The NAFL, Premier League Division.
Killyleagh YC 3 Ballynahinch Olympic 5
Ballynahinch sent out a timely reminder that they are still the top dogs in local football writes Chris Hagan.
They swept aside Killyleagh’s challenge at The Showgrounds on Saturday to make it an impressive three out of three wins to go joint top of the Amateur League’s Premier Section after an impressive first season in the top flight last season.
But that doesn’t tell the full story of an at times enthralling first contest between these teams in the Premier Section, which provided goals galore, some brilliant football from both teams and value for money for the neutral.
The visitors had a huge let off in the first five minutes when the YC’s Darren McConnell fired straight at Ryan Walsh in the Olympic goals from a few yards after the ball landed at his feet from a corner.
The pattern for the first half — of both teams going full throttle in attack — was soon set, though, when a quick pass from the Olympic midfield provided an opening for the lively Ryan Molloy to fire goalwards, only for a good block from Niall Walsh. Then Carberry saved well from Adam McClean from a tricky corner delivery to the front post.
Olympic were not to be denied and their talisman Stephen Noade powered them ahead in the 12th minute. He brushed aside two weak challenges in the YC box before firing past Carberry.
Within less than a minute it was 1-1. A superb run and cross from Rice was laid off by Neale to the onrushing Thomas Healy and he steered the ball into the corner of Walsh’s net for his first goal for Killyleagh.
Killyleagh were struggling to deal with Olympic’s pace in attack, with Molloy in particular causing problems and it took a fine save from Carberry in the 26th minute to keep out the winger’s curling shot. From the resultant corner Olympic’s two big central defenders combined, with Paul Dickson outjumping Macaulay Foster to head back for Jason Noade to head in and make it 2-1.
The only other incident in the first half came almost on the whistle for the interval when Neale cracked a shot off the post but the referee hauled play back for a foul.
The second half was only four minutes old when Olympic had strong penalty appeals waved away by the referee when McClean went down in the box under a challenge from McConnell.
Two goals inside two minutes shortly after the hour mark seemed to have killed the game. Nathan Jones was having his best ever game at The Showgrounds with Killyleagh struggling to cope with his pace when he switched to the left wing in the second half. When he was left one on one with YC sweeper Niall Walsh in the 61st minute he put on the after burners and delivered a beauty of a finish past Carberry.
Ballynahinch’s fourth goal, two minutes later, was stunning. A superb team goal passing across the full length of the pitch, orchestrated by Stephen Noade and involving Jones, ended in a YC defender putting into his own net.
Killyleagh, though, refused to throw the towel in and when their stand-out player, Rice, yet again exposed a vulnerability on the flanks, his inch perfect cross was bravely turned in by Neale in the 68th minute. This was the spark for Killyleagh’s best spell of the game with Rice giving width and McConnell the creator and Jamie Sharvin linking up play.
Walsh somehow kept out with his feet Jamie Sharvin’s 72nd minute effort from Healy’s pass and then three minutes later he gratefully dropped on Jamie Sharvin’s close range shot under pressure from another Rice cross.
The big crowd was getting value for the entrance fee now and Walsh underlined his Amateur League representative reputation by producing a super diving save from Rice’s cross to cut out the danger in the 80th minute.
Olympic were content to hit on the break by this stage and sub Aaron McClean went close with a header before the visitors delivered the ultimate sucker punch.
A stunning pass from deep allowed Jones to race through and Dalton Tate delivered the finish in the 82nd minute. But still the game wasn’t finished. Rice powered down the line yet again and once more producing a teasing cross which Neale thumped in.
Now it was 5-3. At the opposite end Shane Murray blasted over the bar when he was played through by Jones and then Killyleagh thought they had pulled it back to 5-4 to set up a grandstand finish when Neale’s shot was spilled and sub Dylan Kelly rifled home but the ref ruled he had been in an offside position when the initial shot was delivered.
No-one was leaving early and at this rate, there will be plenty looking to book their place for the return match later in the season.
By then, Olympic will hope they have further underscored that they are the team best equipped this season to challenge Crumlin Star’s stranglehold on the premier title.
Killyleagh YC: Aaron Carberry, John Joe Sharvin, Nial Walsh, Macauley Foster, Darrell McConnell, Keegan Rice, Thomas Healy, Adam Neal, Jamie Sharvin. Kieran O’Sullivan, Dylan Kelly. Subs: Declan McComiskey, John Murray.
Ballynahinch Olympic: Ryan Walsh, Nathan Tate, Ryan Noade, Shane Murray, Jason Noade, Naill Dickson, Nathan Jones, Stephen Noade, Ryan Molloy, Adam McClean, Lee Ward. Subs: Darren Lyons, Aaron McClean, Mark McClean.