A bel­ter of a game

Shil­le­lagh/Cool­boy and Ash­ford draw af­ter a thriller

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - BRENDAN LAWRENCE at Coolafancy


IT was like a trip back in time to when league games in your home patch re­ally meant some­thing to com­mu­ni­ties and were not played on ugly Sun­day morn­ings with three cat­tle and some list­less crows look­ing on.

It was like those days when you were a child when the men who you seen dur­ing the week around your vil­lage or town be­came war­riors on the foot­ball field and the whole vil­lage or town turned out be­cause they were rep­re­sent­ing you and what it meant to be you.

It was like what foot­ball felt like back in the 80s when both clubs would bring a de­cent sup­port for a league game that mat­tered, when the sun graced us with its pres­ence, when the sup­port­ers were lit­er­ally on the field of play, when choice words might be spo­ken and when men might be asked out onto the road to settle the odd dis­pute but when sense would pre­vail and ev­ery­body’s pride would stay in­tact and off they’d go to tuck into a beau­ti­ful Sun­day din­ner.

It felt like the good old times, if ever such a time truly ex­isted, and for 90 min­utes on Sun­day that’s where the Di­vi­sion 3 clash of Shil­le­lagh/Cool­boy and Ash­ford brought us.

A very healthy crowd of sup­port­ers turned up for this winner-takeall clash in Coolafancy on Sun­day. The fact that stun­ning views of the Wick­low coun­try­side are on of­fer from the venue and that the green sward was bask­ing in gor­geous June sun­shine was a wel­come boost, ob­vi­ously, but ev­ery­body was gathered to watch the top dogs of the di­vi­sion do bat­tle for the ti­tle and with that ex­pec­ta­tion came a ten­sion and an en­ergy that pro­vided those present with a very en­ter­tain­ing spec­ta­cle that, thank­fully, both sides will have to do all over again af­ter they fin­ished all square on the day.

It looked as if a com­pe­tent look­ing Ash­ford were go­ing to make this a long day on the home side when they first opened up a 0-2 to 0-0 lead be­fore pushing out to a 0-4 to 0-2 lead af­ter Shil­le­lagh/ Cool­boy had wo­ken from their early slum­ber.

The ex­cel­lent Brendan Man­ning and then Ross Quinn got the vis­i­tors off to a healthy start against John Smith’s side who found it very dif­fi­cult to settle in this game and reg­is­tered four wides be­fore even­tu­ally get­ting off the mark through the dan­ger­ous Brendan Be­han af­ter 18 min­utes.

Ash­ford were guilty of their own way­ward shooting as well, clock­ing up three wides of their own and drop­ping a ball short to Lau­rie Cullen in the Shil­le­lagh/ Cool­boy goal.

The home side were pulling cor­ner-for­ward Jonathan Smyth back as a sweeper which was leav­ing Rian O’Dwyer free at the back for Ash­ford and creating a hard-to-breach gap be­tween the mid­field and full-for­ward line of Be­han and Wayne Kin­sella for John Smith’s charges, and they found that more of­ten than not their long balls in were be­ing wiped out by the ex­cel­lent O’Dwyer, Michael Dick­en­son and Robert Clarkson.

Brendan Be­han gathered a break­ing ball to level at 0-2 apiece but a won­der­ful score from Gavin Weir from a tight an­gle and a pointed free from Dean Mooney re­turned Ash­ford to a fully de­served two-point lead.

A Cathal Murphy free off his left re­duced the deficit and Eu­gene O’Brien sounded the half-time whis­tle in a low-scor­ing but thor­oughly en­ter­tain­ing bat­tle that was giv­ing the crowd hugging the side­line plenty to get ex­cited about.

It wasn’t long be­fore the action ig­nited on a glo­ri­ous sab­bath day. Wayne Kin­sella fi­nally found his kicking boots two min­utes into the sec­ond half when he drifted over a free and then John Smith sent in Daniel Be­han and Johnny Wil­loughby. Be­han worked re­lent­lessly but it was Wil­loughby who gave Shil­le­lagh/Cool­boy’s hopes a ma­jor boost.

Wil­loughby fired wide not long af­ter com­ing in be­fore Kin­sella pointed and then Brendan Be­han was fouled in the square fol­low­ing a Wil­lougby ball and PJ Mul­hall dis­patched the spot kick with aplomb while Rian O’Dwyer was dis­patched to the side­line on a black card.

Lovely hands from David Nolan al­lowed Robert Keenan the chance for a point af­ter 15 to make it 1-5 to 0-5 in favour of the home side be­fore Kin­sella (free) and Cor­mac Doyle swapped scores ahead of Ash­ford be­ing awarded their own penalty which Brendan Man­ning lashed home past Lau­rie Cullen to make it 1-6 apiece with 20 gone in the sec­ond half.

Johnny Wil­loughby ex­changed with Brendan Be­han be­fore fir­ing Shil­le­lagh/Cool­boy into the lead and then home side looked to be coast­ing af­ter fur­ther points from Kin­sella (free) and a won­der­ful PJ Mul­hall score af­ter he waltzed through the Ash­ford heart­land to leave three be­tween the sides with five to go.

But this Ash­ford team are very im­pres­sive when they are mov­ing well, and they fin­ished this game su­perbly with three points from Brendan Man­ning (one free) to leave it 1-9 to 1-9 at the sound­ing of Eu­gene O’Brien’s full-time whis­tle.

Some con­fu­sion reigned at the death as to what the next course of action was. Some be­lieved Shil­le­lagh/Cool­boy had won the league on score dif­fer­ence but a walk-over from Knock­ananna for Ash­ford ear­lier in the league put paid to that even­tu­al­ity and while ev­ery sin­gle soul in Coolafancy would have loved ex­tra-time it was de­cided that it would go to a re­play at a neu­tral venue.

That venue might not lend the re­play the same ten­sion but if the foot­ball is as en­ter­tain­ing and the sup­port­ers travel in the same num­bers we’ll be in for a se­ri­ous treat.

Scor­ers - Shil­le­lagh/Cool­boy: PJ Mul­hall 1-1 (p), Wayne Kin­sella 0-4 (3f), Brendan Be­han 0-2, Johnny Wil­loughby 0-1.

Ash­ford: Brendan Man­ning 1-4 (p, 2f), Robert Keenan 0-1, Ross Quinn 0-1, Dean Mooney 0-1, Cor­mac Doyle 0-1, Gavin Weir 0-1.

SHIL­LE­LAGH/COOL­BOY: Lau­rie Cullen; Gar­rett Gre­gan, Shaun Carroll, Enda Fo­ley; Aaron Kin­sella, Paddy Hen­nessy, Daire Fo­ley; Dan Nolan, Ray Murphy; PJ O’Ke­effe, PJ Mul­hall, Cathal Murphy; Brendan Be­han, Wayne Kin­sella, Jonathan Smyth. Subs: Daniel Be­han for C Murphy, Johnny Wil­loughby for J Smyth.

ASH­FORD: Will Hen­der-Phillips; Rian O’Dwyer, Michael Dick­en­son, Robert Clarkson; Robert Keenan, Daniel Ka­vanagh, James Cof­fey; David Nolan, Joseph Doyle; Ross Quinn, Brendan Man­ning, Dean Mooney; Cal Connolly, Gavin Weir, Cor­mac Doyle. Subs: Graham Mooney for R Quinn, David Dowling for M Dick­en­son.

REF­EREE: Eu­gene O’Brien (Aughrim)

Shil­le­lagh/Cool­boy’s Lau­rie Cullen tries to evade the chal­lenge of Ash­ford’s Cor­mac Doyle in Coolafancy,

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