Bray People - - SPORT - CRAIG FARRAR

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.

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