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Intermediate Championship: Athlone v Milltownpass

posted 2 Aug 2015, 13:30 by Athlone GAA

01/08/2015 in Moate  

Athlone v Milltownpass  

The Intermediate Championship returned after its summer break when Athlone took on Milltownpass in the second round of matches in Moate on Saturday night.  Despite being expected to win comfortably against a team that has struggled in Division 2 this year, Athlone were unable to shake off their physical opponents and it was only as the game entered second half injury time that the two points were secured for the Sky Blues.

Starting with the aid of a strong wind, Athlone were quickly into their stride and, after a Milltownpass wide from the throw-in, Ray Connellan opened the scoring in the first minute with a fine solo score.  The resultant kick out was won in midfield and quickly returned to Connellan on the edge of the large square and he again showed his marker a clean pair of heels before coolly sliding the ball under the keeper to open up a four point lead for the Shannonsiders with less than two minutes played.

With this lightning start and the wind at their backs, Athlone looked set fair to build up a substantial lead, but instead it was the men in black and white who struck the next two points, the first after Athlone had given away possession from a free in their own half, to leave two between the sides at the 10 minute mark.  At this stage, Athlone were guilty of taking too much out of the ball when trying to launch attacks, but a return to the direct approach paid dividends when John Stapleton’s long ball into the corner released Connellan who set up Charlie McMickan to score the second goal with another cool finish to the net.

Just as after the first goal, Milltownpass responded well to this setback and scored their third point from a great effort from a free near the sideline.  A fourth followed immediately, even though the Athlone defence were adamant that the ball had gone wide, to leave just three points between the sides as the game approached the 20 minute mark.  A great John Stapleton point from distance, followed by another Ray Connellan solo effort after he was released by Stephen Ward’s long ball, restored the Shannonsiders’ five point lead approaching the interval, but the final two scores of the period came from Milltownpass to leave the half time score Athlone 2-3 Milltownpass 0-6.

Playing into the wind with only a three point advantage, Athlone needed to start the second half strongly and did so, dominating possession for the opening 10 minutes.  However some over-elaboration and poor decision making meant that they failed to extend their lead during this period and instead it was Milltownpass who opened the scoring with a superb effort from a lineball.  Another great effort from distance reduced the gap to the bare minimum and an upset looked on the cards.  Fortunately Athlone rediscovered their scoring touch before Milltownpass could draw level and a Ray Connellan point from the left wing was followed by a rasping effort from John Egan, before a Connellan point from a free after Egan had been the victim of high tackle left the Páirc Chiaráin men four points to the good midway through the half.

Any thoughts that this was the end of the Milltownpass challenge were quickly dispelled when they got in behind the Athlone defence but fortunately a clever chip went just over, rather than under, the bar.  Another free brought them back to within two but this was cancelled out by a close range Connellan free.  As the game entered its final 10 minutes, Athlone took control around the middle third but were unable to put the game beyond their opponents until veteran corner back Fergal Murray popped up at the far end and finished neatly.   As the game entered stoppage time, Ray Connellan closed Athlone’s account for the day when his powerful goal-bound effort was pushed over the bar by the keeper, before a Milltownpass point with the last kick of the game left Athlone victorious on a final scoreline of Athlone 2-9 Milltownpass 0-11.

Athlone:  Conal Sheeran, Eoin Maher, Damo Kelly, Fergal Murray (0-1), Danny Lynam, Noel Mulligan, Matty Darling, John Stapleton (0-1), Paul Bannon, Stephen Ward, Jordan Marshment, John Egan (0-1), Ray Connellan (1-6), Jack Quinn, Charlie McMickan (1-0).  Blood Sub: Dylan Lynch