Healy proves unstoppable!
SEEING Ivan Hurley rampaging into the Blessington territory and firing over that screamer of a point to put some extra daylight between the sides as the game neared its end must have brought a sense of huge pride and satisfaction to the AGB management and supporters.
Roll back the months to the IFC final and the then joint captain had to sit on the sideline and watch as his warrior comrades produced that stunning comeback to see off the brave Ballinacor side. How sweet that almost a year on, the teak-tough Ivan is sprung from the bench and when his club need him the most he produces as fine a point as you’re ever likely to see in Aughrim.
Hurley is everything that is good about the Arklow club encapsulated in one human being. Strong, ambitious, honest, earnest, and, like his slightly younger colleagues, he seems to know no fear and that is what makes looking at AGB so refreshing.
Hurley’s point pushed AGB two points ahead of Blessington after a tremendous second half showing from Damien Redmond’s men. They were in that position thanks to towering performances at both ends of the field from Philip Healy and Jack Hamilton. Healy just couldn’t be stopped, although the options to put the brakes on him seemed few and far between judging on how long it took for a change to be made on the edge of the square.
At the other end, Mickey O’Connor looked capable of causing serious damage but Jack Hamilton turned in a magnificent shift on the corner-forward, holding him to two points from play and two frees.
On top of that you had big games in the engine room from Cal Kelly, Philip Gleeson, Cormac O’Shea, Stephen Hurley, and Cormac Hyland and the result of those efforts was a significant victory on a road where this AGB side are set to cause quite a few shocks in the weeks ahead.
But spare a thought for Blessington. How hard must it be to set off again on that road home from Aughrim knowing that you have not reached anything near your full potential?
At no stage in the game could you look down on that field in Joule Park, Aughrim, and say to yourself that there is the man who will take this game by the scruff of the neck for Barry O’Donovan’s side and lead them to victory.
Across a starting 15 littered with talented footballers the creature they are missing most is a leader. That’s not to say that he isn’t among them, there’s no doubt he is, but he has yet to rise and make himself known – granted the loss of Anthony McLoughlin was a major blow – and when he (or they) does I believe we will see a very different outcome to tight games from a Blessington perspective.
Things looked very promising for the Blues at half-time. Eddie Boylan has just scored a sweet goal after a defensive howler in the AGB full-backline. Similarities in the jerseys may have been a factor for the ball being gifted to the Blessington attackers but whatever the reason it looked to be a very hurtful blow to the AGB men who had also seen their county star Ciaran Hyland leave the field injured after 23 minutes.
Blessington had their own tales of woe in the opening 30 with the loss of the very influential Barry Murphy to a black card after 18. His flair and talent was sorely missed.
A point apiece after seven minutes and AGB’s Philip Gleeson was back sweeping while Barry Murphy waas doing likewise at the other end; Blessington’s opener from a Mikey O’Connor free while Philip Healy announced his intentions to dominate this game with a smashing score to get Damien Redmond’s men off the mark having watched his first effort come back off the upright.
Fine defensive work from James Tyrrell and Stephen Hurley produced two valuable blocks to keep Blessington efforts out while Tyrrell caught a ball on his own line as the west outfit laid siege on the AGB goal.
The similarities between the jerseys seemed to be causing problems early on with one or two unlikely balls going astray in the early stages.
A dainty effort from Philip Gleeson from the edge of the D propelled AGB in front after a period of decent defending and wayward shooting from both sides.
Curtis Geraghty leveled matters a few moments later after two hops from Stephen Hurley and
the roaming Barry Murphy fisted over with 15 gone to edge the Blessington men in front in what was a very interesting clash so far.
Blessington had obviously left the shooting boots at home at this stage because their wide count was climbing steadily and they suffered the loss of Barry Murphy after 18 minutes when the defender took Ciaran Hyland out of it as the centre-half back galloped through the Blessington defence; Philip Healy pointing the free to level matters at 0-03 apiece.
Alas for AGB, Hyland’s race was now run and he limped off with JP Hurley taking his place after 23 minutes.
