Earls shows his class as St. Pat’s progress


Bray People - - Sport - Mark KENNEDY

St. Pa­trick’s 1-14, Bless­ing­ton 2-9: County star Paul Earls showed his sheer foot­ball class and in­ge­nu­ity at Aughrim on Satur­day last as he guided his team St. Pa­trick’s to a place in the semi-fi­nals of Wick­low’s Se­nior cham­pi­onship.

In ti­tanic bat­tle and mar­vel­lous game of foot­ball against Bless­ing­ton, the St. Pa­trick’s wizard was the player that stood head and shoul­ders above ev­ery­body, the man who sep­a­rated the teams and made the dif­fer­ence be­tween victory and de­feat for the sides.

With this dis­play of foot­ball craft at full-for­ward, Earls proved that the fringes of his op­po­nent’s square is un­ques­tion­ably his best po­si­tion, and the place from where he can in­flict most pain and dam­age to the other side.

Bless­ing­ton’s in­side de­fend­ers started well as they set about con­tain­ing the threat of St. Pa­trick’s in­side at­tack­ers, but once Earls broke free of the shack­les af­ter the first quar­ter, he led the Bless­ing­ton de­fence a merry dance through­out and, as well as be­ing his team’s top scorer with 1-7, he also had a hand in many of the other scores as well.

Based on the qual­ity of foot­ball in this match, St. Pa­trick’s will be strong con­tenders to win their third Se­nior foot­ball crown in five years, the pre­vi­ous two wins were in 2004 and 2006.

Bless­ing­ton had the bet­ter start to this match and looked to be re­ally motoring in the first 20 min­utes as they opened up a gap of 0-6 to 0-2.

An­thony McLough­lin looked have the mea­sure of Earls in the ini­tial skir­mishes as the Bless­ing­ton de­fence closed out the threat posed by St. Pa­trick’s for­wards; while at the other end they surged for­ward in waves of at­tacks and, as well as points on the board, were also outscor­ing their op­po­nents in the wides stakes.

Jonathan Daniels got them off the mark in the sec­ond minute and he was men­ac­ing ev­ery time he got on the ball with Dean Siney an equally big threat to St. Pa­trick’s in the other cor­ner-for­ward po­si­tion.

In the third minute, how­ever, Dara O’Sul­li­van equalised for St. Pa­trick’s, but that met with a quick re­sponse from Daniels who side-footed the ball over the bar to re­store the hoops lead.

Dean Siney crossed over from his own cor­ner-for­ward po­si­tion to make him­self avail­able as the tar­get man for a Bless­ing­ton free on 12 min­utes and he stretched the Western­ers lead to 0-3 to 0-1.

Four­teen min­utes were to elapse be­fore Paul Earls got his name on the score­sheet for St. Pa­trick’s and that point was to presage a scin­til­lat­ing dis­play of foot­ball from the Wick­low town for­ward.

For an­other six min­utes, how­ever, Bless­ing­ton were the team still call­ing the tune as they surged for­ward for three unan­swered points by Wes­ley O’Cal­laghan (2) and cen­tre-for­ward Alan El­lis to stretch their lead to an un­ex­pect­edly large 0-6 to 0-2 af­ter 20 min­utes.

But with Paul Earls now es­cap­ing from the clutches of An­thony McLough­lin, he was pro­vid­ing his col­leagues with the op­tions go­ing for­ward.

St. Pa­trick’s were now op­er­at­ing a two man in­side for­ward line to cre­ate the space for Earls to work his magic. Re­peat­edly the out­field play­ers pumped the ball down the right wing for Earls to run on to and then beat his op­po­nents on the turn as he bore down on goal.

Earls floated two beau­ties over the bar in quick suc­ces­sion, cen­tre-back and soc­cer star Paudge McWal­ter pushed for­ward to ap­ply the clin­i­cal fin­ish to a turn-over of pos­ses­sion.

In a five minute spell the Wick­low town men had sliced the Bless­ing­ton lead to a min­i­mum 0-6 to 0-5 at the break.

St. Pa­trick’s started the sec­ond-half where they left off in the first with Earls ac­count­ing for an­other two of their four points in the first seven min­utes, both from frees, with the other two scores com­ing from hard work­ers John Slat­tery and Dara O’Sul­li­van as they took the lead for the first time in the match 0-9 to 0-6.

