Avondale fall short against Ballymanus
GAELIC GAMES INTERMEDIATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
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).