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SFC Athlone v St. Malachys

posted 19 Apr 2016, 04:34 by Athlone GAA
17/4/2016 in R'Bridge 
Athlone 0-13 St Malachy’s 1-09 

Athlone’s return to the senior ranks proved anything but smooth as they relied on three very late points to clinch a fortuitous win by the minimum margin against a strong and resilient St. Malachy’s team. Played in bright but chilly conditions at a very well turned out Fr. Eamonn O’Brien Park, Rochfortbridge on Sunday afternoon last, Athlone played with the wind in the first half and at times played some good football but mixed that up with periods of loose play.

Athlone started brightly and were ahead inside two minutes when the ever reliable John Connellan pointed from a placed ball following a foul on Stephen Ward. Malachy’s replied in kind following a foul by Damien Kelly and the sides traded two more frees to leave the sides level after 11 minutes. The next ten minutes were Athlone’s best period of the afternoon as they added five unanswered points. On 12 minutes John Connellan finished off a flowing move with a well taken point which was followed immediately from the kick out with another by the industrious Stephen Ward. Two more points from frees (one by Ray, another by John) sandwiched an opportunist point from Jordan Marshment who was first to react after a John Connellan free came back off the upright. On twenty four minutes, Athlone again opened up the Malachy’s defence and John Connellan elected for precision over power but his goal bound shot was excellently saved by the Malachy’s net minder. This seemed to inspire the Malachy’s lads and they kicked three unanswered points to leave the score at the break 0-07 to 0-05.

The half ended on a worrying note as the Malachy’s full back was forced off with what looked like a concussion, following an accidental collision with an Athlone player. We wish him well in his recovery and all present were happy to see that he was conscious and talking to the paramedics as he was brought off in the ambulance.

The second half started in similar vein to the first with Athlone on the front foot and they tacked on a well taken point from play from the busy Ray Connellan to leave three between the teams. However, as was becoming a recurring theme, Athlone lost their own kick out and conceded a cheap score almost immediately. The teams traded two points from play, Athlone’s coming from John Egan, before another great goal chance was spurned on 35 minutes. Following a superb ball from John Connellan, younger brother Ray fielded the ball above the full back and rounded his man before unleashing a rocket of a shot that flashed over the bar when most of the crowd expected the net to bulge. Remarkably, this was to be Athlone’s last point in normal time. Twenty five minutes would pass before Athlone raised another white flag. Following that point, Athlone led by four points and this seemed a platform to build on but three pointed frees from Malachy’s left the minimum between the sides, the last free coming after Damien Kelly received a harsh black card for an over robust challenge that warranted a yellow card in the view of most of the onlookers. On 53 minutes Athlone spurned another goal chance as Ray and substitute Sam Omukoro conspired to miss when it looked easier to score. This proved costly as Malachy’s raised the only green flag of the day on 55 minutes. Again it was a cheap score to give away as Athlone turned over the ball after carrying the ball into contact. Two hand-passes and one thirty yard high ball in to the box later and the the Athlone goal was breached. The momentum was totally with Malachy’s at this point and a couple of wayward shots let Athlone off the hook and these were to prove to be costly as on 60 minutes Ray Connellan pointed from a re-taken free (following encroachment by the Malachy’s defender) before he tied the score with a superb individual score. With time running down, Malachy’s threw everyone forward in search of a winner but some resolute and disciplined defending from the Athlone lads saw the ball turned over and a high ball from Ray Connellan left John Stapleton bearing down on goal with the defence scampering and Sticks duly obliged for the Blues with a point that turned out to be the final act of the game.

A win is a win and this match was never going to be pretty but the lads will know that a significant improvement will be required in the next outing. However, one must praise the never say die attitude that saw Athlone score three times in injury time to win it at the death. This augurs well for future battles.  

The Athlone team on the day was: Darren Costello, Eoin Maher, Damien Kelly, Fergal Murray, Daniel Lynam, Noel Mulligan, Tom Egan, Stephen Ward (0-1), Jack Quinn, John Stapleton (0-1), Paul Bannon, John Egan (0-1), Jordan Marshment (0-1), Ray Connellan (0-5,2f), John Connellan (0-4, 3F).

Subs used: Daniel Reid for Jack Quinn (44mins), Sam Omukoro for Damien Kelly (Black Card, 50 mins)