Avondale secure last four berth after narrow victory
AVONDALE were the first to book their place in the final four of the Renault Ireland Senior football championship on Saturday in a windswept Aughrim.
The Dales started the year as rank outsiders in many people’s minds and have made their way to the final four on merit.
For AGB, it brings to conclusion a fantastic return to Senior ranks and their young team can take the positives of the year with their many highlights.
Ian Heffernan opened the scoring for the Rathdrum men from a free inside two minutes after a free was awarded for over-carrying.
Heffernan proved his reputation correct as dead ball specialist as he pointed the first three scores for the Dales.
At the other end, Arklow got off to the perfect start with Chris O’Brien claiming a mark on the first AGB kick-out and interplay between Cormac Hyland and O’Shea released Cathal Kelleher to fire home a goal with two minutes on the clock.
Stephen Hurley added a pointed free soon after and AGB appeared in the ascendancy.
However, ill-discipline resulting in frees and perhaps a few jitters resulted in Avondale turning the ball over in Arklow territory a number of occasions and a point from Ryan Cahill and a great scored from centre-back David Baker pushed Avondale into the lead with 20 minutes on the clock.
The following 10 minutes would see a period of pressure from AGB a couple of missed opportunities resulting in wides but two scores coming from the boot of Kelleher and Philip Gleeson.
The AGB full-forward line have been on fire for most of the year and the tussle between Healy and Saoirse Kearnon was of particular note during the opening period with no inch given by either competitor.
Just as AGB were looking to head into the dressing room at half-time with a one-point lead, disaster struck for the Arklow men.
A ball intercepted on their 65 by Avondale created a four on one scenario for the Avondale forwards.
With four speed merchants baring down on him, Mervyn Travers made himself big and pulled off a good save from an effort at goal but the rebound fell kindly to the supporting Dean Gahan who fired home right on the stroke of half time to give Avondale a twopoint lead.
Their heads not bowed, AGB came out of the traps very early to start the half and almost worked a goal from O’Brien only for the reflexes of corner-back of Kevin Fitzpatrick to pull off a fantastic save and tip the ball around the post for a 45 which was missed. The opening score of the half took 10 minutes to come and when it did, Heffernan showed his prowess from open play and slotted over a fine score after work from Padraig Geoghegan.
Gahan added another point for himself and his side before Cian O’Hannain almost manufactured a goal for himself after a long ball from Geoghegan but his powerful effort was turned over the bar by Travers.
Shortly after Travers’ goal led another charmed life, with O’Hannain crashing a shot off the post.
Two frees from Healy reduced the gap to a goal with seven minutes remaining.
Long balls into the Avondale goal were being ushered away from the goal with Eugene Dunne carrying the ball out of defence on numerous occasions to relieve the pressure.
A crucial interception by Kearnon thwarted another AGB attack and goalkeeper Brian Burke pulled off a fantastic save to thwart Philip Healy with normal time in its dying embers.
A free from Stephen Hurley with 32 on the clock made it a two-point game and an AGB missed free on 33 minutes could have brought the game to a minimum.
One more chance was to come for AGB but unfortunately for the Arklow men it was blazed over and preceded Ciaran Fleming’s full time whistle.
A delighted and deserving Avondale move onto a clash with Blessington for a county final spot while AGB focus on their progress in Division 2 of the league. Overall, a fair result for Avondale who had a lot more possession and won nine of AGB’s 15 kick-outs.
Scorers - Avondale: Ian Heffernan (0-4, 3 frees), Dean Gahan (1-1), David Baker, Cian O’Hannain and Ryan Cahill (0-1 each)
AGB: Cathal Kelleher (1-1), Stephen Hurley, Philip Healy (0-2 each, all frees), Philip Gleeson and Peter Hempenstall (0-1 each)
Avondale: Brian Burke, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Saoirse Kearnon, Shane Beavor, Eugene Dunne, David Baker, Liam Kinsella, Barry Sheehan, Padraig Geoghegan, Conor Byrne, Marc Baker, Dean Gahan, Cian O’Hannain, Ryan Cahill, Ian Heffernan. Subs: Sean McGraynor for Conor Byrne, Seamus McGraynor for O’Hannain, Paul Gahan for Fitzpatrick, Aonghas O’Brian for Dunne, Conor Byrne for Kinsella.
AGB: Mervyn Travers, Karl Kirwan, Tom Maher, Ciaran O’Shea, Danny O’Harte, Ciaran Hyland, Darragh Fitzgerald, Cal Kelly, Chris O’Brien, Cathal Kelleher, Stephen Hurley, Cormac Hyland, Cormac O’Shea, Philip Healy, Philip Gleeson. Subs: Jack Hamilton for Tom Maher, JP Hurley for Chris O’Brien, Peter Hempenstall for Cormac O’Shea, James Tyrell for Philip Gleeson.
Referee: Ciaran Fleming
Avondale’s Marc Baker burst past AGB’s Stephen Hurley and Ciaran O’Shea during the SFC quarter final in Joule park, Aughrim.
Eugene Dunne tries to stop Philip Healy’s run towards goal.
Tiernan McBride can’t hide his disappointment at the defeat.