Rory Gillen capitalised on a defensive error to side-foot a spectacular late winner for Clann na Banna, as they pulled of a shock home win over Rostrevor at Cottage Park on Friday night.
The Banbridge side were able to carry a three-point lead into the half time break; thanks to Sean Leneghan’s goal, and despite being on the back foot at various stages in the second half, they rallied for a famous win on the Scarva Road. This defeat for Rostrevor deals a blow to their promotion prospects, but the damage was limited somewhat with An Riocht’s home loss to Darragh Cross ensuring that a number of sides re-emerged into what will be a fiercely contested race.
Clann na Banna came into the contest having picked up three wins in their previous four games and; whilst they lost to Loughinisland in their last fixture, there was confidence in how they set about their task. Having said that, the hosts were rescued by Michael McAllister’s expert goalkeeping in the early stages; with two saves within as many minutes at the beginning of the match.
Jordan Fegan had gone closest for Rostrevor, but Piaras Kane had the Reds in front; from Anthony Donnan’s lay off by the third minute. Managed by Rostrevor native Gary Farrell, Clann na Banna seemed to have the measure of their visitors in the opening half though and points from Sean Leneghan and Niall Scullion put the Banbridge men into the lead after ten minutes, despite some instances of poor shooting within that period. The Reds responded with a close range point from Joseph Morgan and a well-taken score from Caolan Mooney, but Clann na Banna were to pounce at the end of the opening quarter.
Conor Leneghan angled over a point after superb work from Malachy Magee in the 14th minute with the game’s opening goal arriving, two minutes later. There was a hint of fortune with it, as the dropping ball was spilled into the path of Sean Leneghan; however, the finish was of quality with the ball crashing into the roof of Jonathan Parr’s net for a 1-3 to 0-3 lead.
Caolan Mooney provided a reply for the Reds, but a free from Rory Gillen; followed by a score from play for the same man, helped the Clann into a four-point lead approaching the interval. Rostrevor had largely failed to match their opponents’ intensity, but Joseph Morgan did narrow the gap before Shane Lowey’s half-time whistle with a point despite the best efforts of McAllister.
HALF TIME – CLANN NA BANNA 1-05 – 0-05 ROSTREVOR
Shane Mulholland’s half-time team talk appeared to have the desired outcome, as Rostrevor emerged with intent upon the restart with a scoring surge in the opening five minutes of the second period. Conor Magee drilled over the top to reduce the deficit with Conor Doyle’s free bringing the gap down to the minimum.
The Reds seemed to take a big step towards securing control of the contest in the 35th minute with Jordan Fegan cleverly sliding the ball low across McAllister for an excellent goal. Doyle’s second point after his half-time introduction had Rostrevor into a three-point advantage; 1-8 to 1-5, but the Clann’s response was immediate. It was superb also; with Niall Scullion weaving his way across the Reds’ defensive screen to fire the ball to the left corner past the outstretched Parr to level the match once more.
Liam Devlin ensured that Clann na Banna entered the final quarter of the encounter in front, but points from Joe Morgan, Declan Magee and Caolan Mooney had Rostrevor leading by two by the 52nd minute. At that stage, the game seemed to be edging towards Rostrevor with Niall Scullion’s fine effort being cancelled out by Mooney and Jordan Fegan as the Reds assumed an element of control. Rostrevor would lead by three entering stoppage time; 1-15 to 2-9, with Gillen and Mooney trading points; however, the Clann would provide a massive effort in the four minutes of time added on to take the spoils.
The underdog were to find the target twice; with Darren Brooker on target, as they tried to gain something from the contest and at the finish they did just that with Rostrevor very much the architects of their own demise. Three Clann na Banna attackers were able to close down Jonathan Parr’s attempted clearance with the easiest of chances falling to Rory Gillen to lift the ball past the Reds’ keeper for a famous win for the Clann.
Rostrevor will be most aggrieved with the ending; but having been on the receiving end of some late joy in their previous game against Tullylish, it could be said that these things happen if you do not finish games off when in the ascendancy. Rostrevor have two trips to Darragh Cross and Annaclone to come next with the Clann hoping to continue their climb up the table with a home game against Liatroim Fontenoys.
By Kieran McNally