DOYLE STRIKES LATE TO DENY HOOPS

ACFL DIVISION TWO – MATCHDAY TWO

RGU DOWNPATRICK 1-13 – 2-10 ROSTREVOR
By Kieran McNally

Conor Doyle fired over an excellent late equaliser for Rostrevor, as the Reds battled back to earn a share of the spoils at Pairc Tomas Ruseil on Monday evening. In a contest that ebbed and flowed up until its dramatic conclusion, Conor Deegan’s Downpatrick side will perhaps feel a bit disappointed to have watched an early six-point advantage and that extremely late lead slip; however, their visitors will feel the same frustration having wrestled the initiative away from the Hoops on a number of occasions during an entertaining match.

Downpatrick made the perfect start and raced into a commanding position with a scoring burst in the opening twelve minutes securing a six-point lead. Conor McGrady pointed with a straightforward free in the 3rd minute; and whilst both sides enjoyed periods of sustained early pressure, things were to get much better for the Hoops on 10 minutes. Michael Magee was causing problems in the inside line and strong running from the towering forward earned his side a penalty; which Eoin Boyle duly dispatched to the right corner. Further points from Gerard Collins and Jonathan Bell helped the Hoops solidify their advantage; 1-3 to 0-0 after 12 minutes.

Despite playing with the aid of the breeze in the opening half, Rostrevor were struggling to utilise it and were perhaps feeling the effects of playing on Friday holding them back against their fresher opponents. However, the Reds rallied to reel off 1-5 without reply in a dominant phase for the visitors. Caolan Mooney started the revival with a point from range before a stroke of luck gifted the Reds’ attacker a goal; directly from a free kick in the 18th minute. Conor Doyle sent over a left-footed free after Joseph Morgan was upended with Mooney levelling the scores soon after. Rostrevor were moving the ball quick and; at times, their football was superb. Piaras Kane angled over a fantastic effort from the right side before a tremendous counter-attack saw Richie Reynolds scoring a fine point from the left to forge a two-point lead. Conor McGrady and Jordan Fegan traded scores before Conor Doherty and Piaras Kane did likewise, but Rostrevor entered the break in the ascendancy after their excellent second-quarter.

HALF TIME – RGU DOWNPATRICK 1-05 – 1-07 ROSTREVOR

Perhaps, the biggest issue for the Reds in the opening half was their inability to secure an early foothold in the game and it was RGU that started the brighter in the second half as well. Michael Magee and Caolan Boyd were both on target, as the Hoops were back on terms by the 34th minute. Conor Doyle’s free did provide respite for Rostrevor, but the ten minutes directly after the interval belonged to Downpatrick with further points from Jonathan Bell and Eoin Boyle sending the hosts into the lead once more; 1-9 to 1-8. The pace in Rostrevor’s attacking ranks was always a threat though, and smart play in the final third after another swift move saw Conor Doyle releasing Piaras Kane with a defence-evading pass. Kane held his nerve; sidestepping James Deeny to slot in a well-taken goal for the Reds in the 40th minute, putting his side back in front by two.

As the game wore on; however, it was Downpatrick who seemed the more likely to take the points with Rostrevor growing more lethargic in the closing stages. Michael Magee and Eoin Boyle scored points in quick succession to draw the sides level for the fourth time with Jordan Fegan responding for Rostrevor to send his side back in front in the 54th minute; 2-9 to 1-11. There will be tinges of regret with Fegan’s effort, as he blazed over the top from close range in an increasingly rare chance for the Reds. The introductions of Conall Gordon and John Fegan; in particular, were important in injecting new life in the Rostrevor challenge, but frees from Michael Magee and Conor McGrady had RGU in front entering stoppage time. The Reds frantically chased an equaliser and were perhaps unlucky to see John Fegan’s pass through to Caolan Mooney pulled back for an earlier foul, but salvation arrived soon after with Conor Doyle taking the resulting free quickly before regaining possession to drill over a brilliant point with the final kick. In the end, it was an important result for Rostrevor and one that may grant more satisfaction for them than for Downpatrick; especially considering the hosts’ early and late leads. Indeed, Rostrevor had their moments also, but in the end, a draw was better than nothing at this early stage of the season.

Thanks to Kieran McNally for such great match reports, we look forward to them throughout the season.

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