By David Mohan

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship semi-final

St Gall’s 1-7 

Lámh Dhearg 0-8

ST GALL’S produced the late kick to advance in to the final of the Antrim Senior Football Championship as they edged out Lámh Dhearg in Ahoghill last night (Wednesday).

In what was a low scoring game punctuated with wides, it took two late frees from the returning Conor McGourty to decide this semi-final.

Lámh Dhearg will be kicking themselves however and when they edged ahead with five to play, it seemed as if it could be their night. However, they perhaps dropped a little too deep to defend the lead rather than push on and they were punished with St Gall’s showing all the composure that has seen them dominate Antrim football for over a decade to take the win.

On a cool yet fine evening for football, it was St Gall’s who made the early running in the greasy conditions, but they were unable to find the target as they hit five early wides that contributed to their total of 15 overall.

Lámh Dhearg were pulling 14 players behind the ball when not in possession to deny St Gall’s space and this did contribute to some of the hopeful shots.

St Gall’s did have a penalty shout turned down on 11 minutes when Karl Stewart was through on goal and went down under a challenge from John Finucane, but referee Sean Lavery waved away the appeals.

When Lámh Dhearg did go forward they were just as wasteful as they kicked nine balls wide in the first half, but they finally did break the deadlock on 14 minutes when Ryan Murray found Darren Bellew out right who curled over to score for their only point of the half.

St Gall’s continued to find it tough to penetrate the Lámh Dhearg blanket defence, but they finally made the breakthrough on 21 minutes when Anto Healy floated a speculative ball in and Sean Kelly was on hand to catch, turn and fire low despite the best efforts of Finucane.

The game still failed to come to life although St Gall’s did tag on further scores thanks to a Karl Stewart free and a great effort from Niall O’Neill out on the right to take a 1-2 to 0-1 lead into the break.

Terry McCrudden replaced Gerard Walls at the break for Lámh Dhearg with McCrudden slotting into the attack and Domhnall Nugent going to midfield. This switch proved inspired as the Red Hands came storming out of the traps after the break as they his four scores in as many minutes through Ryan Murray (two), Conor Murray and McCrudden to level before a Ryan Murray free moved them ahead.

St Gall’s were now on the back foot, but they grew into the half eventually with the returning CJ McGourty kicking a free with his first touch after being introduced.

McGourty and Conor Murray traded points before Michael Herron thumped over a score to edge Lámh Dhearg back ahead with five to play.

However, St Gall’s didn’t panic and they worked the ball upfield with Micky Pollock gaining possession and levelling a minute later.

The game was now in the balance, but it was St Gall’s who were that bit more direct with Kevin Niblock galloping in on goal only to be taken down by Mark McGarry who was cautioned.

McGourty tapped over the free to give St Gall’s the lead with the game entering injury time.

Now it was Lámh Dhearg who were looking for an equaliser, but St Gall’s – masters of the possession game – kept their hands on the ball, eventually working it forward where Brendan Bradley was fouled after a wild swing of the boot from McGarry who got his second yellow in three minutes to see red and give McGourty another simple free to seal the St Gall’s win and place in the final where they will face Cargin next week.

ST GALL’S: C Kerr; C Brady, A McClean, T Ó Ciarán; M Kelly, S Kelly (1-0), J McGreevy; S Burke, C O’Kane; N O’Neill (0-1), K Niblock, A Healy; K McGourty, M Pollock (0-1), K Stewart (0-1 free). Subs: B Bradley for A Healy (39 mins), CJ McGourty (0-4, all frees) for K McGourty (41 mins)

LÁMH DHEARG: J Finucane; A McAufield, P Mervyn, D Bellew (0-1); M McGarry, M Herron (0-1), B McComb; G Walls, P Fitzsimons; C Murray (0-2), R Stranney, K Conroy; R Murray (0-3, 2 frees), D Lynch, D Nugent. Subs: T McCrudden (0-1) for G Walls (HT), K Quinn for R Stranney (44 mins), G Slane for K Quinn (60 mins)

REFEREE: Sean Lavery (Moneyglass)