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Junior Championship Playoff

posted 12 Sep 2017, 09:09 by Athlone GAA
​​​​​10/9/2017 - Cusack Park, Mullingar

Athlone 1-7 Shandonagh 0-8

Athlone’s junior men’s team qualified for the knockout stages proper of the junior championship when they held off a stern Shandonagh challenge in a thrilling playoff game, played in appalling weather conditions in TEG Cusack Park on Sunday.  Despite the low scoring, this was a very exciting encounter, played out by two fiercely committed teams, in conditions that made good football very difficult

Starting with the aid of a very strong wind, Athlone created plenty of opportunities in the opening minutes, but were guilty of some wasteful shooting and trailed by a point before finally getting on the scoreboard after 12 minutes with a brilliantly worked goal.  A long pass from Benny Martin found Richie Greene and he set up Diarmuid Martin, who finished coolly to the net.  Shandonagh replied with their second point, but Athlone’s accuracy improved after their shaky start and well-taken points from Sean Dowd and Richie Greene put them a goal to the good after 20 minutes.  Shandonagh again narrowed the gap with a point, and although Athlone finished the half strongly with points from Richie Greene and Joe Fallon, it did not look like the four-point interval lead would be enough in the conditions.

The second half began in a similar manner to the first, with the team playing with wind advantage dominating, but being unable to convert their possession into scores, although it was mainly superb defending from the Athlone backs, rather than poor shooting that kept Shandonagh scoreless for the first 10 minutes.  However, after they did finally get off the mark, they quickly added two more points to reduce Athlone’s lead to the minimum with a quarter of the game still to play.  To their credit, Athlone didn’t panic and they finally opened their second half account an excellent Richie Greene point after a really patient passing move.  Shandonagh struck the next point to leave just one between them again, but again Greene kept Athlone’s noses in front with a close range point after a good turnover by Luke Dully.  A 57th minute Shandonagh point made it a one-point game and it looked like an equaliser was inevitable, but the Athlone defence did brilliantly to prevent this and Greene struck another fine point after a minute of injury to seemingly make the game safe for Athlone.  However, there was still time for a very late scare when a final Shandonagh attack saw a high ball lofted in to the square, but rookie keeper Luke Kelly did superbly to keep it out of the net under pressure from the big opposition full-forward.

In Athlone’s previous games, it was the forwards who received the plaudits as they ran up big scores, but this game was won on the back of a superb defensive performance.  Despite the wet and windy conditions, the handling and distribution of young keeper Luke Kelly was very assured, while in front of him, the now settled full-back line of Eoin Fahey, Andy Lynam and Shane Galvin kept tabs on the lively Shandonagh inside forwards.  Half-backs Eoin Jordan, Emmet Collins, Michael Doolan and Rory Donnellan (when introduced), were impressive defensively and in launching attacks, while up front, Richie Greene kicked some fine opportunist scores when Athlone most needed them.  Athlone now face Delvin the quarter-final in Kinnegad on Wednesday, September 13th at 6.45pm.

Athlone:  Luke Kelly, Shane Galvin, Andy Lynam, Eoin Fahey, Eoin Jordan, Emmet Collins, Michael Doolan, Colin O’Leary, Diarmuid Martin (1-0), David Cleary, Joe Fallon (0-1), Sean Dowd (0-1), Darren Costello, Benny Martin, Richie Greene (0-5) Subs Used:  Rory Donnellan, Luke Dully, Shane Kilroy-Glynn, Dermot Bannon, Sam Omukoro, Cathal Joyce.
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