A wide and a ball dropped into Meryvn Travers’ hands followed for Blessington before Philip Gleeson pointed ahead of Stephen Hurley turning from the Blessington goal with the sad sounding ‘oooaahhhh’ from the AGB supporters ringing in his ears after his effort tailed to the right and wide after 27 minutes.
A rare bit of space and time for Patrick ‘Whacker’ O’Connor saw the talented centre-half forward dissect the posts with a sweet score and then that defensive blunder allowed Eddie Boylan in for a tasty goal right before the half-time whistle to knock the wind out of the AGB sails.
A lightening start ofr Mikey O’Connor saw him point and then cough up a goal chance but AGB settled with a Darragh Fitzgerald point with four on the clock.
A foul on JP Hurley allowed Philip Healy a chance from a free and the full-forward could have won the Euro Millions given the form he was in at the time so missing a point was very unlikely.
This was a good spell for Mikey O’Connor though and he pointed again to make it 1-07 to 0-06 and this was added to by Boylan after seven minutes and all of a sudden Blessington were opening up a gap.
But AGB are always thinking about goals. Even when they’re not thinking about goals, there’s a little part of them that is always leaving room for the possibility of a goal and 10 minutes in Cormac O’Shea produces a little bit of magic with an exchange with Healy and O’Shea fires home beautifully past Stephen Kitt, 1-08 to 1-06.
AGB have their sails up now. A long ball from Jack Hamilton to Healy and it’s over the bar as Damien Redmond sends in Paudie Kelleher. Healy levels the game and then wins and points a free followed by another and the game is turned on its head with nine of normal to go.
A sweet Stephen Hurley point is answered by a Curtis Geraghty converted free and we’re at 1-11 to 1-09 as Ivan Hurley warms up on the sideline.
Mikey O’Connor from a free and there’s a point between the sides. AGB are defending like demons. Blessington are hunting for that vital score. AGB attack, Darragh McBride catches like a god out of the heavens down on the stand side and wins a free. Healy goes wide off the outside of his right boot not long after dropping over a beauty with the same technique.
AGB attack again. Cal Kelly to Stephen Hurley to Ivan Hurley, brother to brother, footballer to footballer, and there’s the kick and there’s the roar from the stand long before the ball has crossed the black spot and you know it’s over and so it is and that’s the final nail in the Blessington coffin and AGB record a stunning 1-12 to 1-10 victory after a belter of a game.
With youth and ambition and fearlessness, there’s a very good chance that AGB will be cause plenty more shocks this summer. Blessington will regroup. All is not lost. Tighten up the defence, reduce the wides, create a bit of space for Patrick O’Connor and Barry O’Donovan’s men might still have plenty to say before the end.
Scorers – AGB: Philip Healy 0-06 (3f), Philip Gleeson 0-02, Cormac O’Shea 1-00, Darragh Fitzgerald 0-01, Stephen Hurley 0-01, Ivan Hurley 0-01.
Blessington: Mikey O’Connor 0-04 (2f), Curtis Geraghty 0-03 (2f), Eddie Boylan 1-01.
AGB: Mervyn Travers; Karl Kirwan, James Tyrrell, Jack Hamilton; Ciaran O’Shea, Ciaran Hyland, Danny O’Harte; Cal Kelly, Stephen Hurley; Cathal Kelleher, Darragh Fitzgerald, Cormac Hyland; Cormac O’Shea, Philip Healy, Philip Gleeson. Subs: JP Hurley for C Hyland (23min), Paudie Kelleher for JP Hurley, Ivan Hurley for P Glesson (56min), Darragh McBride for C O’Shea (62min)
Blessington: Stephen Kitt; Barry Murphy, Mick McLoughlin, Barry Finan; Stephen Bohan, Paul McLoughlin, Darragh Ryan; Eoin Kehoe, Kevin John Rogers; Kevin Hanlon, Patrick O’Connor, Brian Carroll; Michael Nugent, Curtis Geraghty, Mickey O’Connor. Subs: Eddie Boylan for B Murphy (18min, BC), Conor Devlin for D Ryan (H/T), Jordan Nolan for M Nugent (60min).
Referee: Anthony Nolan
Blessington’s Kevin John Rodgers tries to challenge AGB’s Cal Kelly during the SFC in Joule Park, Aughrim. Picture: Garry O’Neill