Senior Men into Championship Semi Final



at Pairc Esler, Newry

Rostrevor overcame a blistering start from An Riocht to settle in and blitz their way to another intermediate semi final at a wet Pairc Esler on Friday night. It was the perfect start for the Kingdom with Rory Cunningham and Cameron Gribben plundering early goals for the newly-promoted side, but with Ardghal MacMahon to the ‘four’; and a batch of supremely confident performances, the Reds battled back brilliantly to blow their nearby rivals along the shore out of the proverbial water. Perhaps, it was a perfect storm for Benny Coulter’s side with the concession of those early majors providing the tonic for a display that was filled with urgency and no shortage of quality; particularly in advanced areas springing out from their middle third. It is also to the Red rearguard’s credit that they recovered their poise to quell what was a pacey and industrious An Riocht attack.

As previously pointed out, An Riocht were very quick off the mark and with their habit of winning games in their successful league campaign; following that up of course with two good victories in the championship, they had every right to be optimistic. This optimism was also aided by what; to this point at least, was a Rostrevor team looking for consistency. The Kingdom were intent from the start and were awarded for their early impressions with Cameron Gribben cutting in from the right before offloading to Rory Cunningham; the latter firing past the outrushing Gairaid Clarke for a third-minute goal. The spectators were being treated to an exceptionally open start to the contest and after Tomas Gordon had sent over a long-range point for Rostrevor in reply, the Reds were denied by Stephen Doran’s point-blank stop from an Ardghal MacMahon attempt. The end-to-end nature was being embraced by both sides, as they poured forward in search of chances on a slick surface, but it was An Riocht again who had their sizeable support in raptures once more in the seventh minute. In an attack that seemed to have been stopped on a number of occasions on the right side, Cameron Gribben had possession in his hands and then at his feet, as Shaun Parr piled the pressure onto the young attacker. However, the Kingdom man was able to swivel on the ball and dig out a shot that snuck inside the right hand post to put his into a five-point lead; 2-0 to 0-1.

At that stage, it appeared that An Riocht would score every time they went forward with the pace on their wings creating chaos in a harried Reds defence. The tide was stemmed though in the most thrilling of fashions moments after Clarke’s resulting kickout. MacMahon spied Conor Doyle moving into space up in Rostrevor left corner and he found him with a wonderful ball in, which Doyle perhaps surpassed with a gorgeous cross-field pass finding Conor Fegan out in front of his marker. Fegan was superb in feigning left; then right, before whistling a shot past the fingertips of Stephen Doran and into the left corner of the net. Peter Magee showed well to engineer space and send over a point to bring Rostrevor back to within a point at the end of an enthralling opening quarter, but the Reds wanted more and they were to move ahead in the 16th minute. Conall Gordon’s accurate delivery to the influential Fegan was superb with the Reds forward claiming well and playing in Ardghal MacMahon, who sidestepped Doran and smashed the ball into the net. Colm Murney did well to create another opportunity for Fegan to send over a point and; despite the danger in their side, An Riocht were clearly rattled. Ronan Campbell and Conor Doyle traded scores, as did Peter Magee and Conor Clarke, as Rostrevor entered the interval with a three-point lead and with the Kingdom needing to reset, as they were really struggling to respond to a now fervent Rostrevor.


Martin Clarke’s return to the An Riocht bench in recent weeks has been a talking point and his influence in the squad was notable when during the break, he spoke with and evidently coached a number of the Kingdom subs; as well as conferred with management. It may be a digression, but it is also worth noting that he made an impressive senior championship debut against Rostrevor way back in 2004, but history would not repeat itself on this night. This despite a renewed sense of hope embracing An Riocht’s return to the pitch and an early Campbell free, narrowing the gap. Patrick Magee responded with a well-taken point before the real sucker punch arrived on 34 minutes. It was a well-crafted goal from MacMahon who tapped the ball beyond the last defender with his right hand before stroking an accurate curling shot inside Doran’s near post. Fegan tucked over a neat point from the right side moments later before Shaun Parr had an effort blocked on the line, as Rostrevor gathered momentum. Patrick Gartland fired over following an An Riocht turnover with Ronan Campbell adding another to keep the Kingdom in touch with a five-point deficit after eight minutes of second-half play. However, any chances of an An Riocht fightback were stamped out in five ruthless minutes in which Rostrevor found the net three times in a wonderful exhibition of attacking play that blasted the seasiders into true championship contention.

Shaun Parr fed possession to MacMahon who completed his hat trick with a delicate finish over Doran before Conor Doyle; continuing his fine return from injury, palmed to the net following a Paddy Magee turnover in the final third and an unselfish assist from Fegan. The ball was in the net again by the end of the final quarter with that man Ardghal MacMahon receiving a ball in from Doyle to roll in his fourth goal – his seventh in this year’s championship. It’s little wonder he’s being referred to as Ardgoal by the Rostrevor support. With Rostrevor now holding an unassailable fourteen-point lead, the game petered out considerably in the closing stages. Ronan Campbell and Conor Clarke found a brace of scores to dent the Reds’ lead, with county under-21 star Finn Murdock; with his fist, and Drew Grant responding for Rostrevor, as the game shuttled towards its conclusion. A couple of frees from captain Ronan McAlinden kept An Riocht on the scoreboard, but the final say was to be Drew Grant’s with his lively late cameo providing a second point. This was a Rostrevor performance that many appeared to be waiting on and the signs were there with the manner in which they had dispatched Drumgath in round three; and they will also be happy with all their scores having come from play. The key now for the Reds is to keep moving in that direction, but they are now certainly in real contention and with players back in the squad; and others back in form, they’ll be hard to stop in this intermediate championship.
ROSTREVOR SCORERS; Ardghal McMahon (4-0), Conor Fegan (1-2), Conor Doyle (1-1), Peter Magee (0-2), Drew Grant (0-2) Patrick Magee, Tomas Gordon and Finn Murdock (0-1 each).
AN RIOCHT SCORERS; Rory Cunningham (1-0), Cameron Gribben (1-0), Ronan Campbell (0-4 3f), Ronan McAlinden (0-2), Conor Clarke (0-2) and Patrick Gartland (0-1).


DOWN MEMORY LANE: Goals, Goals, Goals… That seems to be the way whenever Rostrevor are in championship quarter finals. In one of those stats that can maybe sneak its way under the radar, the Reds have an extremely impressive goals/games ratio at that particular stage of the competition. Rostrevor have competed in eight quarter finals since 2007 (5 SFC and 3 IFC) against the likes of Mayobridge, Ballyholland, Bryansford, Kilcoo, Drumgath, Annaclone and; of course, An Riocht. Across those eight games, the Reds have now amassed a total of 21 goals – for the keen mathematicians out there – that correlates as 2.6 goals per game. It’s also interesting to note that St Bronaghs GAA Rostrevor scored four goals in the 1998 Down SFC quarter final win over Castlewellan on their way to championship glory that summer. So, there may not be a quarter given; as the saying goes, but there’s certainly plenty of goals scored…

Thanks as always to our own Louis McNally for the wonderful photos:


By secretaryrostrevor Tue 19th Sep