Down Division One
Longstone 0-6 RGU 0-13
THE Downpatrick RGU team enjoyed a good away win over Longstone in their first game of the season.
It just took the Hoops two minutes to score their first point of the season and the opening point of the match when RGU forward Jarleth Branagan took his first free form 16 yards and sent it between the posts. But Longstone although a couple of key players short through injury made a quick reply with Doran shooting just wide. Gradually the RGU upped the pressure and looked confident and secure in the passing and the RGU midfield were enjoying the catches giving them the edge.
Peter Turley was showing his prowess by making a few fine runs through the middle dissecting the Stone defence but his first effort at scoring was just wide. A dour struggle between the teams ensued with quality football up and down the pitch but eventually it was Branagan again who took another point from a free. His marksmanship was accurate and this kept the Hoops in front against a determined home side.
Longstone pulled back a point in the twelfth minute defying the gusty conditions and there was no doubt this was going to be a close match. Conor McGrady was having a good game showing a solid work-rate and he made a confident cross to Sean Bell who was unlucky not to score as the volley hooked past the post.
But Longstone were not lying down and Conor Doran who had a great game nailed another point from a free. A minute later the Stone were attacking again and Stephen Doran charged down the right wing and launched a shot at the RGU sticks but the ball bounced back of the post to be snapped up by Anthony Doherty in the Hoops’ defence.
Longstone then enjoyed a purple patch when they make a number of great challenges into the RGU half forcing a few precious frees with their relentless pressure. It was Longstone’s Conor Doran again who took the next point again from a free levelling the score.
The RGU responded quickly by a swift attack and Branagan found himself within scoring distance but took his shot under pressure from three Longstone defenders on his tail and sliced the ball. As it returned to earth, Sean Bell took control and charged the goalmouth and shot at goal only to be denied by an excellent block by Longstone keeper John Haughian.
Then it was Sean Bell again who took a long 30 yard kick at the Longstone posts but was just wide. The RGU were pressing once more when frontman Branagan attacked and slipped losing the ball but bounced up quickly showing his metal to retrieve it in play and get in a shot at goal which earned a free from 45 yards when the keeper deflected the strike over the line. His kick was inches wide.
As the clock ticked, it was McGrady who stepped up to the mark and ran in from the right to midfield and send a right footer over the Longstone posts. But the RGU received a major let off when Longstone’s Mark Poland crossed to Ryan McDowell who was looking closely down the jaws of the RGU goal, but his goal opportunity skewed off to the left. Longstone’s Conor Smyth then pressurised the RGU defence again. He was playing well but his shot went wide.
But as the titanic struggle ebbed and flowed, it was the RGU’s midfielder Peter Turley who bulldozed through the Longstone defence and passed to Gareth Trainor who took the critical point sending the ball over the Longstone crossbar.
Longstone bravely fought back and won a free which Ciaran Doran converted. Then as Branagan tried to force the ball up field into the Longstone half, he was held by David Young, and Kevin Gracey took the long free but the ball landed in the keeper’s lap and the whistle went for half-time. (The score at this point was Longstone 0-4 RGU 0-5).
One minute into the second period and it was Neil Cunningham who took another point for the RGU. And a quick reply by Longstone almost earned a goal had it not been for a brilliant save, the first of several, by RGU keeper James Deeny.
The RGU were playing disciplined football, fast, showing good handling skills, and connecting as a team. The next opportunity was missed when Branagan crossed to McGrady who fired a long shot which was a hair’s breadth from the post. The RGU were again close to scoring and one day this team will mature and blossom into a formidable football team that Downpatrick will be proud.
As the Stone’s Mark Trainor charged the RGU goal, it was left for James Deeny to save the day and keep the ball out of the net which he did in style keeping his side in front. Longstone received a consolation prize a minute later when Conor Doran took a point after a great run through the middle finding space to shoot. But this effort was cancelled out with Branagan’s point a minute after from a free from 45 yards.
Gradually the match was turning in the RGU’s favour as the minutes passed and the RGU’s David McAuley was impinged by Longstone’s Gareth Trainor and Branagan scored the point.
As both teams battled hard, it was inevitable that this game would get more physical with hard tackling and niggles, but as the RGU crept six points ahead, it was Peter Turley who barged through the middle once more passing to pass to Gareth Trainor who scored another point. But Longstone would not lie down and quickly scored a point from a free. But by now tempers were getting frayed and it was Sean Bell who was yellow-carded first.
But as play settled down in the final phase of the game, McGrady took an excellent point in play putting the game finally beyond Longstone.
The new RGU manager, Paul Lambe, speaking after the match, said: “We’re delighted with this first win of the season. Longstone were a few players short I understand, but the lads played well and let’s hope they keep this up in the weeks ahead.”
Longstone: J Haughian, C Rogers, C Poland, D McDowell, C Smyth, M Hughes, M Trainor, G Trainor, P Haughian, C Doran, M Poland, D Young, R McDowell, S Doran C Byrne.
Downpatrick RGU: James Deeny, Declan Turley, Anthony Doherty, Ciaran Curran, David Turley, Gerard Collins, David McAuley, Peter Turley, Conor McGrady, Sean Bell, Kevin Gracey, Neil Cunningham, Gareth Trainor, Jarleth Branagan, Ryan Slavin.