on an experienced Ben Madigan side in their final preseason game.
With the beginning of the season only one week away Greencastle’s preparations could have been better.
Squad members Niall Derry, Stephen Trainor, Darren Reynolds, Michael Mathews and James Gallagher were all unavailable for selection due to injury and work commitments.
Nevertheless, Greencastle demonstrated their intent to control the game from the start with Brendan Kelly and stand-in captain William Keenan edging their battles in the centre of the park.
It was Keenan who was presented with the first clear-cut opportunity of the tie; Brendan Osborne’s through-pass cut open the Ben Madigan defence and the skipper confidently converted from the edge of the area.
Minutes later Greencastle doubled their advantage. Martin Lillis beat the off-side trap before skillfully lobbing the ball over the stranded Ben Madigan ‘keeper and into the open net.
On the occasions that Ben Madigan broke forward central defenders Stephen Fegan and Brian Burns looked comfortable in dealing with their advances.
Greencastle all but secured their victory after 30 minutes when Patrick McIlroy scored two goals in quick succession. On both occasions McIlroy utilised his pace to round the ‘keeper before rolling the ball into the empty goal.
With the half-time whistle looming, Greencastle found themselves on the back foot for the first time in the game.
Despite the best efforts of the Rovers defense and goalkeeper Mark Young, they could not prevent Ben Madigan’s Gerard King from smashing the ball home at close range to leave it 4-1 at the half.
Greencastle were keen to regain control of the game after the interval and it wasn’t long before McIlroy stroked in his third of the match; pouncing while a Ben Madigan defender laboured over what should have been a simple clearance.
With the strength and pace of Osborne and Lillis causing Ben Madigan all sorts of problems out wide it was only a matter of time before Greencastle found the net again.
Left back Stephen McFall played a cross field one-two with Niall Southam before planting the ball into the top corner of the net from 40 yards.
Moments later the Ben Madigan goalkeeper prevented a seventh goal, getting down well to turn a well struck Rab Butler free-kick around the upright.
With time ticking away Jim Mackle’s Belfast & District League side flooded forward in numbers and their efforts were rewarded when a loose ball on the edge of the box was fired home with 10 minutes to go. Ben Madigan further closed the gap in the closing moments of the tie when Danny Bell found the net from the penalty spot.
Greencastle get their NAFL Divison 2B season underway this Saturday with an away trip to Colin Valley FC. The game at Good Shepherd Road, Poleglass will kick off at 2pm.
GRFC: Mark Young, Niall Southam, Brian Burns, Stephen Fegan, Stephen McFall, Martin Lillis, Brendan Kelly, William Keenan, Brendan Osborne, Rab Butler, Patrick McIlroy, Michael Long.