Rostrevor needed three points in the closing stages to finally see off a gallant St. John’s challenge in Drumnaquoile on Friday night.
The Reds were in desperate search of two league points after a winless fortnight; since their opening day success, and were made to fight all the way by the resurgent Johnnies. Indeed, St. John’s have yet to pick up any league points in a difficult start, but this performance will give them plenty of heart as they held their own throughout the contest. Having said that, Rostrevor’s greater ease in the creation of scoring chances during the hour proved important, as their valiant hosts laboured towards the conclusion.
Shane Mulholland’s Reds; wearing black on the night, needed a response to the Loughinisland defeat and were quick to make their impression on the scoreboard with Anthony Donnan opening the scoring inside the opening minute. Conor Doyle doubled the lead, as Rostrevor started with intent. However; with Chris McKay being an effective target man and Conor Gilmore and Martin Keenan among those to impress, St. John’s were extremely competitive.
Conor Morgan narrowed the gap and; whilst Sean Cooper’s point restored Rostrevor two-point lead, Chris McKay and Conor Gilmore had the teams on level terms by the 13th minute; 0-3 to 0-3. The Johnnies were somewhat fortunate at that stage though, as Rostrevor’s Richie Reynolds saw his 12th minute penalty ricochet of the post in a moment that spurred the hosts on in an even opening half.
Martin Keenan pointed to put St. John’s in front for the first time on 14 minutes, but frees from Doyle and Caolan Mooney reversed the lead back in Rostrevor’s favour. This was to be the pattern of the second quarter, as both sides swapped the advantage.
Two points from the excellent Chris McKay put the Slieve Croob side back in front momentarily before Mooney and Reynolds fired over a neat brace to keep the Reds ticking along. Perhaps it was frustrating at times for Rostrevor, as they were never quite able to keep St. John’s at bay despite entering the game as considerable favourites.
Conor Gilmore sent over a pair of frees with Caolan Mooney providing a quick response for Rostrevor, but a tremendous point from full-forward McKay ensured that St. John’s entered the interval with a single-point lead. This despite the unfortunate loss of John Clarke to injury in the closing stages of the half. Indeed, this attacking loss would be felt in the second period as the ex-Kingdom forward was a constant creative threat for the hosts.
HALF TIME – ST. JOHN’S 0-09 – 0-08 ROSTREVOR
Rostrevor; as noted before, were finding it difficult to break free from the shackles and St. John’s made life very hard for their visitors. It did seem in the early stages of the second half, that the Reds had made their eventual breakthrough, however.
Caolan Mooney fired over the bar to equalise before being centrally involved in feeding the ball to Anthony Donnan who rifled into the roof of the net for the game’s opening goal in the 38th minute. A brilliant dropping point from Conall Gordon had the Rostrevor lead out to four points, but St. John’s were not going to roll over.
Almost instantly, they roared back into the contest. Martin Keenan received possession after some patient play from Chris McKay in the final third and; without taking a moment to think, he buried the ball past Jonathan Parr to cut the deficit to a single point. Conor Morgan levelled the scores within the next sixty seconds, as the game entered the proverbial melting pot; 1-10 to 1-10.
The value of the final twenty minutes will become clearer for Rostrevor in the coming months, but there must be huge sighs of relief at finally grinding out the victory. Piaras Kane rattled the crossbar, as the Reds bemoaned their fortune for a second time, but Mooney and Doyle found the target to open up a two-point Rostrevor lead by the 46th minute. St. John’s were still battling though, and Conor Gilmore’s free along with McKay’s fifth point had the teams tied for the ninth time entering the final ten minutes.
Piaras Kane scored a fine point from the left wing to restore his side’s lead before a hugely important block from veteran Jarlath Farrell prevented McKay from equalising once more. It was on that moment that St. Johns’ fate was sealed with Caolan Mooney sending over two more unanswered points; bringing his own tally to a magnificent seven, and sending Rostrevor to a priceless win at Pairc Naomh Eoín.
Next up for the Reds is a trip to Fontenoy Park to face Liatroim with St. Johns’ search for league points continuing with a home encounter with Tullylish.
ST. JOHN’S 1-12 – 1-15 ROSTREVOR
By Kieran McNally