Healy proves un­stop­pable!

Bray People - - SPORT - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE

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

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