St Peters 0-10 Maghery 0-12
LEAGUE champions Maghery had to battle against a gale force wind and a determined St. Peter’s challenge when they travelled to Freecrow for their opening game last Sunday.
The Lough Shore men who were trailing by five points midway through the first half looked rusty at times but their experience in the top flight proved crucial at the end of a game dominated by a wind which made shooting particularly difficult.
Before a ball was kicked it was obvious the cards were stacked against the home side, County player Niall McConville pulled up at training two nights before the game and played no part. Darren Moore was also missing but St. Peter’s fans would be delighted to see the return of Owen McMormack and Gavin Gowdy who were both impressive when introduced in the second half.
Maghery’s Conor Forker sat out the game with a shoulder injury, but both Aidan and Stefan Forker lined out in what looked to be a near full strength side. One of the games highlights was the midfield tussle between James Lavery and Aaron Findin, but in a battling second half performance it was the tenacity of Robbie Geary and Sam Marshall which stole the show in front of the superb Sean O’Neill at full back.
The league champions should be commended for sticking to their game plan and keeping their shape, and indeed their patience, despite struggling to claw back a three points deficit at the break. It took the visitors 55 minutes to hit the front. In retrospect though a couple of fundamental errors from the Whites put the Lurgan side under pressure when possession was lost deep inside their opponents half, and a cunning Maghery outfit were more than capable at capitalising on any mistakes.
There were no errors from Whites keeper James Magill who thwarted the visitors on several occasions.
St. Peter’s set the early pace in this Division One encounter, the Whites were three points in front after ten minutes thanks to two converted frees from Daire Toman, and a delightful strike from the right touchline on the run from Keith Totten.
Despite struggling against the elements Maghery looked out of sorts, but they were being harried in every department by a determined home outfit who hit their fourth point, Danny McNally the provider following a steading score from Stefan Forker for the champions.
The Whites’ three points lead at the break could had been a lot greater but the wind was unkind to both attackers and defenders alike, Danny McNally and Niall Creaney shot points for the North Street men on 16 and 19 minutes and Stefan Forker slotted over a Maghery score after what appeared to be a bizarre incident in which an umpire was shown a yellow card.
The excellent Eamon Cusack, James Lavery and Stefan Forker kept the visitors in touch and Daire Toman with his third score gave St. Peter’s a cushion of three points at the break. But would the home sides seven first half wides come back to haunt them? Maghery on the restart immediately answered the question.
The Lough Shore side hit five out of the next seven points. Stefan Forker, Eamon Cusack with two superb strikes Paul Forker’s first score of the game and a great effort bent over from Armagh player Aidan Forker set up a grandstand finish.
Conal McAlinden got his reward for a sound outing with a Whites point and the best score of the afternoon game when a defence splitting run from Aaron Findin found Gavin Gowdy whose pinpoint pass sent Sam Marshall clear to shoot over.
Maghery, who will play a lot better this season, had to pull out all the stops to take two points from the Lurgan side who were handicapped with their depleted squad and susceptible to the odd schoolboy error, which will give their team boss Steven McVeigh something to focus on during forthcoming training sessions.
Despite the closeness of the encounter these two sides could be doing battle at opposite end of the Division One table before the end of the year. Mid season top of the ground conditions will suit Maghery who are technically one of the best footballing sides in the county.
As for St. Peter’s, their evolution continues, they will no doubt pick up points at home this season. the away games will be a lot tougher.
St. Peter’s. J Magill, T Byrne, S O’Neill, R Geary, K Totten, E Haughian, S Marshall, A Findin, R Kelly, M Gogarty, D Toman, N Creaney, S McCaughley, C McAlinden, D McNally. Subs: G Gowdy, O McCormick.
Referee Jimmy McKee.