Laragh stun Bil­lies to se­cure semi-fi­nal spot

Wicklow People (Arklow) - - SPORT - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE

THE Olo­han broth­ers pro­duced two mo­ments of magic at ei­ther end of an en­ter­tain­ing clash to help Decky Byrne’s Laragh to a dra­matic vic­tory over Bal­ly­manus and seal their spot in the Darcy Sand In­ter­me­di­ate Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship semi-fi­nal.

First up it was cor­ner-for­ward Eric who gath­ered a ball from Damien Han­lon in the open­ing sec­onds of this game be­fore turn­ing and ri­fling home past Bren­dan Doyle in the Bal­ly­manus goal to give his side the best pos­si­ble start they could have hoped for against the team many ex­pected would have too much for last year’s Ju­nior ‘A’ cham­pi­ons.

Jump for­ward 54 min­utes and it was sub­sti­tute Steve Olo­han who picked up the ball and placed it on the penalty spot af­ter David Mi­ley was felled on the way through to goal as Laragh came hunt­ing for a foothold in a game that had been dom­i­nated for long pe­ri­ods by a Bal­ly­manus side who just couldn’t put a dogged Laragh away.

Bren­dan Doyle re­quired some treat­ment af­ter the penalty in­ci­dent and once he re­sumed his place it was the sight of Olo­han pre­par­ing to shoot that lay be­fore him. Olo­han ran up and wal­loped the ball past the de­spair­ing Doyle who man­aged to get his fin­ger­tips to the ball but could do lit­tle to stop it rat­tling the net given the force of the kick.

Steve Olo­han’s penalty strike lev­eled the game at 2-4 to 0-10. Did Laragh de­serve to be in this po­si­tion?

Tak­ing ev­ery­thing into con­sid­er­a­tion you’d have to say they did. When you get to this level of cham­pi­onship and op­por­tu­ni­ties for goals present them­selves you must take them.

Bal­ly­manus had two goal chances in the open­ing half which, had they availed of them, would have put this game to bed early on.

They didn’t do that, and they couldn’t re­ally get the bet­ter of Laragh’s de­ci­sion to de­ploy Ross Noonan as a deep sweeper in front of his own full-back line and so de­spite look­ing the stronger of the two out­fits they now find them­selves pit­ted against an im­prov­ing Kil­mac side in the quar­ter-fi­nal.

De­fen­sively, for the most part, Bal­ly­manus were su­perb.

Robbed of the ser­vices of Dar­ragh Byrne from full-back be­fore throw-in, Paddy Mol­loy re­de­ployed Liam Byrne back to the edge of the square and he along with Glen Far­rar and Ai­dan Byrne put in a su­perb shift for the most part in this game, tor­ment­ing Damien Han­lon and Eric Olo­han for much of the 60 min­utes.

The prob­lem for Bal­ly­manus was that Liam Byrne’s pos­i­tive and am­bi­tious play from half-back was sorely missed from the game even though he did man­age to make sev­eral bursts up the field.

How­ever, nul­li­fy­ing the threat of Damien Han­lon was his main job and he did that su­perbly.

Fol­low­ing Eric Olo­han’s goal in the open­ing minute it would be 14 min­utes later be­fore Decky Byrne’s men would score again.

In that time, Bal­ly­manus would score five points as they took con­trol of the game through the fan­tas­tic work of Mark Kenny, Roan Lynch, Shane and Bren­dan Whe­lan and the afore­men­tioned full-back line.

It would be im­por­tant to men­tion the per­for­mance of Peter Mer­ri­gan in this game.

Roan Lynch bagged two points over 60 min­utes but Mer­ri­gan is one of the main rea­sons for such a low re­turn for one of the most ex­cit­ing foot­ballers at this level. Add in Gary Cullen’s dis­play at full-back on Pádraig Byrne and later Paddy Byrne of Moyne and therein lies the se­crets of Laragh’s suc­cess.

Bal­ly­manus’ re­cov­ery from the early goal was im­pres­sive. Cíarán Whe­lan (two frees), Roan Lynch, Kevin Byrne and a mag­nif­i­cent Mark Kenny point thrust Paddy Mol­loy’s men two points ahead of a fairly lim­ited Laragh side in terms of at­tack.

Kenny broke James Nolan’s kick out down to Philip Coogan who picked out Pádraig Byrne who com­pleted the cir­cle to Kenny who dropped over a rip­per.

A han­dling er­ror from Glen Far­rar of­fered Laragh an easy chance to get their first point af­ter 14 min­utes and John Nolan obliged from the free.

Laragh would only score 1-1 from play in this game.

That statis­tic doesn’t mat­ter right now but in the semi-fi­nal they will surely need a more fruit­ful re­turn from their at­tack if they are to seal their place in the In­ter­me­di­ate de­cider.

