Colts seniors kicked off their season with a pulsating draw against highly fancied Downpatrick Athletic at Lough Moss on Wednesday night.
Athletic had won 10-0 on Saturday and showed why they are one of the favourites for the league title but were matched all the way by a resilient Carryduff team who showed real character and no little skill.
Eamon Vize and Marc ‘Sparky’ Hegney who joined in the summer from Aquinas and Rosario, brought much needed experience to the Colts defence and both had outstanding debuts alongside skipper Rory McDonnell who also had a superb game.
Darragh ‘DA’ Brownlee was also back in the team after a year’s absence in England and he brought a creative side to the team that had perhaps been lacking at times last season. The other debutant was Chris Doyle who proved to be real handful and struck a pacey and effective partnership with two-goal hero Calum McSorley, who tortured the Athletic defence all night.
With talisman Fergus McBride suspended, there were concerns Colts could be overrun in midfield, but Paul Maguire had an outstanding game ably supported by Michael Deeny in the middle and Joe Sweeney and Paul Murphy in the wide areas. Murphy in particular had an influential role as he was had a torrid first 15 minutes against a very skilful Downpatrick winger but soon got the measure of him and the danger was reduced as the game went on.
Athletic opened forcefully but the Colts defence were strong and at the other end McSorley nearly gave Colts the lead after 20 minutes when he was released by a superb through ball by Brownlee and went one-on-one with the keeper after half an hour but the latter bravely dived at his feet to prevent the goal and injured himself in the process, thankfully not seriously.
And it was exactly the same move from which Colts took the lead 10 minutes before the interval as McSorley again raced clear of the defence and this time cooly slotted the ball into the net.
With Vize, Hegney and McDonnell defending ruthlessly and effectively, it looked like Colts would get to the interval ahead but they conceded a free kick on the edge of the box just before the break. They took too long to get organised and Athletic fired in an equaliser.
With their tails up, Downpatrick came out in the second half with real conviction but again the defence was immense while Maguire’s effectiveness was highlighted by the continuing complaints of Athletic players about his physicality as he dominated the middle of the park.
Doyle had a chance to restore Carryduff’s lead from a McSorley cross but was unable to turn the ball into the net while Brownlee’s free kicks were causing all sorts of difficulties in the visiting defence.
However it was Athletic who took the lead on 65 minutes when a failure to track back enabled a midfielder to break into the box and have a free header into the corner of the net, despite the best efforts of Chris Overend who had been having a good evening in the Colts net.
Doyle then hit the post with a great solo effort after being brilliantly picked out by Brownlee but was tiring and replaced by lightning quick Adam Shilliday on 70 minutes as Carryduff looked for an equaliser. Again, it came from a McSorley break when Deeny picked up the ball in the middle of the park, brilliantly picked out Shilliday who nodded it on and Calum put it past the goalkeeper at the second attempt.
This was a most impressive start for the first team and the big crowd who turned up were entertained and would have been impressed by what they saw. The team has set a benchmark now for the season and if it can be maintained will not be far away from the top end of the table and the latter stages of cup competitions.
Colts: Overend, Sweeney, Murphy, McDonnell (capt), Hegney, Vize, Brownlee, Deeny, McSorley, Doyle (Shillliday), Maguire. Subs: E.McDonnell, Waddell