Avon­dale fall short against Ballymanus

GAELIC GAMES IN­TER­ME­DI­ATE FOOT­BALL CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

Bray People - - Sport - Mark KENNEDY

Ballymanus 0-12, Avon­dale 0-10: A late rally by Avon­dale fell short of claim­ing the sec­ond qual­i­fy­ing spot in the semi-fi­nal of the In­ter­me­di­ate foot­ball cham­pi­onship from their group op­po­nents Ballymanus in their crunch game at Ark­low.

Avon­dale needed to win by four points in­stead of los­ing by two to make the cham­pi­onship’s last four while Ballymanus would have got through with a draw from Sun­day’s en­counter.

Af­ter­wards Avon­dale of­fi­cials com­plained that their play­ers need­lessly spilled a lot of pos­ses­sion due to the fact that the Ballymanus jer­seys were sim­i­lar to own and cer­tainly for what­ever rea­son they were off colour at the start of both halves.

Ballymanus, who played 40 min­utes of the game with only 14 men, showed no such con­fu­sion in their game and in the open­ing 20 min­utes we were treated to one of the best dis­plays of foot­ballers from their play­ers seen in a long-time.

There was vi­sion, breath and flair in Ballymanus’ at­tack­ing play, they ex­posed gaps in the Avon­dale rear­guard and opened up a six points lead in the first quar­ter, with Avon­dale yet to score.

Seán O’Neill was the ring­leader of the Ballymanus at­tack from the full-for­ward po­si­tion but their was so much to savour from their dis­play as the Sta­ple­tons, Kevin Byrne at cor­ner-for­ward and Donal Mur­phy all stepped up to the mark.

In con­trast Avon­dale were strug­gling even to work the ball past their own mid­field where the work of Sta­ple­ton and Bren­dan Whe­lan was frus­trat­ing Avon­dale’s high­fielder Barry Shee­han at ev­ery twist and turn.

Seán O’Neill opened for Ballymanus in­side 30 sec­onds and they kept up the pres­sure on Avon­dale for the open­ing 20 min­utes, with O’Neill ac­count­ing for half of their six points.

And they would prob­a­bly have notched a goal only for good save by Avon­dale keeper Brian Burke from a shot by Kevin Byrne as he scythed his way in from the left af­ter beat­ing his marker.

Free-taker and winger Ian Hef­fer­nan opened for Avon­dale with a point from a free af­ter 19 min­utes and this was the spark that ig­nited a much bet­ter clos­ing ten min­utes play from The Dales with Barry Shee­han at last start­ing to open up in the mid­dle of the park

Three min­utes later Ballymanus were down to 14 men af­ter wing-back Paddy Byrne re­ceived a straight red card in an off the ball in­ci­dent. Ini­tially the send­ing-off trig­gered a quick re­sponse from The Bil­lies with Seán O’Neill set­ting Kevin Byrne up for a point, Donal Mur­phy adding an­other to stretch the win­ners lead to 0-8 to 0-1.

How­ever, Avon­dale fin­ished the half with a flour­ish, Ian Hef­fer­nan (free) and Barry Shee­han coun­ter­ing with points to re­duce the mar­gin to 0-8 to 0-3, and hold out hope of a come­back on the change over.

Again it was Ballymanus who had the bet­ter start to the new half and had in­creased their lead to 0-11 to 0-5 be­fore the end of the third quar­ter.

Outscor­ing their op­po­nents by five points to one, Avon­dale turned in a storm­ing last quar­ter but their ef­fort just pulled up short of achiev­ing victory.

In the 49th minute, they went close to scor­ing a much needed goal. A long ball from their num­ber 14, Ian McDon­ald, who had moved out­field in a swap with Michael Shee­han, found Shee­han on the edge of the square, but his shot on goal was smoth­ered by Bren­dan Doyle and the ball even­tu­ally fin­ished wide.

Fer­gal Olo­han re­placed mid­fielder Mark Don­ald and he added punch to the Avon­dale at­tack, scor­ing two fine points him­self.

Ballymanus had their last score on 50 min­utes, a point by Ray Sta­ple­ton and from there to the fi­nal whis­tle it was backs to the wall as The Dales came at them with a late rally in a bid to pull the game out of fire.

In ad­di­tion to Fer­gal Olo­han’s brace, we also had points from Eu­gene Dunne, Ian Hef­fer­nan and Ian McDon­ald, leav­ing just two points be­tween the sides en­ter­ing in­jury time.

Bren­dan Doyle spread him­self and made an­other fine save in the Ballymanus goal.

Into the fi­nal mo­ments Michael Shee­han won a 20 me­tre free for Avon­dale. It was the last kick of the game and Ian Hef­fer­nan had no op­tion but to go for it as they were two points in ar­rears.

His ris­ing shot for the top cor­ner of the net whizzed past the out­side of the post, leav­ing Ballymanus breath­ing a huge sigh of re­lief as they held on by their fin­ger nails for a nar­row win.

Scor­ers for Ballymanus were: Seán O’Neill (0-4), Ray Sta­ple­ton (0-2), Donal Mur­phy (0-2), Bren­dan Whe­lan, Micheal Sta­ple­ton, Olly Mur­phy and Kevin Byrne (0-1 each).

Avon­dale scor­ers: Ian Hef­fer­nan (0-5), Fer­gal Olo­han (0-2), Barry Shee­han, Eu­gene Dunne and Ian McDon­ald (0-1 each).

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