Belfast Harlequins made it two wins out of three in the Ulster Premier League with what, on the face of it, appeared to be an emphatic 4-0 win over Newry at Deramore on Saturday, writes John Flack.
However, it was anything but as the scoreline was flattering in the extreme to the south Belfast side, who were indebted to veteran Iain Kelly in goal.
Making his 1037th appearance for the club, Kelly pulled off a dozen saves and blocks as Newry dominated possession without being able to translate it into goals.
Coach Robin Madeley looked shell-shocked at the final whistle as he struggled to come to terms with the outcome which could have been very different had it not been for Kelly’s heroics.
Harlequins were under the cosh for most of the 70 minutes but, to their credit, made the most of the few chances that came their way. Michael McKenna slammed in the opener against the run of play when he scored on his backhand after a good move down the left.
Kelly then made several fine stops as Newry applied almost constant pressure but Quins went closest to scoring when Lindsay Beck stopped Stephen McGrath’s effort in the 33rd minute.
Chris Fletcher brought out the best of Kelly shortly after the break and Matthew Russell sent the rebound narrowly wide.
The Quins hero proceeded to make a string of great stops as Newry pushed hard for an equaliser but, against the run of play, McGrath made it 2-0 with 10 minutes left when his reverse-stick shot found the net.
In the 65th minute, Luke McClelland got on the end of a James Quigley cross to fire home from close range. McClelland added his second and Quins fourth with seconds remaining, with David Coates providing the assist.
Elsewhere, Bangor continued their impressive form with a 6-1 win at Cliftonville, Rhys Cunningham grabbing two of the goals as the seasiders went to the top of the table with a third successive win.
South Antrim defeated Portadown 3-0 and North Down beat Antrim 2-1 while Kilkeel and Raphoe fought out a 1-1 draw in Donegal.
Ballymoney have moved top of the women’s Premier League after a 4-1 win at North Down while champions Lurgan got back to winning ways with a 6-1 victory over Rainey.
The Co Antrim team led 3-1 at the break and added another goal in the second-half to seal the deal.
“There is a long way to go still in the Ulster League and we expect Queen’s, Lurgan and Dungannon all to be challenging us later in the season.” said Money’s Aine Kearney.
Goals from Susie Brown, Olivia Mullan, teenage sister of Ireland captain Katie, and Charlotte Stacey put Ballymoney in the driving seat in the first-half at Comber. Lucy Bell repled for North Down before Laura McCurdy added a fourth after the break.
Champions Lurgan meanwhile bounced back from an opening defeat by Queen’s to hammer Rainey 6-1, Lauren Wright and Anna Nawn scoring two goals apiece.
In Senior One, Priorians have taken over at the summit after a 2-0 win over Knock, both goals being scored by Jill Kennedy.
Ballymena, who led the table going into Saturday’s games, left Raphoe empty-handed after goals from Sabrina Barnett, Emma Harper and Lisa Smyth gave the Donegal side the win.
Omagh were 2-1 winners over Ballyclare, both goals coming from Danielle Darragh with Rachel Murphy replying.
Scarlett Holdsworth scored twice for title favourites Lisnagarvey against her former club in their 4-0 win over Armagh.
Victorians were impressive 5-0 winners over CI in the late slot at Upper Malone where the goals came from Rachel Hewitt (2), Alex Roberts, Jenny Fusco and Dara Curry.
Women’s Ulster Premier League: North Down 1 (L Bell) Ballymoney 4 (S Brown, O Mullan, C Stacey, L McCurdy); Lurgan 6 (C McCann, L Wright 2, A Nawn 2, C Johnston) Rainey 1 (K Wilson); Senior One: Knock 0 Priorians 2 (J Kennedy 2); Lisnagarvey 4 (S Holdsworth 2, A Brown, S Colgan) Armagh 0; Omagh 2 (D Darragh 2) Ballyclare 1 (R Murphy); Raphoe 3 (S Barnett, E Harper, L Smith) Ballymena 0; Victorians 5 (R Hewitt 2, A Roberts, J Fusco, D Curry) CI 0
Men’s Ulster Premier League: Belfast Harlequins 4 (L McClelland 2, M McKenna, S McGrath) Newry 0; Cliftonville 1 (C Mack) Bangor 6 (R Cunningham 2, D McClune, C Campbell, Z McKee, S Cox); Raphoe 1 (T Orr) Kilkeel 1 (J Aiken); South Antrim 3 (C Henry 2, J Brown) Portadown 0; North Down 2 (G McKeown 2) Antrim 1 (D Wilson)