U19 Gaelic team through to Ulster Final
27th March 2019
Final Score (AET):
St. Patrick’s College, Ballymena 2-08
Sperrin Integrated, Magherafelt 1-06
A fiercely contested semi-final between these two sides eventually took a ten minute period of extra time to separate the teams. The match began as it meant to go on, with end to end attacks providing great viewing, only for a lack of composure in front of the posts from both sets of players.
Intelligent play from St. Patrick’s against the breeze in the first half helped them keep possession and the scoreboard ticking over, through the hard work and free taking of Niall Esler who was at the heart of everything positive. Indeed, Ballymena should have been further in front had it not been for some missed frees and a very strong goal chance, as well as a missed penalty which was superbly tipped round the post by the Sperrin keeper.
St. Patrick’s Ballymena 0-02
Sperrin Magherafelt 0-02
The game really opened up in the second half, with Sperrin beginning to open up the Ballymena defence and taking the lead. St. Patrick’s were hot on their heels though and kept the margin narrow through the boot of Corey Little with some well taken frees. Ballymena again spurned a glorious goal chance from Aaron Marrs, and when Sperrin raced forward and added a goal of their own, things were looking ominous for St. Pat’s. Now facing a three point deficit with five minutes left on the clock, Ballymena were reduced to 14 players when Morgan Dennison was sent to the sidelines for his second booking, born out of sheer frustration. Niall Esler kept pulling the strings from midfield, helped by the dangerous Corey Little in the forward line, and when the latter danced through the Sperrin backline to crash the ball into the net, Ballymena breathed a sigh of relief and had the game back on level terms.
St. Patrick’s Ballymena 1-06
Sperrin Magherafelt 1-06
10 minutes of extra time ensued, with St. Pat’s really holding onto possession and showing great guts with 14 men. Ryan Martin, Conall Gordon and Jude Casey worked tirelessly to keep Ballymena in the game, with Niall Esler and Corey Little again tagging on a point each to give St. Patrick’s the edge. Sperrin still threatened, until at last Ballymena turned their possession into a meaningful score, with Aaron Marrs making amends for his earlier efforts, finishing a great move and sending the ball into the corner of the goal to send St. Patrick’s though to the Ulster decider.
Special mention must go to the work rate and effort of the entire team to keep battling with their backs against the wall at stages of the game. Josh Mark was a solid foundation in goals, with Ryan Martin and Jude Casey showing maturity beyond their years in the back line. Niall Esler was immense in midfield, with Corey Little and Conall Gordon going through a mountain of work in the forward line and providing a legitimate threat.