Rostrevor progressed to within one game of the championship quarter finals with an accomplished second half display allowing them to surge clear of Ballymartin at St. Mary’s Park on Monday night.
The Reds were buoyed by a spirited performance against Mayobridge in the opening round and got back on track with this comfortable victory; setting up a showdown with RGU Downpatrick for a place in the last eight. Anthony Donnan’s early goal helped the Reds into a three-point advantage at the interval and the winners rarely looked back with a run of seven successive points in the second half doing much damage to any hopes of a Ballymartin revival.
The Lilywhites have been operating in the top flight this season and were to be considered as a credible opponent on the night; however, Rostrevor were still the pre-match favourites and looked every bit the better side for much of the hour. Having said that, Ballymartin started with the greater intensity and created three early scoring chances before the Reds had produced anything of note, but these were missed and Rostrevor capitalised with their first attack on 7 minutes.
Micheal Mackin did well along the end line before feeding Anthony Donnan; whose finish was clinical into the far corner of Patrick Greene’s net. Sean Hughes side-footed a point to reply, but scores from Mackin and a John Fegan free had Rostrevor into a four-point lead by the end of the opening quarter; 1-2 to 0-1.
Cathal Doyle’s partnership with ex-Mayobridge player John Caldwell was a capable engine for Ballymartin and Doyle opened his account with a close range point to narrow the gap. However, another brace of Rostrevor scores in a first half under their control kept the Reds moving in the right direction. Indeed, Conor Magee could have found the net with his shot being tipped over by Greene before Damian Magee’s effort dropped over the crossbar; via the right post.
Michael Cunningham sent the ball between the posts; along with Ciaran O’Hare, as Ballymartin finished the half with consecutive points. Having said that, if Micheal Mackin’s low 28th minute drive nestled inside the post; as opposed to shaving the outside of it, Rostrevor would have been punching their ticket into the last-12 much earlier than they were.
HALF TIME – ROSTREVOR 1-04 – 0-04 BALLYMARTIN
Ross Cunningham’s right-wing point brought the deficit down to two points within four second-half minutes, but that was really as good as it got for the Lilywhites; as Rostrevor began to control the match. The match was still there for Ballymartin at this stage; however, the continuing development of the Reds’ youth players being overseen by Shane Mulholland brought a vibrancy that the Mourne side failed to match.
Indeed, Rostrevor finished with eight U’21 players on the park at the end of the match; providing much promise for the future. Jonathan Parr came up field; in the 35th minute, converting a free to re-open that three point lead from the break and a further six unanswered points from a rampant Rostrevor put the game out of sight. Two frees from John Fegan; either side of good points from Piaras Kane and Conor Magee, had the Reds into a 1-10 to 0-5 lead entering the final fifteen minutes.
Micheal Mackin added a point for Rostrevor in the 49th minute to increase the lead with Ciaran O’Hare’s free bringing some respite for the battling Lilywhites. Rostrevor’s Ardghal McMahon impressed in the narrow defeat to Mayobridge and his point capped another lively involvement from the youngster with Jonathan Parr’s long-range effort bringing the lead out to ten points by the 57th minute.
Ross Cunningham did provide the final score of the evening for Ballymartin, but the game was Rostrevor’s and a championship rematch with RGU Downpatrick was on the cards.
The Reds have faced off against the Hoops on two occasions in the championship this decade, with Shaun Parr and Jordan Fegan netting the only goals as Rostrevor claimed a 1-11 to 0-11 win in 2011’s first-round and a 1-12 to 0-9 victory in last season’s opening game.
The Reds would certainly take a third successive triumph over RGU, however an away draw and a narrow home defeat in the league this year suggest that there may not be any more than a kick of the ball between them on Saturday evening at St. Malachy’s Park, Castlewellan (5pm).
ROSTREVOR 1-13 – 0-07 BALLYMARTIN
By Kieran McNally