Craig McCoy and Andrew Kenny were get­ting through a pile of work in the Laragh half-back line but Laragh’s seek­ing balls for Damien Han­lon and Eric Olo­han were be­ing gob­bled up by Liam Byrne and Glen Far­rar on umpteen oc­ca­sions over the course of this game.

A won­der­ful goal chance pre­sented it­self to Ball­manus af­ter 20 min­utes.

Mid­fielder Dar­ragh O’Ke­effe ram­paged down on the Laragh goal and pulled the trig­ger only for James Nolan to get a su­perb re­flex save off and send the ball out for a 45.

It would be Cíarán Whe­lan’s sec­ond 45 in 120 sec­onds and this one sailed sweetly over the bar af­ter his first had tailed wide.

Two Laragh wides and two at­tacks thwarted by Liam Byrne’s full-back line left us close to half­time.

A foul by a re­treat­ing Padraig Byrne on David McDon­ald gave John Nolan the chance to point and he did so with aplomb to make it 0-6 to 1-2 in favour of the Bil­lies and that’s how it would stay for half-time.

Damien Han­lon’s lev­el­ling point from a free six min­utes into the sec­ond half was pre­ceded by the in­tro­duc­tion of Paddy Byrne for Bal­ly­manus.

He took up po­si­tion at full-for­ward, ex­tend­ing a hand to Gary Cullen and af­ter that short hand­shake any no­tion of friend­li­ness was quickly ex­tin­guished as Cullen brought his abra­sive de­fen­sive style to play in a very ef­fec­tive man­ner.

It’s fair to say that Bal­ly­manus dom­i­nated the next 15 min­utes and re­turned to the lead through points from Roan Lynch, a beauty from Bren­dan Whe­lan and an­other free from Cíarán Whe­lan.

A throw ball from Ai­dan Byrne saw John Nolan point be­fore Paddy Byrne made it a three­p­oint dif­fer­ence with 12 to go and any­thing other than a Bal­ly­manus win not re­ally on the cards un­less Laragh could get a goal.

Decky Byrne sent in Steve Olo­han. Paddy Byrne went wide from a free. Pres­sure from Laragh out the field over­turned Bal­ly­manus ball and away went Laragh with David Mi­ley hit­ting the deck in the square and An­thony Nolan spread­ing the arms wide. Olo­han’s dis­patch­ing of the penalty strike was a thing of beauty. All square.

The en­tire mood of the game had changed. The Laragh sup­port­ers were in full voice.

The Bal­ly­manus play­ers were feel­ing the pres­sure, de­ci­sions were not go­ing their way.

An­other han­dling er­ror gave John Nolan a chance and he sent in a high ball that was ad­judged to have sailed over the bar for the lead score but there wasn’t much in it.

Mark Kenny went wide for Bal­ly­manus. Back came the Bil­lies again and sub­sti­tute Seanie O’Neill was found guilty of over­car­ry­ing by An­thony Nolan to the shock and hor­ror of O’Neill, his com­rades and the Bal­ly­manus sup­port­ers.

Laragh at­tacked, and David Mi­ley got on the end a lovely move to ri­fle over de­spite calls for steps from the Bal­ly­manus faith­ful.

Up by two points there was no way this Laragh team were go­ing to cough up any­thing at this late stage and they fought out the last few mo­ments for a stun­ning vic­tory and a place in the semi-fi­nals. Their fairy­tale con­tin­ues. Fair play to them! Scor­ers – Laragh: John Nolan 0-4 (4f), Steve Olo­han 1-0 (p), Eric Olo­han 1-0, Damien Han­lon 0-1 (f), David Mi­ley 0-1.

Bal­ly­manus: Cíarán Whe­lan 0-4 (3f, 1 45), Roan Lynch 0-2, Mark Kenny 0-1, Kevin Byrne 0-1, Bren­dan Whe­lan 0-1, Paddy Byrne (Moyne) 0-1 (f).

Laragh: James Nolan; Ian Mer­ri­gan, Gary Cullen, Bren­dan Ward; Craig McCoy, Peter Mer­ri­gan, Andrew Kenny; David McDon­ald, Jamie Cullen; Mark Mi­ley, John Nolan, David Mi­ley; Ross Doo­nan, Damien Han­lon, Eric Olo­han. Subs: Myles Con­way, Steve Olo­han.

Bal­ly­manus: Bren­dan Doyle; Glen Far­rar, Liam Byrne, Ai­dan Byrne; Shane Whe­lan, Bren­dan Whe­lan, Colm Coogan; Dar­ragh O’Ke­effe, Mark Kenny; Philip Coogan, Roan Lynch, Sea­mus Coogan; Kevin Byrne, Pádraig Byrne, Cíarán Whe­lan. Subs: Paddy Byrne (Moyne), Seanie O’Neill.

Ref­eree: An­thony Nolan (Balt­in­glass)

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