Loughinisland surged to victory over Rostrevor in Thursday’s league encounter with a strong opening half paving the way for a comfortable success at a rain-soaked MacCartan Park.
Michael Walsh’s ‘Island are the favourites to top the division and; despite failing to score in the final eighteen minutes of the match, were worthy winners against the out-of-form Reds. Rory Mason top-scored with seven points with Gareth Johnston’s goal at the start of the second period sealing the points before a late Rostrevor response brought respectability to the board after a failure to take chances forced them out of the game.
Following a number of postponed games; among other things, Loughinisland have some catching up to do in relation to the standings in the table and they remained on course from the start of this contest with three efforts from Rory Mason finding the target inside the opening seven minutes of play. The second of these scores demonstrated his superb striking of the ball with an excellent left-wing point.
Contrast this with a team that is low in belief and early misses sparked the general pattern of play from Rostrevor with three scorable wides arriving, as Loughinisland made the initial running. Jonathan Parr’s 10th minute free opened the Reds’ account, but two superb points from Mason and Paddy McKenny opened up a four-point lead for Loughinisland by the 13th minute; 0-5 to 0-1.
Rostrevor were labouring hard, but were finding limited success going forward and another under-par return from open play hampered their chances. Anthony Donnan turned quickly to fire over Rostrevor’s second point before leaving the field with an ankle injury soon after, as the Reds’ shockingly depleted attacking options took another blow. Perhaps given the recent exodus at the top end of the pitch, few can really express surprise at the continued woes.
Loughinisland finished the half with three unanswered pints with two Mason frees either side of an effort from Aaron McClements providing a six-point cushion for the hosts at the interval.
HALF TIME – LOUGHINISLAND 0-08 – 0-02 ROSTREVOR
In many ways, the second half started in the same manner as the first; with Loughinisland extending their lead and Rostrevor missing chances. Three wides in the early stages; with defensive players taking pot-shots in an attempt to narrow the gap, were punished in the 35thminute with Gareth Johnston stealing in to palm the ball to the net and end the contest.
Two good points from Damian Magee; one from play, allowed a Rostrevor response by the 39th minute, but there were was really no getting back into this match barring a collapse from Loughinisland. Rory Mason’s free and a fisted effort from Gareth Johnston restored the nine-point lead for the Blues in the 42nd minute; 1-10 to 0-4, with a late scoring surge from the Reds granted some consolation in the end.
The Rostrevor cause certainly wasn’t aided with the dismissal of youngster Peter Magee on 43 minutes, but sending-off seemed to drive Rostrevor to come out fighting in the final quarter. Three points from John Fegan, Damian Magee and Jonathan Parr brought the gap down to six points entering the closing minutes before Kieran Gordan diverted Niall Farrell’s shot into the path of Piaras Kane, who squeezed the ball over the line for a goal in the final minute of normal time.
Interestingly, the action wasn’t finished and the rare sight of the goalkeeper joining the attack in stoppage time nearly provided a headline with Jonathan Parr involved, as John Fegan’s dropping ball was narrowly diverted wide of the post in the closing minute. If you consider, that Rostrevor had that chance at the end then there can be some solace in the fact that the Reds were in the game in the closing stages despite Loughinisland evidently dropping their level of performance in a scoreless final quarter for them.
At this stage, Rostrevor’s fate seems set in mid-table, but wins are needed to solidify that and the visit of St. John’s provides the next opportunity to bring some joy to their supporters; although the Johnnies are a very good side and are coming off the back of a victory over An Riocht. Loughinisland’s title challenge will continue with the visit of Liatroim, as the Blues attempt to close in on Darragh Cross and An Riocht.
LOUGHINISLAND 1-10 – 1-07 ROSTREVOR
By Kieran McNally