Avon­dale se­cure last four berth af­ter nar­row vic­tory

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - At Joule Park, Aughrim

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.

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