CLANN na Banna progressed to the semi-final of the Intermediate Championship with a narrow victory over local rivals Annaclone at Pairc Esler Newry.
In a tense game riddled by mistakes the football may have been of poor quality but the determination shown by both teams and the tight scoreline kept both sets of supporters on edge until the final whistle.
Banbridge made a bright start and opened the scoring when JP Gartland joined the attack to point from play.
They could have been further ahead within minutes but Conor Lenaghan’s shot was well saved by Paddy Burns in the Annaclone goal.
Shortly after Burns was beaten from the penalty spot after Mal Magee’s strong run through the middle was abruptly stopped in the square. Ruairi Gillen made no mistake with the spot kick.
Annaclone were quickly back on terms. In their first serious attack Gerald Fegan was pulled down in the square and Colm Fegan sent McAllister the wrong way with the penalty kick.
Two points in quick succession from Gerald Fegan put Annaclone in front as the two McArdles began to take a grip at midfield.
Banbridge thought they had equalised but Rory Hill’s fisted point was strangely disallowed and Annaclone went further ahead with points from Rory Simpson and Colm Fegan.
Banbridge were having difficulty securing possession at midfield where John HaugheyConorMcConville and Aidan Fegan were winning a lot of breaking ball. Indeed Haughey was able to push forward and point from play to put his team four ahead.
Banbridge were thrown a lifeline just before half time when Mattie Smyth’s free kick from all of sixty yards flew into the net over the head of Burns.
As Bann continued to press forward Smyth had another chance to equalise the score but his shot trailed wide leaving a point between the teams at the break.
As the second half began the scores were soon level when Magee surged forward to score from play. Simpson and Gillen then exchanged points before Aidan Fegan pointed a free to edge Annaclone in front again.
Annaclone were weakened with the loss of Gary McArdle to injury as Banbridge began to win more of the ball at midfield.
Banbridge should have taken the lead when Gillen was through on goal but his shot was well saved by Burns and Hill fired the rebound against the post.
The decisive score came minutes later when Gillen emerged from a scramble of players with the ball and blasted to the net for Bann’s third goal. Thereafter Annaclone were unable to get back on terms and substitute Alan McGrath added another point for Banbridge.
Annaclone pressed hard and Kevin Anderson pointed from play to leave only two between the teams but they were unable to get the goal they needed.
Some great defending by Lunny Nelson and Magee blocked their path to goal and a late penalty claim was waved away by the referee.
Teams: ClannnaBanna - M McAllister, B Nelson, M Loughlin, L Rooney; JP Gartland, M Magee, C Lunny; L Devlin, M Smyth; M Fairbairn, D McAlinden, G Quinn; R Hill, R Gillen, C Lenaghan. Subs: C Smith, A McGrath, S Bradley, D Brooker, J Burns, J Clarke, P Gillen, M Mallon, S McArdle, P McCambridge, K McCourt, S McGarry, G McGrath.
Annaclone: P Burns, S O’Hare, N Higgins, P McColgan; J Haughey, C McConville, T Pyers; B McArdle, G McArdle; C Fegan, A Fegan, K Anderson; R Simpson, G Fegan, J Fegan. Subs: B McGivern, P Byrne, N Byrne, D Doran, M Wallace, K McNeill, A McIlroy, D Morgan, M McAleenan, P McNeill, G Farrell.