Rory Cunningham’s fortuitious goal amidst an impressive second quarter set An Riocht on their way to a deserved victory over Rostrevor at a sunny Pairc na Riochta on Friday night.
The Kingdom trailed in the early stages, but fine performance from Deaglan Morgan, Michael Clarke and the inspirational Martin Clarke were the catalyst for victory with the Mourne side holding off a late Rostrevor surge to regain the lead in the promotion race.
The Reds may feel that they should have won this game; as they largely controlled the second half, yet failed to score in it until there were ten minutes left at which point they had fallen six points behind. Compound that with a number of near-misses in front of the posts and Rostrevor will certainly be disappointed with the outcome. Having said that, there could be no disputing that An Riocht’s performance throughout the pitch warranted a win.
Jordan Fegan returned to Rostrevor’s starting line-up and his running; particularly in the first half, should have been a platform for an away success with the amount of times it exposed the An Riocht rearguard. Given that he is one of the Reds’ soon-to-be departures for a number of months, this was an encounter in which the Reds should have benefitted greatly from his searing pace.
Fegan opened the scoring with another returnee in the form of Conor Magee doubling the lead from range, as Rostrevor started well. However, a quick of brace of points from the Kingdom’s hard-working wing forwards; Conor Cole and Deaglan Morgan, levelled the contest by the sixth minute. Rostrevor will look back on missed opportunities when evaluating this loss and they very nearly found the net on 10 minutes with Anthony Donnan settling for a point after a swift counter attack had caught An Riocht napping.
Caolan Mooney’s point restored Rostrevor’s two-point advantage; a minute later, but the home side were imperious in a match-winning second quarter.
Jonathan Parr was sharp to deny Rory Cunningham’s low drive on 13 minutes, as Cunningham provided a glimpse of what was to come in a Kingdom surge. Martin Clarke’s vision and passing was immaculate and his influence grew on the contest, as it developed.
Clarke sent over a 45-yard free for the hosts with Morgan angling over a superb score from the left wing to equalise once again. Rory Cunningham provided Chris Killen with the chance to put the Kingdom in front for the first time in the 17th minute before he produced the game’s defining moment. With the game ebbing and flowing, Cunningham raced onto possession on the right side before soloing towards the Reds’ fourteen yard line; shooting early to catch Jonathan Parr out with an effort that slipped inside the post to nestle in the corner of the net; 1-5 to 0-4.
Martin Clarke extended the lead to five points with a Noel McArdle point doing further damage to Rostrevor on 24 minutes. The defensive work of Michael Clarke and Liam McVeigh was very credible; although McVeigh was soon to receive his marching orders with a black card with the same fate befalling Ronan McAlinden; for fouls on Caolan Mooney and Conor Magee respectively, in a cagey ending to the half.
Conor Mackin ended An Riocht’s succession of scores with a fine effort after industrious play from Conor Magee, but Conor Cole’s point kept the Kingdom in control. Brendan McVeigh had a part to play in the Mourne side retaining a degree of comfort at the break with a smart save from Piaras Kane in stoppage time at the end of the half. Jonathan Parr sent over the ultimately resulting 45’ yard kick, but a five-point deficit may have been much less had it not been for McVeigh’s timely intervention.
HALF TIME – AN RIOCHT 1-08 – 0-06 ROSTREVOR
Rostrevor will view the second half; in particular its initial twenty minutes, with a degree of regret considering the extent to which the dominated the ball. Conor Mackin received a black card for dissent following a narrow wide in a scoreless opening to the half. The Reds enjoyed a mass of possession, but it was to be a Martin Clarke free that would open the second half scoring to re-open a six point lead for the Kingdom.
Both sides missed chances, but Rostrevor appeared to be the chief culprits with poor finishing hampering their ability to close the gap. Indeed, it took until the 49th minute of play for the Reds to raise a white flag in the second period; and until the 55th to do so from play. However, these were among four consecutive scores from the visitors.
Caolan Mooney and Jordan Fegan were always troublesome with their attacking threat, but time and time again it didn’t work out in the final third. The two men were responsible for the Reds’ scoring in the final ten with two frees from Mooney before Jordan Fegan tucked over a point from close range.
Caolan Mooney brought the gap down to two points in the 58th minute, as Rostrevor threatened a late comeback at 1-9 to 0-10. However, An Riocht were to close out the game in the final stages with Rory Cunningham and an insurance point from wing-back Conor Doyle sealing a famous and important win for the Kingdom.
Rostrevor welcome Tullylish to Pettit Park next week, as they hope to get back on track with An Riocht attempting to improve their away performances; and consolidate their league leadership, in the difficult confines of Liatroim.
AN RIOCHT 1-11 – 0-10 ROSTREVOR
By Kieran McNally.