How­ever, Bless­ing­ton showed great re­silience and determination on this oc­ca­sion, they were not go­ing to buckle un­der. And they fact that they and St. Pa­trick’s were pre­pared to play foot­ball all the way made for an en­thralling and ab­sorb­ing con­test.

Barry O’Dono­van was work­ing hard in mid­field for the western­ers as they switched back on the of­fen­sive. A fine brace of points from Dean Siney, one form a free; an ex­cel­lent third point from Jonathan Daniels and Blesso were back on level terms af­ter 43 min­utes 0-9 each. It was all to play for.

John Slat­tery pointed St. Pa­trick’s back in front af­ter re­ceiv­ing a mar­vel­lous cross-field ball from his num­ber ten David Smullen, who is back af­ter in­jury but has still to re­cap­ture the form of a few years back.

The drama con­tin­ued. On 48 min­utes we had a peach of a goal from Paul Earls. Matthew Byrne pumped a line ball down the right flank for Paul Earls to run on to.

Earls jinked his way past his of­ten two and three mark­ers, scyth­ing his way in from the right be­fore plank­ing a left-footed shot just in­side the near post, leav­ing Barry Be­han with no hope.

From the kick-out play swung to the other end of the field and Bless­ing­ton were awarded a penalty as Eoin Keogh was brought down in the box. Jonathan Daniels coolly tucked the spot kick into the right hand cor­ner of Robert Hollingsworth’s net.

It was back to a one point game, St. Pa­trick’s lead­ing 1-10 to 1-9 with just ten min­utes left on the clock.

Wing-back Brian Cornyn and Slat­tery stretched that lead while Paul Earls shot an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic wide be­fore punch­ing a point from a move in­volv­ing sub­sti­tutes Richard Mur­phy and Andy Jame­son.

With only min­utes left on the clock, St. Pa­trick’s looked to be fairly safe, ahead by four points 1-13 to 1-9.

And Bless­ing­ton suf­fered fur­ther woe as sub­sti­tute Der­mot Richard was sent off by ref­eree Kieran Kenny af­ter pick­ing up his sec­ond yel­low card a shot time af­ter he had been in­tro­duced.

But still Bless­ing­ton did not give up, even af­ter Paul Earls had added to their pain with his sev­enth point, and their per­se­ver­ance re­warded with a late goal when Dean Siney hooked the ball to the net in in­jury-time.

But it still left Blesso losers by two points - 1-14 to 2-9.

Scor­ers for St. Pa­trick’s were: Paul Earls (1-7), John Slat­tery (0-3), Dara O’Sul­li­van (0-2), Paudge McWal­ter and Brian Cornyn (0-1 each).

Bless­ing­ton scor­ers: Jonathan Daniels (1-3), Dean Siney (1-2), Wes­ley Cal­laghan (0-3), Alan El­lis (0-1).

St. Pa­trick’s: Robert Hollingsworth, Pádraig Hig­gins, Gary Jame­son, David Byrne, Brian Cornyn, Paudge McWal­ter, Wayne Far­rell, Gary Duffy, Dara McEvoy, David Smullen, John Slat­tery, Ciarán Doyle, Dara O’Sul­li­van, Paul Earls, Matthew Byrne. Subs. - Ro­nan Con­nolly for D. Byrne, Andy Jame­son for M. Byrne, Seán Tobin for J. Slat­tery, Stephen Duffy for D. O’Sul­li­van.

Bless­ing­ton: Barry Be­han, Wayne O’Cal­laghan, An­thony McLough­lin, De­clan Fen­nessy, Stephen Flana­gan, Lee Bren­nan, Mick McLough­lin, Eoin Keogh, Barry O’Dono­van, Pa­trick Bro­phy, Alan El­lis, Wes­ley O’Cal­laghan, Dean Siney, Kevin John Rogers, Jonathan Daniels. Subs. - Der­mot Richardson for M. McLough­lin, Barry Mur­phy for Kevin John Rogers.

Ref­eree: Kieran Kenny (Ti­na­hely).

Paul Earls of St. Pat’s comes un­der pres­sure from Bless­ing­ton's Wayne O’Cal­laghan and Stephen Flana­gan.

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