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Rossa impress in victory despite Ballygalget ‘Magic’

Aodhan O'Brien gets a shot away during Friday’s game Aodhan O'Brien gets a shot away during Friday’s game
By David Mohan

Antrim Senior Hurling Division One
O’Donovan Rossa 1-27
Ballygalget 2-14
From David Mohan at Rossa Park
A DISPLAY of power and pace saw Rossa record a handsome win over Ballygalget on Friday evening to get their first points of the 2019 campaign.
Having lost out to Dunloy on the opening day, the hosts were fired up for this game and their intensity and willingness to tear into every challenge proved too much for the Down club who simply couldn’t keep pace and had to rely on the brilliance of Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnson to keep them in touch.
The veteran attacker remains a handful and his tally of 2-9, including two goals from 20-metre frees, underlined his undoubted class, but bar a brief cameo at the start of the second half by Tim Prenter, he was ploughing a lone furrow.
In contrast, Rossa had a much greater spread of performers on the night with Thomas Morgan impressing with 1-6, while James Connolly, Stephen Beatty, Aodhan O’Brien and Tiernan Murphy all contributed well although it would be unfair to focus solely on this quintet. Dominic McEnhill’s clever passing opened the door for scores on many occasions, while Gerard Walsh and Christopher McGuinness were solid down the centre of their defence, with Ciaran Orchin getting through a mountain of work in midfield.
Despite the volume of rain that fell in the week, Rossa Park’s surface was in good condition and it had no impact on the hosts’ quick and slick hurling as they recorded a comfortable win with an impressive tally that actually could have been greater had it not been for a dozen wides and some over-elaboration at times.
Still, that would be picking holes in an excellent team display that took little time to get going.
After Johnson gave the visitors a first minute lead from a 65, Rossa were quickly into their stride with Thomas Morgan converting three in a row – the first after a great move that saw Dominic McEnhill play a fantastic ball to Michael Armstrong who recycled back to Morgan.
Aodhan O’Brien hit his first of the evening from range on seven minutes before Johnson responded with a free, but Rossa were on fire early and after Gerard Walsh landed a free from his own half, a long ball from McGuinness down to Morgan on the left saw the corner-forward put the burners on and when through he made no mistake, firing low into the far corner of the net on 12 minutes.
James Connolly added another from midfield straight after as Rossa went 1-7 to 0-2 ahead and already on course for an impressive win.
But the visitors were to rally or, to be more precise, Johnson was. Firstly, he bounced off a challenge to hit a fine score and then, when stepping up to a 20-metre free on 15 minutes, cracked an unstoppable shot high into the net to trim the gap back to four.
McEnhill and Johnson traded points soon after, but Rossa upped their game once more with Stephen Beatty playing in Tiernan Murphy for a fine score from an acute angle, while Morgan added another after a series of quick passes instigated by McEnhill’s clever break forward.
Ciaran Orchin got the score his performance deserved and then McEnhill played a fantastic ball to Stephen Beatty who did the rest to make it 1-12 to 1-4.
Marc Fisher and Gerard Roddy took the burden off Johnson with points for Ballygalget to keep them just about in the hunt, but again Rossa drove on with James Connolly pivotal. Firstly, he hit a great score from midfield, and then turned provider for Beatty and O’Brien to add points.
James McGrath could have had a second Ballygalget goal when they managed to turn the ball over, but his shot cleared the bar although Tiernan Murphy had the final say of a breathless opening half to give Rossa a 1-16 to 1-7 advantage at the break.
The second half didn’t take long to click into gear with Tim Prenter pointing for Ballygalget 10 seconds in, only to be followed by a Beatty point at the other end 20 seconds later.
Prenter’s pace was beginning to show and he burst clear to point when perhaps there was a glimmer of a goal on, but this was cancelled out by Morgan at the other end.
The sides were to trade scores in the early part of the second half until a pair of Rossa frees from Seaghan Shannon and Tiernan Murphy moved their side 1-21 to 1-11 clear approaching the final quarter.
The hosts had weathered what Ballygalget storm there was and while the wides began to mount with several scoring chances lost due to overplaying at times, they did get back on track with Murphy, Connolly and O’Brien all pointing with a sole Johnson point the sole Ballygalget score in this period.
Credit to the visitors as they continued to try and find a way back into the game with Johnson adding a free and then, three minutes from time, he stood over another 20-metre free. Again, he went for goal and this time, his low pile-driver was half-stopped, but the ball just about squirmed over the line. He added another point from a free straight after, but the game was gone from him team and Rossa were to finish with a flourish as Connolly, Aidan Orchin and Morgan all added later points to cap a fine performance and excellent win for Rossa.

ROSSA: C Breathnach; M Smith, C McGuinness, A Orchin (0-1); Stephen Shannon, G Walsh (0-1 free), A O’Brien (0-3); S Beatty (0-3), C Orchin (0-1); D McEnhill (0-1), C McVeigh, J Connolly (0-6, 2 frees); T Murphy (0-4, 1 free), M Armstrong, T Morgan (1-6). Subs: Seaghan Shannon (0-1 free) for M Armstrong (19), N Devlin for M Smith (48), P McGreevy for Seaghan Shannon (48), C Shannon for D McEnhill (54), E O’Neill for T Murphy (54).

BALLYGALGET: J Crowe; M Fisher (0-1), O Clarke, J Smyth; P McManus, C Watson, B Toner; J Dorrian, Cormac Coulter; G Roddy (0-1), J Hughes, J McGrath (0-1); Caolan Coulter, G Johnson (2-9, 2-4 frees, 0-1 65), T Prenter (0-2). Subs: M Toner for J Dorrian (HT).

REFEREE: Colm McDonald (St Gall’s)

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