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ACFL Div 1 Athlone v Shandonagh

posted 13 Jun 2019, 14:21 by Athlone GAA

ACFL Division 1:

 Athlone 4-8 Shandonagh 1-17    

 Our senior team will play in Division 2 of next year’s All County Football League, after being relegated following a draw with Shandonagh in their final league game, played in Shandonagh on Sunday morning.  Athlone needed to beat their hosts to stay up on the head to head rule, but in the end a 63rd minute equaliser condemned them to the second tier of the league in 2020.

 Athlone got off to an ideal start with a free from Kieran Colclough from their first attack, but scores were hard to come by in the edgy opening minutes and it took until the eighth minute before Ryan Gaffey doubled his side’s lead, before Colclough gave his side a huge boost with a fine solo goal.  Gaffey added his second to put his side six points up after 15 minutes and things were looking good for the visitors, but they then surrendered the initiative as Shandonagh struck four quick-fire points followed by a well-taken goal to take the lead with five minutes remaining in the half.  Athlone struggled to respond to this setback and three further points before the break gave Shandonagh a half-time lead of 1-7 to 1-3.

 After being under the cosh for the second quarter, Athlone took advantage of the break to regroup and they were level within two minutes of the restart, through a pointed free and superb goal, both from Colclough.  They then went agonisingly close to grabbing a third goal, but Gaffey’s close range effort went just wide of the post.  Shandonagh took advantage of this reprieve to regain the lead, but Gaffey made up for his miss with two excellent scores to put his ahead by a point.  Josh Beaumont did get his side’s third goal when he beat the keeper to a speculative ball from John Stapleton, but Athlone were unable to build on this and three consecutive Shandonagh points reduced the lead to the minimum again.  Wing-back James Finlass lifted the siege with a rare score and when Gaffey fisted to the net to finish off a slick move, Athlone led by five with 10 minutes remaining and looked set to grab the win needed to ensure their top-flight participation in 2019.  However, a determined Shandonagh side refused to accept this and they hit four points in four minutes to bring themselves back to within a point with time almost up.  A free which would’ve brought them level appeared to be drifting wide, but they kept the ball in play and won another free in front of goal, which was tapped over to bring the sides level, which meant Athlone had to find a winner to stay up.  It looked like they had done that 90 seconds into injury-time when John Stapleton swung over a super point after a patient move, but Athlone failed to close the down the resultant kickout and the home side worked the ball into the scoring zone, before striking the crucial equaliser that sealed the draw they required in stay in Division One, whilst sending Athlone down in the process.

 Athlone:  Conal Sheeran, Daniel Lynam, Tom Egan, Matthew Darling, Eoin Maher, Diarmuid Martin, James Finlass (0-1), Jordan Marshment, John Stapleton (0-1), Ryan Gaffey (1-3), Shane Allen, Donagh Prendergast, Josh Beaumont (1-0), Benny Martin, Kieran Colclough (2-3) Subs Used:  Sean Dowd, Paul Bannon, Damien Kelly.