ANNACURRA RIGHT BACK IN THE MIX!
ANNACURRA hauled themselves right back into contention in Group B of the Senior football championship with a commanding performance in testing conditions in Arklow on Sunday.
While Newtown were without key forward Dean Odlum through suspension, Annacurra welcomed a new addition to their ranks in the form of Stephen Murphy. Cousin of county Minor, Gearoid, Stephen Murphy made his championship debut for Annacurra, starting in midfield.
On a greasy surface following some heavy downpours, both sides made a scrappy start to proceedings with Sean Heffernan Jr. and Clive Horan trading points.
Newtown did enjoy the better of it early on and moved into the lead when Ross Davis and Sean Gregory raised white flags. Newtown lined up with a two-man full-forward line of Ross Davis and Cathal McNicholas with Sean Gregory playing midway between the half and full-forward lines, a formation which was creating space for the runners from deep.
Annacurra were struggling to gain any meaningful possession early on, and this certainly wasn’t helped by their apparent desire to nail the Newtown ball carriers with that elusive, rousing big shoulder rather than stall the run and compete for possession.
Just as Annacurra had worked their way back to level terms, both sides were dealt major blows when referee John Keenan was left with no option but to brandish two red cards for Mick O’Brien and Declan Doyle after the pair decided to treat the crowd to an impromptu warmup for next month’s McGregor v Mayweather superfight.
The dismissals appeared to hit Newtown hardest as Annacurra began to find their swagger up front, although inaccuracy in front of goal meant they did not take full advantage of this.
However, they did move into the lead through points from Shane O’Keeffe, Clive Horan and a long range Gearoid Murphy free to leave the score 0-06 to 0-03 at the break.
With Annacurra quickly settling into a clear counter-attacking pattern, Newtown struggled from the outset in the second period. Shane O’ Keeffe and Gearoid Murphy extended Annacurra’s lead early on and it was apparent the game was slipping away from Newtown.
Time and again Newtown attacks broke down in the final third, with a lack of guile in the final third proving detrimental. This was not helped by the poor conditions which allowed Annacurra to defend five to 10 yards deeper than would normally be required. But that is not to say that Annacurra went out for the second half with a defensive mindset. In fact, the opposite was the case.
Once possession had been regained, Annacurra looked to break hard and fast, with Liam Moules in particular charging out of defence with real purpose on multiple occasions. It was one such counter attack which brought about the opening, and only, goal of the game.
A long kickpass forward had the Newtown rearguard scrambling and Alan Byrne chased down the loose ball with Gearoid Murphy free to his right. Byrne went for the quick option of a soccer style pass through for Murphy but it was undercooked and it seemed as though the chance was gone. However, a slip from a retreating Newtown back presented Gearoid Murphy with an opportunity to bear down on goal and the young forward took full advantage to devastating effect. One on one with Newtown goalkeeper Kenneth Turner, Murphy could have panicked and shot early but instead showed outstanding composure to take the ball around Turner and stroke the ball into the empty net.
While Ross Davis did add scores for Newtown from dead balls to maintain a glimmer of hope for his side, the Annacurra goal meant that Newtown were always going to need to raise a green flag of their own to haul themselves back into contention.
In truth, they never really looked like threatening Bob Fitzgerald’s goal with Martin O’Brien playing deeper and deeper as the game progressed to protect his side’s lead.
Gearoid Murphy, Clive Horan and Shane O’ Keefe all kept the scoreboard ticking over in the final quarter to ensure an Annacurra victory.
This result sets up an intriguing clash between Avondale and Annacurra in the group’s final round of games which should decide second place unless Newtown can overcome Eire Og and see other scorelines go their way.
Scorers – Annacurra: Gearoid Murphy 1-03 (1f), Clive Horan 0-04 (3f), Shane O’Keeffe 0-04, Martin O’Brien 0-01.
Newtown: Ross Davis 0-04(002f), Sean Gregory 0-01, Sean Heffernan Jr. 0-01, Stephen Kelly 0-01.
Annacurra: Bob Fitzgerald, Liam Moules, Paul McDonald, James Keenan, Shane McAllister, Vincent O’ Flaherty, Michael Healy, Mick O’ Brien, Stephen Murphy, Alan Byrne, Martin O’ Brien, Gearoid Murphy, Clive Horan, Frank Clune, Shane O’ Keeffe. Subs: Nevan O’Sullivan, Patrick Moules, Ian McDonald, Jon Hynes.
Newtown: Kenneth Turner, Glen Carthy, Neil Martin, Robert Greenan, Karl Carthy, Mark Fitzsimons, Aaron Toner, Paul O’ Riordan, Declan Doyle, Sean Heffernan Sr., Oisin Greenan, Sean Heffernan Jr., Sean Gregory, Cathal McNicholas, Ross Davis. Subs: Barry Davis, Keith Dalton, Luke Martin, Stephen Kelly.