THE Swifts Reserves began the New Year with a top of the table clash at Iveagh Park against second placed Banbridge AFC Reserves, the points on offer playing a big part in the destination of the title.
The home side were keen to start brightly and dictate the tempo of the game; attacks from wide positions had the Banbridge outfit pressed back in the early stages.
The opening goal came after ten minutes, a defence splitting pass from Paul Hillen to the well timed run of Gary O’Reilly who nonchalantly lifted the ball over the onrushing keeper from 20 yards, a finish of the highest order.
Rathfriland didn’t have to wait long for their second, a long ball from Alex Scott was intercepted by a defender and under good pressure from Ryan Hillen he passed back to the keeper only for him to see the ball bobble over his foot and roll into the net.
The keeper must have still had his previous error in mind when his clumsy challenge on Niall Maginn in the area resulted in a penalty award, Daryl O’Reilly took responsibility sending the keeper the wrong way and firing his spot-kick into the bottom corner.
The Swifts Reserves were controlling the game, leaving the back line of the Jackson brothers and Alex Scott spectators for much of the half. Five minutes before the break Johnny Jackson’s well timed header met a Gary O’Reilly free kick to make it 4-0.
The second half started where the first finished, with the home-side controlling proceedings, good midfield play again sprung the Banbridge defence, Ryan Hillen controlled well in the area and took time to pick his spot, making it 5-0 five minutes after the restart.
It looked like the Swifts were going to add to their already impressive goal tally, however credit to Banbridge they kept battling and frustrated Rathfriland for much of the second half.
The best chances fell to Tumility, who fired a thunderous effort off the bar and substitute Parsons who mis-queued an effort after a strong run into the area.
At the other end Niall Maginn was on hand to clear of the line in what was Banbridge’s only real effort on goal following a late corner.
In summary it was a good performance from the Swifts Reserves, the festive activities appeared to have left some impact as the game wore on, but none the less the attitude and desire from the team was clear to see. An important three points gained from one of their main challengers is a brilliant start to the New Year and sets a good platform on which to build.
Team: Liam McGivern, Alex Scott, Jonathon Jackson, Connell Jackson, Conan Power, Daryl O’Reilly (c), Paul Hillen, Niall Maginn, Cathal Tumility, Ryan Hillen and Gary O’Reilly. Subs: Stephen Parsons, Colm Maginn and Jordan Mark.