A very entertaining senior soccer game took place between the local St. Joseph’s and Grange from Co. Sligo in a resplendent Bellaghy which was full of wonderful winter sunshine on Thursday afternoon. With St. Joes on a high after dispatching Ballinode in the previous round hopes were high of taking another scalp from the Yeats County but nobody told Grange!
The home side had to change their line up due to a local Gaelic League final on the Thursday evening being given priority and a school the size of St. Joes cannot afford to be without even one player when taking to the field. Such is life and the demands put on underage players by coaches nowadays that we end up with less and less players taking part in sports of any kind once they head into their middle and late teens. This is a debate for another day, but teens should be encouraged and not punished when it comes to extra-curricular activity.
Credit where it is due, this turned out to be a very entertaining match where there was very little between the teams at the end. Praise must go to Grange who were the better team in as far as they took their chance when they got them. They are now level with St. Joes on points with the later having a superior goal difference. The next game should decide who progresses to the next round. Both sides here would be favourites presently.
Grange started the brighter and had an early corner after a couple of minutes. The clearance of same found Jack Mahon and his exquisite cross field pass landed at the feet of Martin McCormack who forced a corner of his own. A great move after 5 minutes saw Mahon again find Ruairi Cullen who blazed the wrong side of the post with the goal gaping. The game flowed from end to end at this stage and Grange made a couple of half chances before a tremendous move involving Curry, Cullen and O’Donohue which saw Mahon head agonisingly wide.
Midway through the half Grange got their noses in front when a lapse of concentration saw a tame enough move sweep through from midfield with the Grange striker finding the bottom corner of the net. Moments later Sean Dunleavy pulled off a great save when Grange tried to force home their authority. For the rest of the half Luke O’Donohue went on a number of mazy runs but the final delivery was cut out before any imminent danger arose from a Grange perspective.
The second half saw a more resurgent Charlestown initially with Ben Conway moving to midfield and joining the play together. Mahon was pulled down while latching onto one of those through balls and when the captain struck the free kick it was destined for the top corner only for the Grange custodian to tip it over at full stretch, a wonderful save for a ‘keeper that did little wrong all day long. The home side were definitely asking more searching questions at this stage and it looked as if Mahon might deliver anytime now. Unfortunately, from St. Joes point of view Grange managed another goal on the break and credit to them, this took the sting out of the home side momentarily. Some of the Grange play was very nice on the eye with neat skilful moves which made incisions in the Charlestown rear-guard.
Charlestown looked as if they were short just one or maybe two players to get back on terms. Cullen really stepped up to the plate in the last quarter and this got more out of the lads around him. It was about this time, midway through the second half that Mahon tore down the line and then headed along the end line before unleashing from an acute angle. A tremendous effort from a player that always gives his all, giving the goalkeeper no chance. St. Joes had now got a foothold in the match and another goal was well within their reach.
Grange had their own ideas and when they moved quickly down field, they got their chance with the goal of the day, a low cross from the right saw their striker, with his back to goal, swivel and drive an unstoppable shot to the net,3-1 and the match winning goal was scored! Time had run out on St. Joes on this occasion.
Thanks to James Kilroy and the staff of Charlestown Athletic for the use of the facilities
Thanks also to Mr. John Mulroe for refereeing the match very well.