Aughrim win but Éire Óg clinch semi-fi­nal place

GAELIC GAMES IN­TER­ME­DI­ATE FOOT­BALL CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

Bray People - - Sport - Mark KENNEDY

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.

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