Stafford dis­missal key as sides draw

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - DANIEL HA­GAN

AN en­ter­tain­ing clash in hor­ri­ble con­di­tions un­folded in Aughrim on Satur­day but AGB will rue sev­eral late op­por­tu­ni­ties as they came up short to draw with a Rath­new side who played the en­tire sec­ond half with 14 men af­ter James Stafford was shown a con­tro­ver­sial red card late in the first half.

Mark Doyle’s form in front of the posts was vi­tal in Harry Mur­phy’s side’s grind for this re­sult. Rath­new went into the game with­out Gra­ham Mer­ri­gan, who was dismissed in the pre­vi­ous round against Newtown. Leighton Glynn and Nicky Mer­nagh also missed out through in­jury.

AGB, who were with­out Ciaran Hyland, Dar­ragh Fitzger­ald and the sus­pended Jim Tyrrell, opened the scor­ing through Philip Healy’s first free. The Ark­low side were play­ing with the wind in the open­ing pe­riod and they were re­ally look­ing to cap­i­talise on this. Mark Doyle got his first point in scrappy fashion to level.

Both teams strug­gled to con­trol the ball in the open­ing min­utes as the slip­pery sur­face was tricky to adjust to.

Damien Red­mond’s side were ag­gres­sive in the press in the early stages, at­tempt­ing to win the ball back off Rath­new and catch them on the quick break, as Karl Kir­wan was af­forded a lot of spa­ces to at­tempt to start these at­tacks. When they got these chances to get for­ward their fi­nal ball was un­for­tu­nately not up to scratch.

The first ten min­utes dragged on, be­fore 12 min­utes in, fi­nally an­other score was posted, this time via the boot of War­ren Ka­vanagh.

AGB were good at keep­ing the ball in the cen­tre of the park as they ex­ploited space, with most of the good play com­ing from Tier­nan MacBride, Ciaran O’Shea and JP Hur­ley, but this play was to no avail on the score­board.

Rath­new how­ever, as they al­ways seem to do, be­gan to grow in con­fi­dence, as they went three up through a free from Ed­die Doyle and a sec­ond from Ka­vanagh off his left.

AGB then en­joyed a fruit­ful spell, as points from Ma­her, Glee­son and two frees from Healy gave them the lead.

The scores were tied af­ter Mark Doyle pointed his third, who was very im­pres­sive in the first half as he used his strength to back into his marker and his quick feet of­ten helped him to turn his marker.

Three min­utes be­fore half­time, Rath­new were dealt a huge blow as ref­eree Ciaran Fleming flashed a red card in the di­rec­tion of James Stafford. An in­ci­dent off the ball in­volv­ing Stafford and Tom Ma­her led to Ma­her falling to the floor. Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion with his um­pires, Fleming raised the red card to dis­miss Stafford. The Rath­new man pleaded his in­no­cence, and right­fully so.

This may have been a huge turn­ing point, but it was Rath­new who bounced back stronger in the clos­ing min­utes of the half as Ed­die Doyle (free) and Mark Doyle rounded off the scor­ing to lead by two points go­ing into the break.

Theo Smyth was dropped into the mid­dle of the park along­side Sam O’Dowd at the start of the sec­ond half to fill the hole left by Stafford.

Rath­new full-back Ross O’Brien was su­perb on the day. He fol­lowed Philip Healy’s ev­ery move and hunted him down at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

As a re­ward of his hard work, he pointed ex­cel­lently to ex­tend his sides lead to four, as AGB had no men­tion­able chances in the first few min­utes.

JT Hayden was also im­pres­sive, stop­ping a lot of dan­ger that came his way.

Healy pointed a free to get his side off the mark in the sec­ond half. Since the red card, AGB weren’t get­ting the rub of the green from ref­eree Ciaran Fleming as a lot of de­ci­sions went Rath­new’s way early in the half.

Mid­way through the half, AGB had a goal chance to level the scores, as JP Hur­ley fired a goal­bound shot to­wards Peter Dig­nam, but the goalie par­ried well away from dan­ger.

AGB weren’t tak­ing much ad­van­tage of the spare man as it looked like it was a level play­ing field.

But even­tu­ally they got their goal they had been vy­ing for.

With 10 min­utes to play, JP Hur­ley re­ceived the ball just out­side the box, he got away from Ross O’Brien and drilled the ball into the bot­tom cor­ner set­ting up an en­tic­ing fin­ish.

AGB took the lead through an­other Healy free, curled in from an acute an­gle, as it looked bleak on Rath­new’s side of the score­board as they hadn’t scored for 15 min­utes.

AGB lost Tier­nan MacBride to a black card with 5 to go for a bla­tant pull on Jamie Snell, with Tadhg O’Cal­laghan com­ing in to re­place him. From the re­sult­ing free, Ed­die Doyle floated the ball in to­wards Mark Doyle, who pointed his fifth from play to level.

Rath­new cap­tain Snell was look­ing to drive his team on as he him­self pushed for­ward in search of a vic­tory, but it looked more likely to be AGB who would snatch the win. Gary Byrne and David Jameson were work­ing tire­lessly to prevent AGB get­ting the crucial chance.

Ark­low had much of the pos­ses­sion late on but had a cou­ple of re­ally poor wides, through Daire McBride and Cor­mac O’Shea.

The score never came, and the bout fin­ished level. Rath­new should be happy with the re­sult as they had the dis­ad­van­tage in the sec­ond half of one less man. AGB had their chances late on to claim vic­tory but in the end a draw seemed like the cor­rect re­sult.

Scorers – AGB: Philip Healy 0-5 (5f), JP Hur­ley 1-0, Andy Ma­her 0-1, Philip Glee­son 0-1.

Rath­new: Mark Doyle 0-5, War­ren Ka­vanagh 0-2, Ed­die Doyle 0-2 (2f), Ross O’Brien 0-1.

AGB’s Jack Hamil­ton bat­tles with Rath­new’s Sam O’Dowd.

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