SML round-up: Thistle make it a ‘perfect 10’ in title quest

Ahoghill Thistle made it a perfect 10 as the firmus energy Saturday Morning League campaign resumed on Saturday.

Stewart McDonald’s side continued their title quest with a 10th successive league win as they eclipsed Raceview 5-1.

Wakehurst Star hug the touchline as they keep the ball in play against Atletico Antrim. INBT 02-925H

Wakehurst Star hug the touchline as they keep the ball in play against Atletico Antrim. INBT 02-925H

Ahoghill’s main title rivals Carniny and Harryville Homers were both in Ace Cup action ,with both sides progressing to the next round.


Carniny Rangers 3, Connor FC 2: Robert Young’s men struggled in the early stages to break down a hard working Connor defence, their best chance in the first 20 minutes coming from Ryan Balmer’s long range effort which Tyler Norwood in the Connor goal did well to tip over the bar.

The opening goal came on 28 minutes when Carniny debut boy Shane Donnelly turned sharply in the box to score from eight yards.

The lead was then doubled just before half time when Michael McQuitty stroked the ball home from the penalty spot after a handball by a Connor defender was spotted by the referee.

Connor hit back early in the second half when Gavin Kernohan’s cross was neatly finished by Ross Wilson and an equaliser almost came five minutes later when James Gracey had to be at his very best to keep out Mark McClintock’s shot at the back post.

With time almost up Michael McQuitty scored what looked like the clincher when his shot from the edge of the box crept in at the keeper’s right hand post.

Connor replied instantly though as Mark McKelvey’s goal kept the deficit to one and even at this late stage, there was still time for Connor to rattle the woodwork before the final whistle sounded.

Harryville Homers 11, Ballykeel 0: Holders Homers showed they won’t be giving their Ace Cup crown up lightly as the kicked off their defence of the trophy with this 11-0 trouncing of Ballykeel in which both Alan Rainey and man of the match David Nicholl hit hat tricks.

Homers took only 10 minutes to open their account in 2015 and it came when Gary Baird put David Nicholl clear down the left and he cut in and fired home past Stephen Watson.

Six minutes before the break Homers doubled their lead. David Nicholl won the ball in midfield and he released Alan Rainey on the right and he skipped past his man before firing into the bottom corner.

On the stroke of half time Homers worked a clever corner when David Nicholl rolled the ball short and brother Ricky Nicholl collected the ball before driving the ball through the Ballykeel defence and into the corner of the net.

Homers took control of the second half and made it 4-0 when Marcus Spratt played in David Nicholl who picked his spot to score.

Straight from the kick off Gary Baird won the ball back and played in David Nicholl who found Gary Bonnes to score his first of the game and make it 5-0.

Then Bonnes was upended in the penalty area and a penalty was awarded. Bonnes stepped up and cheekily tried to chip the ball down the middle but Stephen Watson saved with his feet.

The sixth came soon after when Ryan Martin played a long ball up field which Gary Bonnes controlled before slipping in Alan Rainey to score.

Ballykeel soon conceded again when a David Nicholl cross from the left was turned into his own net by a Ballykeel defender. Homers didn’t let up after this and they soon made it 8-0 when David Nicholl followed up his own shot to fire home the rebound and complete his hat trick. Two substitutes David Gibson and Darren Campbell combined to create the ninth goal as they set up Gary Bonnes to score his second of the game.

Two late goals completed the rout for Homers with Ricky Nicholl finding the top corner of the net from 25 yards out before David Nicholl crossed for Alan Rainey to head home number 11 and complete his hat trick and seal a convincing win.


Raceview 1, Ahoghill Thistle 5: The visitors went on the attack from the off, and their pressure paid off inside a quarter of an hour when Matt Boyd raced clear and unselfishly squared the ball to strike partner David Tennant to fire home.

Two minutes later it was 2-0. Davy Calderwood played the ball to Neil Lowry who sent a defence spitting pass to Matt Boyd who again fed his strike partner David Tennant to score and finish off a great team move.

Thistle grabbed a third goal before the break as Boyd and Lowry played a one two before Boyd rifled the ball home from 20 yards out. Raceview eventually got a goal back when Richard Reid set up Colin Craig to score and Mark Watson nearly got Raceview a second goal but his volley hit the wrong side of the netting.

Thistle finally got their fourth goal when Matt Boyd headed home a Paul Aiken corner at the near post.

Then late on David Tennant completed his hat trick when he rounded the Raceview keeper to score and keep Thistle well in the hunt for the Division One title.


Ace Cup, round one: Abbeyview 1, Clough Rangers 2; Michelin 1, FC Penarol 3.

George McAuley Cup, round one: St Comgall’s 1, Glenravel 5; Cullybackey Olympic 1, Cloughmills 3; Carnlough Swifts 0, Riverdale 1; Waveney Swifts 2, Braid United 5 (AET); Holywell 2, Ahoghill Rovers 4 (AET).

CGRSC Sammy Moore Cup, first round, second leg: Steadfast 2, Sporting Ballymoney 2 (Sporting Ballymoney win 9-2 on aggregate)

firmus energy Division Three: Rectory Rovers 0, Cushendall 1; Randalstown 3, Templepatrick 2; Wakehurst Star 7, Atletico Antrim 2.


Saturday, January 10 - Irish Junior Cup (1.30pm): Churchill United v Raceview; Harryville Homers v Belfast Celtic YM (Wakehurst 2).

firmus energy Division One (10.15am): All Saints OB v FC Penarol (Showgrounds 5); Ahoghill Thistle v FC Antrim (Ahoghill); Ballykeel v Michelin (Ballykeel); Connor FC v Carniny Rangers (Connor); Clough Rangers v FC Moylena (Clough).

firmus energy Division Two: Braid United v Newpark Olympic (Broughshane); Cloughmills v Galgorm Blues; Cullybackey Olympic v Carnlough Swifts (Tober Park); Glenravel v Lisnafillan Swifts (Dunfane 1); St Comgalls v Ahoghill Rovers; Seven Towers v Riverdale (Showgrounds 4); Waveney Swifts v Holywell (Waveney 2).

CGRSC Sammy Moore Cup, quarter-final, first leg: Rectory Rovers v Sporting Ballymoney (Waveney 1).

CGRSC Sammy Moore Cup, semi-final, first leg: Templepatrick v Wakehurst Star (Forum).

firmus energy Division Three: Atletico Antrim v Cushendall (Forum); Woodside v Randalstown (Wakehurst 6).