Nugent stars for Ashford
ASHFORD AN TOCHAR 2-15 2-12
ASHFORD edged An Tochar in a high scoring, entertaining game to keep alive their hopes for progression to the knock out rounds in this IFC Group 1 match at Pearse Park, Arklow on Saturday evening.
In a game with many key moments and talking points it was Ashford who led from the first minute to the last as full-forward Aaron Nugent set them on their way with a goal in the opening seconds. An Tochar are nothing if not dogged however and strong finishes to each half saw them twice almost haul back large deficits.
Ashford will be delighted though, particularly with their second half display as they played nearly the whole second half with 14 men after midfielder David Dowling received his marching orders for a second yellow in the 34th minute.
By the time the 38th minute arrived a Conor Davis point had whittled down a once nine-point lead for Ashford back to the minimum and it looked for all the world that the Roundwood men would push on for the win.
It was Ashford though through the direct running of Thomas Kearns, the tenacity of Mick Taylor and the sharp shooting of Nugent and Brian Coen who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and went on to kick seven unanswered points to lead by eight with eight to play.
It would have been easy for An Tochar to drop the heads but for the second time in the match they went about clawing back a big deficit. Liam Gaffney was immense for the losers and Brendan Swords and Peter Byrne were also to the forefront on the day but alas they simply ran out of time as despite Byrne’s late goal they came up three points short.
It was Nugent who started off proceedings. He caused havoc for An Tochar, especially early on, and within 40 seconds he won a long hopping ball out in front, turned his marker, leaving him for dead before finishing low past Peter O’Toole.
An Tochar brought an extra man back in front of the full-back line to try and curb his influence but Nugent was to have a fine game all evening.
Liam Gaffney fisted over An Tochar’s first point and for the next 15 minutes it was a tit for tat affair as points from Brian Coen and Nugent were cancelled out by one pointers from Conor Davis, Liam Kenna and Peter Byrne to leave just the early goal between the sides, 1-5 to 0-5 after 15 minutes.
The next 10 was owned by Ashford though as Gavin Weir and Nugent added points before the talented attacker soloed in behind and hit in a low, dribbley shot, agonisingly out of reach, for his second goal. Brian Coen added a point from the resultant kick out to put Ashford nine ahead but you got a sense that the game was so open that An Tochar were still not dead and buried.
And in what was a mirror image of Mayo’s immediate response through Lee Keegan’s goal on Sunday, Roundwood responded. Liam Gaffney received the ball 50 yards out and set the satnav straight for Ashford’s goal. He tore through and finished low and hard to Liam Hender’s right.
Gaffney was brilliant for An Tochar on the day. He more resembles a rhinoceros than a gazelle in full flight but Ashford were at odds to know how to stop his direct running as he bulldozed through time and again and the goal was certainly the prime example of this.
Conor Davis had another goal chance blocked but Peter Byrne and Gaffney added points to leave just a score in it at the break.
There were plenty of big hits in the first half, and a lot of them were not on time, and it was clear from the start of the second half that both sides wanted to lay down a marker in the physical stakes as fists, elbows, knees and most other body parts went flying into tackles on both sides as the referee had his hand’s full.
It was from one of these tough tackles that Ashford’s David Dowling protested a bit too vigorously, and received a second yellow, as he headed for an early shower to leave Ashford a man down with 26 minutes of normal time to play. Conor Davis hit over two points, the second a beauty from the stand side which he curled inside the right post, to leave a point in it as the smart money seemed to be on the men in blue to push on for the win.
Peter Byrne almost stole in for what would’ve been a clean run through on goal but Ashford’s Corkonian full-back Ronan Sugrue made a fantastic overhead catch interception in what was, on reflection, a key moment in the match.
Corner back Mick Taylor made four or five surging runs for Ashford and his point from over 30 yards brought the lead to two points and was the catalyst for Ashford’s best spell as they kicked seven points in a row between the 40th and 52nd minutes.
Wing back Thomas Kearns has searing pace and he stepped up at this crucial time to make three lung bursting runs up his left wing which resulted in direct scores or else he was hauled down enabling the trusty right boot of Coen to dissect the posts with the leather.
Twice Nugent cut in off the right to curl over with his left and with eight minutes of normal time and as many points down An Tochar had a mountain to climb.
They made a great first at hauling back the deficit but alas despite Byrne’s goal from a tight angle father time was simply not on their side as Ashford hung on for a crucial win.
Scorers - Ashford: Aaron Nugent 2-4 (1f), Brian Coen 0-8 (5f). Gavin Weir 0-1, Graham Mooney 0-1, Mick Taylor 0-1.
An Tochar: Peter Byrne 1-4 (0-1 free), Liam Gaffney 1-2, Conor Davis 0-5 (2f), Liam Kenna 0-1.
Liam Hender-Phillips, Mick Taylor, Ronan Sugrue, Micheal Dickinson, Thomas Kearns, Daniel Kavanagh, Robert Clarkson, Gavin Weir, David Dowling, Ross Quinn, Brian Coen, Dean Mooney, Cal Connolly, Graham Mooney, Aaron Nugent. Subs: Mikey Traynor for Robert Clarkson (42 mins), Brendan Manning for Cal Connolly (42 mins), Lee Fitzpatrick for Ross Quinn (45 mins).
Peter O’Toole, David Molloy, Gavin Kenny, Noel Power, Stephen Connor, Brendan Swords, Joe Gaffney, Jamie Salley, Conor Short, Eamonn Wolohan, Liam Kenna, Liam Gaffney, Peter Byrne, Conor Davis, Mark Keenan. Subs: Jack Mockler for Mark keenan (42 mins), Stefan Collier for Joe Gaffney (47 mins).