Battling Ballycastle in semi final

Action from Ballycastle High school against Methodist College
Action from Ballycastle High school against Methodist College

Ballycastle High School travelled to Deramore Park for a top of the table clash against Methodist College, Belfast and after a tough battle they came away with a 2-2 draw.

The North Coast men had already successfully defeated Antrim Grammar, Friend’s School Lisburn and Belfast Royal Academy, but needed at least a draw to ensure a semi-final spot.

Ballycastle High School started with a clear plan to defend deep and then hit Methody on the break.

The Belfast team built impressive possession around their defence but made no clear cut chances. Ballycastle’s defence of James Orr, Owen McLaughlin, Matthew McConaghy and Aaron McAuley worked tirelessly and continued to hold Methody at bay.

Jack Calderwood, Owen Farrell, Jack Neill and Adam Jamison dominated the midfield battle in the early stages and stunted any threat from the middle of the park from the Belfast outfit.

The front pair of Craig Cunningham and Barry McMullan worked tirelessly to press the Methody back three but slick passing made their job very difficult.

Following a change in formation, the Ballycastle side settled with Adam Jamison moving forward to assist the front two; a valuable decision that ended Methody’s dominance of possession. Ballycastle started to press the Belfast’s boys into their own half and with Andy Christie able to move forward, chances started to flow.

Superb work by Craig Cunningham earned a short corner half way through the first half and Andy Christie finished into the bottom left corner.

This spurred Methody to attack and Jamie Kane kept Ballycastle’s lead intact with a series of excellent reflex saves; the best seeing a shot heading for the top right corner brilliantly deflected away by a strong left hand.

Methody began the second half strongly and their pressure eventually told when a short corner was switched left and cleverly dispatched at the back post, making the score 1 - 1.

Even then Ballycastle created chances and excellent work by Andy Christie, Jack Calderwood, Owen Farrell, Jack Neill and Adam Jamison meant the Methody defence were under constant pressure.

Ballycastle were unfortunate not to retake the lead when Christie beat four Methody defenders on entering the D and watched agonisingly as his shot struck the left post.

Against the run of play however Methody broke away and struck a fierce shot, which Jamie Kane brilliantly saved, but it was scrambled in on the rebound.

Ballycastle High, with 10 minutes remaining, built relentless pressure and chances continued to be created. Andy Christie played a super ball into the back post to Craig, who forced the keeper to make a great save. Adam Jamison also made an excellent run to the back post and saw his shot hit the side board.

It appeared only a matter of time before an equaliser would come. This proved to be the case when Jack Neill burst into the D from the left wing and skilfully played the ball onto the defenders foot to earn a short corner.

Craig injected to Andy, who switched it right to Barry and he found the bottom right corner. The Ballycastle boys continued to dominate and could easily have secured a fourth group win but the final score remained 2-2. This result means that Ballycastle High play Sullivan Upper from Holywood in the Prior Shield Semi-Final on Monday 7th December with the place in the final within reach.