To use the words of Eddie Cochran and Showaddywaddy, there are ‘three steps to heaven’ as Colts close in on their first NADAFL Premier League title.
Step one, Colts beat Mourne Rovers on 15 April away; step two – either of Ballyvea’s bitter rivals Killough (15th) or Annalong (20th) secure a draw or beat them; step three – Colts beat Mourne Rovers at home on 22nd.
And three is the magic number in this three horse race for the title as Colts completed a remarkable three weeks by completing the double over title favourites Annalong on Saturday after inflicting Ballyvea’s first defeat in nearly two years. The result means that they have a better head-to-head record over both their rivals which will give them the advantage if they end up on the same points with either.
Colts showed no fear even though they knew going into the game that a defeat could end their title aspirations, instead they deservedly ran out 3-2 winners in a game they dominated from beginning to end.
It’s now six months since this team has lost a league game, 11 wins and two draws in a superb 13 match unbeaten run – suffering just one defeat all season.
As in the home game the previous week, Colts went down to an early goal after 10 minutes but this time it was completely against the run of play. And the home side barely had another effort of note until they grabbed a last minute consolation to undeservedly reduce the deficit.
With Stevie Doherty on fire on the right and Fergus McBride, Kealan Devlin and Paul Maguire winning every challenge and dominating midfield, the home side weren’t able to get out of their own half for most of the opening period.
Sean Irwin, who covered so much ground he must have run a marathon during the course of game, caused the home defence all sorts of trouble throughout, along with Darragh Brownlee.
Kealan Devlin had a header cleared off the line and a goal disallowed for hand ball in the build up before the equaliser finally arrived on the 38th minute. Doherty beat two defenders on the right before setting up Brownlee on the edge of the box and he rifled in a low drive into the bottom left hand corner for his 15th of the season.
It was typical of the wee man producing that spark of genius to unlock a defence and find a breakthrough. And he was again involved as Colts grabbed the lead on the stroke of half time when his corner was met by a superb diving header from inspirational skipper Rory McDonnell who netted for the second week in a row.
Colts knew that Annalong would come out with all guns blazing in the second half with the wind at their back but superb defending from Conor ‘King’ Cassidy, McDonnell and the brilliant full back pairing of Joe Sweeney and Paul Murphy kept opportunities to a minimum while goalkeeper Odhran Devlin’s confident handling at corners and crosses was excellent.
Colts looked dangerous on the break with McBride in particular leading the charge and it was from one such move on the hour the visitors went 3-1 up. Annalong chose to leave three players up the pitch for a Colts corner and the decision proved costly as their lack of numbers resulted in a defender turning Brownlee’s corner past the keeper under pressure from Devlin.
The two strikers had run themselves to a standstill and Michael Deeny and Sparky Hegney were introduced and they both gave a new impetus and fresh legs to the Colts as they continued to deal comfortable with anything thrown at them.
Arron Waddell also came on for the excellent Doherty and won a valuable free kick on the right to help run the clock down. Annalong managed to grab a second with two minutes to go but despite the nervousness on the sideline the Colts held out comfortably for a memorable win.
The next three weeks, there’s that number again, promise much excitement for this team which is already the most successful Carryduff Colts senior team in the seven years since the club started playing at this level. Hopefully, the whole club will get behind them in their quest for unprecedented glory.
Colts: O.Devlin, Sweeney, Murphy, McDonnell, Cassidy, McBride, Doherty (Waddell), Maguire, Irwin (Hegney), K.Devlin, Brownlee (Deeny)
* The Seconds push for a first senior cup final came to an end on Saturday when they went down 3-0 Newcastle III at Lough Moss. It was a disappointing performance from a team that has been playing to a high level in recent weeks. They will now focus on securing second place in the league in the closing weeks of the season.