Powerful from Pats
O’Brien’s men march on after dispatching brave ’Dales
ST PATRICK’S 3-11 AVONDALE 0-12
THIS game was a repeat of the group game between reigning champions, St Pats, and Avondale who conquered historic kingpins, Rathnew, in an epic quarter-final after extra-time.
This was Avondale’s second semi-final appearance in three years, and they would meet the major force in Wicklow football that is this St Pats team under manager Casey O’Brien.
All the talk from the stand was about the teams line ups. Avondale started Marc Baker, to have an all-Baker half-back line with Eoin and David. Matthew Traynor lined out on danger man Conor Byrne. Saoirse Kearon picked up Tommy Kelly, and Dean Gahan moved to midfield to track John Crowe. Then scene was set, and off we went.
Avondale got off the mark first through Conor McGraynor, who was operating at midfield for the day.
The Dales would come up against an in-form Tommy Kelly, who turned everything he touched in to a scoring chance. He kicked two peaches in the opening exchanges, and was ably assisted in the scoring stakes by John Crowe and a Ciaran McGettigan double.
Avondale kicked in to gear, and rattled off four scores on the trot. A free each from Conor McGraynor and Ross Ward got sent them on their way, with Conor Byrne coming more in to the game and slotting a well finished score.
Barry Sheehan will feel aggrieved not to have had a goal chance in the 23rd minute as he stole in behind the St Pats defence, only to have been fouled by Dean Healy for what looked like a long time before he finally heard the whistle. Ward dispatched the free and Avondale led by one.
This may well have been the turning point in this game, as Dean Healy turned it on its head. He latched on to a ball through from Crowe. He charged the Avondale goal and hammered the ball to the top corner of the net. Paul O’Brien added a point and the champions led by three. Ward answered for Avondale form a free, but the scene was set.
It may be fair to say Avondale didn’t make the most of their time on top and this sucker punch may have taken the wind out of the sails of the Rathdrum men.
They started with Eugene Dunne sweeping, but abandoned that when St Pats were using the extra man.
They pushed up and Dunne was going box to box. How long could he keep going.
On top of this, they were beginning to find it hard to deal with the St Pats runners; John Crowe, Dean Healy and Conor Ffrench making serious inroads.
All that said, they were only two points behind. Could they find a way to keep this effort up? The half-time score line read Avondale 0-7, St Patrick’s 1-6.
Interestingly, Avondale swapped out midfielders at half time with Ian McDonald replacing Barry Sheehan to pick up Healy.
However, it was the Murragh men who started the brightest in the second half.
Tommy Kelly popped a free over the bar before Matthew Traynor ventured forward to slip past the eye of the defence and had a shot palmed in to the path of that man Kelly, who finished to the net. When John Crowe added a point from the kick out, it was a seven-point gap.
A huge challenge lay ahead for Avondale, and they took right to it.
They had two goal chances that they needed to go in.
Conor McGraynor grabbed a kick out, set sail for the goals, hands it inside to sub Shane Beavor, he snatches it wide to the right.
Minutes later, Oisin McGraynor, this time bearing down on the St Pats goal, he shoots, a save from Shane Doyle, a scramble ensues and a free is given. Conor Byrne dispatches. Will they rue the missed chances?
St Patrick’s push forward, long ball to Kelly, over the bar. The ball is kicked out, Paul Earls rises and takes it forward, he flicks it in to Shane Murley who crosses the Avondale 21, he pops it to Dean Healy off the shoulder, tearing down the middle and he slams the ball to the net.
The killer blow is landed and Avondale will feel that one of those goal chances would have made all the difference. A quiet game by Healy’s high standards, but he still pops up at the vital times to land two majors.
Avondale fought, they banged three points over, Byrne with two and Conor McGraynor. At this point there was rumblings that this game wasn’t over yet. One huge push needed. Something needed to happen to drag Avondale back.
From here however, the St Pats machine that had been ticking away all through the game just continued to strangle the life out of the game. They added scores from Stephen Duffy and Kelly. The basics that they measure themselves on came to the fore – work rate, physicality, turnovers, ball retention. Everyone knew their job, worked their socks off and finished the game off.
Looking back, the writing may have been on the wall for Avondale at half-time, but they didn’t give up.
They carried ball, they contested everything with every fibre that they had. Did the extra-time exploits take it out of them? Was it just St Pats relentlessness that over came them? Who knows, but they left it all out there.
St Pats had some stand out performers on the day – Shane Murley, Matthew Traynor, Conor Ffrench, John Crowe, Tommy Kelly to name a few. In truth you could name more, but their work ethic all over the field was impressive.
They will now look forward to a chance to retain their crown. They have been the standard setters in the championship so far, and will hope to top off their unbeaten run in championship 2019 as county champions.
Star Performer – Tommy Kelly
Scorers – Avondale: Conor Byrne 0-4, Conor McGraynor 0-3, Ross Ward 0-3, Oisin McGraynor 0-1, Paddy Kinsella 0-1.
St Patrick’s: Tommy Kelly 1-5, Dean Healy 2-0, John Crowe 0-2, Ciaran McGettigan 0-2, Paul O’Brien 0-1, Stephen Duffy 0-1. AVONDALE: Brian Burke; Simon Cullen, Saoirse Kearon, Liam Kinsella; David Baker, Eoin Baker, Marc Baker; Dean Gahan, Barry Sheehan; Conor McGraynor, Oisin McGraynor, Zach Cullen; Ross Ward, Conor Byrne, Eugene Dunne. Subs: Ian McDonald for Barry Sheehan, Cian O’Hannain for Ross Ward, Shane Beavor for Eugene Dunne, Paddy Kinsella for Simon Cullen, Barry Sheehan for Dean Gahan.
ST PATRICK’S: Shane Doyle; Shane Murley, Matthew Traynor, Wayne Doyle; Ciaran Doyle, Conor Ffrench, Patrick O’Keane; Dean Healy, John Crowe; Paul O’Brien, Patrick McWalter, Ciaran McGettigan; Paul Earls, Stephen Duffy, Tommy Kelly. Subs: Johnny Delahunt for Ciaran McGettigan, Bryan Doyle for Paul Earles, Jordan Petticrew for Johnny Delahunt (Blood Sub), Niall Earles for Shane Murley, Conor O’Brien for Stephen Duffy, Aidan Dunne for Patrick McWalter.
REFEREE: Kieron Kenny (Tinahely)
Avondale’s Connor McGraynor jumps highest for this ball during the SFC semi-final in Aughrim.
Avondale’s Liam Kinsella comes under pressure from Dean Healy of St Patrick’s during the SFC semi-final.
Dean Healy tries to put pressure on Avondale’s Oisin McGraynor.
Avondale’s Zach Cullen surrounded by Shane Murley and Patrick O’Keane of St. Pats.