Magnificent seven for Shane O’Neills

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Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Community, Sport

SHANE O’NEILLS 7-11 ST JOHN’S 0-3

Richard Bullick reports.

Young sensation Aimee Mackin added to her growing reputation as the hottest prospect in local ladies Gaelic as Shane O’Neill’s strolled into the Ulster Junior Club Championship semi-finals.

In the preliminary round rout of overwhelmed Derry champions Ballymaguigan, the Northern Ireland Under 19 soccer star scored 3-7 and this time she went one better with 3-8 in Saturday’s 29-point pasting of Antrim representatives St John’s.

The Camlough club face Fermanagh outfit Brookeborough – victors over Down opponents at the weekend – in the last four of the competition this Saturday and are expecting a much tougher test, but few would bet against scintillating Shane’s booking their place in the final.

Saturday’s was another dazzling display by this exceptionally young Shane’s side, all of whose players were under 19, and their magnificent seven goals left the spirited but comparatively limited visitors reeling.

St John’s simply couldn’t cope with the awesome attacking threat of a Shane’s side whose trademark dynamism and incredible cutting edge has made them many people’s favourites to go all the way in this competition.

On an afternoon when the Shane’s haul of 7-11 featured only three scorers, there was another hat-trick from goal machine Aoibheann Jones – who netted six times in the preliminary round tie – and Mackin’s sister Blaithin chipped in with 1-3.

A great ball from midfielder Moya Feehan led to the opening goal in the first few minutes, full forward Jones confidently slotting home before the Mackins took over. Centre half forward Aimee quickly kicked her first point and then hit the back of the St John’s net after linking with Blaithin.

The visitors responded by mounting their first serious attack of the game but the resolute Shane’s defending was one of the most pleasing aspects of this comprehensive performance and St John’s had a goal chance thwarted by a combination of Marieanne Marron and captain Louise Kenny.

It was a different story at the other end where Jones pounced for her second goal and Aimee Mackin again responded in kind with a strike to the net and added a point to take the Shane’s tally to 14 without reply.

A free right in front of the posts produced St John’s first point of the game and it took concerted defending by the hosts to ensure several threatening attacks yielded no further reward for the visiting team.

Although the Antrim side did double their score just before the break, they turned around trailing by 15 points thanks to two more from Aimee Mackin and one by sibling Blaithin for good measure.

The torment continued for St John’s following the resumption, Aimee Mackin getting the second half scoring underway with a point and, after both she and Blaithin goaled in quick succession, the Armagh Under 16 captain posted a brilliant effort off the outside of her left boot.

A third point was the least St John’s deserved for their refusal to throw in the towel but it was mere punctuation in the tale of free-wheeling Shane O’Neill’s making hay in near perfect conditions.

The rampant hosts carved open the visiting defence for Jones to complete her hat-trick of goals and, just for variety, Aimee Mackin kicked her team’s only free of a balmy late summer’s afternoon.

Even though the Shane’s management took the opportunity to run all their subs, the multiple changes brought little respite for St John’s and there was still plenty of slick approach play as two points from Blaithin Mackin and Aimee’s eighth rounded off the scoring.

As always the Mackin sisters and goal queen Jones – an astonishing nine in two Ulster Junior Championship matches – will hog the headlines but it was an excellent all-round display by a talented team who are scintillating in attack and work hard in defence.

The rearguard, led by skipper Louise Kenny who made her senior debut for Armagh against All Ireland champions Cork in August, also played their part in the totally one-sided scoreline, for St John’s did mount many attacks.

With midfielder Tara Byrne picking up an injury, the only metaphorical cloud on a glorious afternoon, it was encouraging to see the bench contributing and Shane’s should have too much for Brookeborough on Saturday, with work ethic to complement their fantastic footballing flair.


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