YOUTHFUL REDS REIGN IN THE RAIN

ACFL DIVISION TWO – MATCHDAY ONE

ROSTREVOR 0-09 – 1-03 ANNACLONE
Kieran McNally

Rostrevor opened their league campaign with a hard-earned victory over Annaclone in a dour struggle at rain-drenched Pettit Park on Friday evening. The conditions more than played their part, as the young Reds held on in an anxious second half to hold off a spirited challenge from their visitors. Shane Mulholland must be credited with his faith in players that helped Rostrevor to two minor football championships in three years with eight of the starting fifteen being under 21, and a host of others also holding minor titles in their medals count. The manner in which the Reds held out for their victory will please the new manager, on a night on which the result was all that mattered.

In a contest that was littered with errors and wayward shooting; mostly as a result of the treacherous conditions, Rostrevor’s wealth of possession in the opening half was perhaps the separating factor on the night. The Reds took six minutes to open the scoring with Caolan Mooney’s searing pace garnering unlikely possession on the right side to feed Piaras Kane for a neat point. Annaclone were seemingly happy to use Brendan McArdle as a target man at full-forward in the initial stages, but James Rice curtailed him well for the most part. Mulholland will be pleased that his side’s competent defending was able to limit their visitor’s ability to progress deep into their territory and indeed the ‘Clone had only one score from play across the hour, due to their necessity to shoot from unlikely areas of the pitch. Mooney strode forward to split the posts from the centre in the 8th minute, but Annaclone capitalised on the conditions to maximum effect to strike for the net, five minutes later.

Everything seemed to be going well for Rostrevor, as they had dealt with the initial delivery; however, an unfortunate slip allowed Owen Pyers to gain possession close to the Reds’ end-line and he picked out Brendan McArdle who lifted the ball to past Jonathan Parr from close range.

It was an extremely unlikely lead at that stage and it was soon to be cancelled out, as Annaclone struggled for any real rhythm in the first half. Caolan Mooney levelled the scores with a 15th minute free to set Rostrevor up for a dominant and match-winning second quarter. Conor Doyle found space to put the hosts in front before Piaras Kane angled over a left-wing point in spectacular fashion to double the advantage on 20 minutes, 0-5 to 1-0. Kevin Anderson and Rory Simpson were impressively involved in much of Annaclone’s attempts to compete, but the visitors rarely threatened in truth and were often poor in possession. Jordan Fegan punished a few ‘Clone wides to extend the lead to three points with a deflected point in the 25th minute with Caolan Mooney sending over a fine point, as the Reds entered the break with a comfortable and largely deserved lead.

HALF TIME – ROSTREVOR 0-07 – 1-00 ANNACLONE

The second half of this encounter was an extremely turgid affair with neither side raising a white flag from play, but it must be said that Annaclone markedly improved after the interval. Rostrevor were guilty of a battery of wides in the early stages of the half with Annaclone finding two converted frees in fourteen barren minutes to narrow the gap to two points by the end of the third quarter.

As the underfoot conditions continued to deteriorate, both sides struggled to manage; however, the Clone’s gradual growth into the contest would have unsettled Rostrevor. Owen Pyers and Kevin Anderson both placed over from the dead ball in the 32nd and 43rd minutes; and whilst both sides struggled to test scoreboard, it gave Annaclone some momentum and they did create some chances to close the gap further and even overturn the Reds. Perhaps, the pivotal moment in the second period arrived in the 52nd minute with Gary McArdle flashing a shot across the Rostrevor goalmouth; only for Jonathan Parr to produce a top-class fingertip save to divert the ball wide to keep the scores at 0-7 to 1-2.

Rostrevor needed a score to settle their nerves, as they were become frayed at this stage and Caolan Mooney’s 55th minute free was most welcome for the Reds. Having said that, Annaclone’s persistence continued to present problems for the Reds and they almost forced a late equalising goal, as a turnover in the Reds half saw an odd-man rush from the visitors. However, a desperate pull-down from Sean Cooper ending the break and resulted in a black card for the Reds’ winger. Anderson drilled the free over the bar, but Richard Reynolds’ left-footed free in the fourth minute of stoppage time was the insurance that Rostrevor needed to secure a nervy win in the end.

In a testing start to the season for the Reds, this was an important result with a trip to Pairc Tomas Ruseil and RGU Downpatrick waiting on Monday night, before a home clash against another title rival; Loughinisland, next Friday night. Annaclone will hope to respond to their opening night defeat in their hotly-anticipated contest with Liatroim Fontenoys.

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