Laragh stun Billies to secure semi-final spot
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)