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Johnnies claim the points against St Brigid’s

Matthew Fitzpatrick played a starring role for St John's on Wednesday Matthew Fitzpatrick played a starring role for St John's on Wednesday
By David Mohan

Antrim Football League Division One
St John’s 4-13
St Brigid’s 3-9

AN action-packed game at Corrigan Park went the way of the hosts as St John’s claimed a victory over St Brigid’s on Wednesday evening.

In sunny, yet chilly conditions, it appeared the Johnnies were on course for a comprehensive win when they led by 14 points five minutes after the break, but a huge 10 minute rally from the visitors saw them get to within four before their challenge just seemed to run out of gas in the final quarter as the hosts steadied and saw the game out.

This was something of a topsy-turvy clash with St John’s looking scintillating at times and sloppy at others, while the same could be said for St Brigid’s who just gave themselves far too much to do in the second half, but will take some heart from how they roared back into a game that had seemed well beyond them.

When it came to the crunch, it was the extra class of Patrick McBride and Matthew Fitzpatrick that told with the pair nothing 1-10 between them while having a hand in many more of their team’s scores.

St Brigid’s did see some string performances in the second period, with Cathal Conway claiming a number of marks under pressure, while Ronan McGrady began to pull the strings when they started to cut through the hosts.

This was a game that got off to a blistering start with three goals inside the first five minutes.

After Fitzpatrick had kicked an incredible score after just 20 seconds, the Johnnies were back on the attack with a quick move resulting in McBride squaring to Conor McEvoy who cracked to the net.

A minute later and the ball was in the other net. Peter Lundy pounced on a stray Simon McDonagh handpass and the ball was moved through Rory Brolly to the advancing Michael Cummings who fired to the net.

The hosts replied immediately as Fitzpatrick made a strong break along the right and squared to Stephen Tierney who made no mistake to make it 2-1 to 1-0 after five minutes.

St Brigid’s punished a couple of St John’s mistakes as James Smith and Ethan Carleton kicked good scores, but the hosts were to dominate the rest of the half as they cut through the visitors’ defence at will.

McBride converted a long free before Sean Wilson kicked a fantastic score from range and Fitzpatrick added another before their third goal arrived on 15 minutes.

This time, McBride and Fitzpatrick played a one-two with the former scampering through to rifle low into the bottom left corner of the net.

McBride then added a point from play before Roana McGrady stemmed the tide briefly with a free at the other end.
However, the momentum was with St John’s as Ryan McNulty saw a shot just clear the bar, while McBride sold a fine dummy to make space and score.

Another McGrady free was all St Brigid’s could find in response, as the Johnnies had the final say of the half with a McBride free to establish a 3-8 to 1-4 half-time advantage.

St Brigid’s did make a fast start to the second period with John Blaney scoring after just 13 seconds, but they were to fall further behind three minutes after the restart when McBride’s dipping shot from the right was turned into the net from the fist of Ryan McNulty.

A pair of McBride frees followed as the hosts moved 4-10 to 1-5 clear, but they seemed to take their foot off the gas as St Brigid’s, who had taken the wrong option far too often, suddenly came to life.

Ronan McGrady kicked a point despite being fouled by Fitzpatrick to show them the way and a minute later,a good move resulted in Rory Brolly squaring for James Smith to rise highest and palm into the net.

Suddenly, the South Belfast side’s tails were up and from the restart, they gained possession and McGrady saw a shot flash just over.

Moments later and their third goal almost came, but John Blaney’s shot flashed just outside the left post, although they didn’t have long to wait to raise another green flag as they were awarded a 40th minute penalty for a foot-block on Blaney. McGrady stepped-up and sent Padraig Nugent the wrong way as the gap was now just six.

That was to quickly become four as substitute, Jack Dowling kicked a brace of points as the score was now just 4-10 to 3-9 entering the final quarter.

St John’s were now looking to stop the rot and when McBride converted a free, they seemed to settle back down again.
Andy McGowan then fisted over to give them a little of extra breathing space as the momentum changed again.

Jack Dowling was to see yellow for a high challenge on Jack Hannigan on 52 minutes, while he was flashed a second yellow in the dying moments for a clumsy challenge as Matthew Fitzpatrick ensured he had the first and last say of the game with an injury-time score to seal the win for St John’s after quite an eventful and entertaining game.

ST JOHN’S: P Nugent; J Hannigan, A Douglas, P Gribben; S Wilson (0-1), Ciaran Johnston, D McKeogh; S McDonagh, R McCafferty; C Bohill, P McBride (1-7, 0-5 frees), M Fitzpatrick (0-3); S Tierney (1-0), C McEvoy (1-0), R McNulty (1-1). Subs: L Peden for C Bohill (44), A McGowan (0-1) for D McKeogh (44), O Donnelly for S Tierney (50), S Tierney for J Hannigan (53), C McGlade for S Tierney (58).

ST BRIGID’S: K McGarvey; J McKeever, C King, N McDonald; P King, M Cummings (1-0), P Finnegan; C Conway, J Smith (1-1); P Webb, R McGrady (1-4, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees), P Lundy; J Blaney, R Brolly, E Carleton (0-1). Subs: H McGuigan for P King (HT), S Boyle for N McDonald (37), J Dowling (0-2) for E Carleton (40), B Sinnott for P Finnegan (47).

REFEREE: Brendan Toland (Lámh Dhearg)

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