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Leinster Club Intermediate Semi-Final:

posted 16 Nov 2015, 04:59 by Athlone GAA

Athlone 1-6 Glynn-Barntown (Wexford) 0-6 

Athlone qualified for the Leinster Intermediate Club Championship Final, the club’s first provincial final at this grade and second overall, when they overcame both the extremely difficult weather conditions and a physically strong and determined Glynn-Barntown side in Wexford on Sunday 15th November.  Despite the low scoring, this was an absorbing contest between two very committed sides that built up to a thrilling climax as Athlone struggled to turn possession into scores until very late in the game.

Playing into the teeth of an almost gale force wind in the opening period, containment was the name of the game for the visitors and to this end they adopted a defensive strategy, leaving only two players up forward, as they looked to restrict space and shooting opportunities in their own half.  This strategy worked very well in the opening stages as Athlone’s tigerish but disciplined tackling restricted the home team to long range efforts, which were off target in the windy conditions.  Indeed it was Athlone who came closest to opening the scoring , firstly when a Noel Mulligan effort, after a superb team move, was saved and then when a speculative effort from Tom Egan came back off the post.  Eventually Glynn-Barntown broke the deadlock with a point from play after 18 minutes, and they followed this up almost immediately with another fine score.  Athlone needed a response to break up the Wexford men’s momentum and that came from a Ray Connellan free, after another good move had ended with John Egan being high-tackled on the edge of the square.  Athlone would’ve been happy to be trailing by only one point as the first half entered its final five minutes, but the extra effort required to play against such a strong wind began to take its toll and a couple of turnovers in defence allowed the home team to add two more points and stretch the lead to three as the game ticked into first half injury time.  Athlone needed another response before half time and that came in the best possible manner, when Jordan Marshment cleverly fisted a Ray Connellan cross to the net to bring the sides level.  There was still time for Glynn-Barntown to regain the lead with another point deep into injury time, but it looked like advantage Athlone at the break, even though they trailed by 0-5 to 1-1.

With the wind finally at their backs after the interval, Athlone looked to seize the initiative from the off, but unfortunately they too were guilty of some poor shooting and instead it was Glynn-Barntown who opened the second half scoring with a fisted point after a good move.   John Connellan, who had been a revelation in a defensive role in the first half, was now restored to his more natural attacking position and he got the Blues on the board with a fine point after 38 minutes.   It looked like an equaliser was an inevitability, but instead the game entered an almost 20 minute scoreless period, as Athlone were unable to turn their possession into scores and Glynn-Barntown took too much out of their occasional counterattacks.  There were only three minutes left on the clock when John Connellan did eventually draw the sides level and shortly after the same player set up Matty Darling, a second half sub after battling injury for the past few months, and his cool finish put Athlone in front for the first time.  Glynn-Barntown launched a few more attacks but their continued reluctance to shoot allowed Athlone to turnover possession and, with gaps having opened up in the home team’s rearguard, they were able to exploit the space to add two more scores from the Connellan brothers to leave Athlone victorious on a final score of 1-6 to 0-6.

Team: Darren Costello, Eoin Maher, Damo Kelly, Fergal Murray, Danny Lynam, Noel Mulligan, Tom Egan, John Stapleton, Paul Bannon, Stephen Ward, Jordan Marshment (1-), John Egan, John Connellan (0-3), Ray Connellan (0-2), Daniel Reid. Subs used: Matthew Darling (0-1), Sam Omukoro, Joe Fallon, Mickey Greene, Jack Quinn