Stafford dismissal key as sides draw
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.