Aughrim win but Éire Óg clinch semi-final place
GAELIC GAMES INTERMEDIATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Aughrim 2-7, Dunlavin 010: This was a vital game for both Dunlavin and Aughrim in the Intermediate football championship but despite the result on the scoreboard both teams lost out in the end.
A win of any sort would have put Dunlavin into the knock-out semi-finals but they lost the match; Aughrim won the game but then also ended up losing out on a last four place on score difference by a heartbreaking one point.
With Eire Og beating Kilcoole, Aughrim needed to win their game by four points to deprive the Greystones lads of the remaining semifinal spot up for grabs, but the men from the granite village will bemoan missed goal chances in the first-half after they pulled up short with just a three points win over Dunlavin.
With so much at stake for both teams - championship survival or oblivion - this was a contest played with real championship fervour and bite and there were a couple of occasions in a tense second half when the exchanges threatened to boil over into more physical hostilities.
However, it was a match, played under floodlights at Roundwood on Friday night, where we were treated to end-to-end combative football with never more than two or three points separating the sides at any stage.
Former county star Thomas Harney, who lined out at centre-back for Dunlavin, was the engine room for his team throughout, breaking up Aughrim raids while at the same time initiating attacks for his colleagues with his shrewd and precision passes.
On ten minutes Dunlavin’s centre-forward Alan Bowens drew the foul after taking a good ball from Harney and this brought the opening score of the match from Enda Bowes from the resultant free.
Slower to start, Aughrim finally exploded into action moments later. Centre-back Robert Lambert linked up in a one-two move with his equal- ly visible full-forward Brian Canavan and their attacking move forced Dunlavin into conceding a ‘45’.
Lambert floated the kick into the goalmouth and Stephen Fanning, lurking menacingly on the edge of the Dunlavin square, got a flick on the ball to direct it to the back of the net.
Aughrim, who were to record twice as many as Dunlavin’s three wides in the first half, then suffered the trauma of blowing two golden chances of goals, misses that were to prove very costly to their championship prospects when the final whistle sounded.
Twice in a matter of minutes Aughrim launched penetrating attacks, involving Oisin Doyle, William Kavanagh and Richard Keegan, but on both occasions their corner-forward Leon Byrne was thwarted at the last moment when it looked that he should have scored.
Dunlavin keeper Colm Wright got down on the second occasion to effect a brave save in a crowded goalmouth.
Despite wearing the number fifteen jersey for Aughrim, John Keenan was deployed in a defensive role, acting as a sweeper between his inside and half backs.
Yet with the creative Thomas Harney linking up profitably with his wingers Kevin Miley and Conor Miley, Dunlavin did find the openings for further points by top scoring full-forward Stephen Miley, Conor Miley and Harney himself to narrow the gap to 0-4 to 1-2 at the break.
Dunlavin maintained the momentum after the restart, taking the lead inside four minutes with points by Shane Carthy from a raid involving centre-back Thomas Harney and Enda Bowes, and by midfielder Seán Metcalfe who applied the finish to the approach work of Shane Carthy and Bowes.
Twice in the next five minutes Aughrim had to come from behind to draw level with their opponents, influential Shane O’Loughlin and Robert Lambert being the ‘equalisers’ and then in the 43 minute Leon Byrne chipped home the crucial goal from the edge of the square to put the men from the granite village into the driving seat, ahead by 2-4 to 0-7, and Dunlavin left chasing the game.
Determined Dunlavin introduced fresh legs to the fray, brining on Paul English for Eddie Deegan and Ciaran Walsh for Seán Metcalfe, but it was full-forward Stephen Miley who was leading the counter offensive with his accuracy from frees.
And it was Miley’s and Shane Carthy’s scores which off set Aughrim points by Oisin Doyle, Shane O’Loughlin and Robert Lambert and, while not enough to pluck victory from the jaws of defeat, they were sufficient to keep Aughrim’s victory margin under what was required to secure a semi-final place on score difference.
As Declan Greene’s sounded the final whistle, oh how Aughrim regretted even one of those missed goal opportunities in the first-half.
Scorers for Aughrim were: Stephen Fanning (1-0), Leon Byrne (1-0), Shane O’Loughlin (0-3), Robert Lambert (0-2), Brian Canavan and Oisin Doyle (0-1 each).
Dunlavin scorers: Stephen Miley (0-3), Shane Carthy (02), Enda Bowes, Conor Miley, Thomas Harney, Seán Metcalfe and Stephen Carthy (0-1 each).
Leon Byrne turns to score Aughrim's decisive goal in the Darcy Sands Intermediate clash at Aughrim on Friday.