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SFC Quarter Final Replay

posted 10 Oct 2016, 14:14 by Athlone GAA
Athlone 2-9 Mullingar Shamrocks 1-10

Athlone qualified for their first Senior Championship semi-final in thirteen years when a superb second half performance saw them turn a six point interval deficit into a two point winning margin in their quarter-final replay against Mullingar Shamrocks in Tubberclair on Wednesday night.

With a large crowd present to witness a rare midweek floodlit Championship match and perfect conditions underfoot, Athlone opened the scoring with a first minute John Connellan free after Jack Quinn had been fouled, but that was as good as it got for them in the early stages as Mullingar opened up a five point lead by the 15 minute mark with three points from play and a goal from a Seanie Daly penalty after Denis Corroon had been fouled.  John Connellan stemmed the flow with another point from a free to keep Athlone in touch, but Corroon responded in kind to restore Mullingar's five point advantage.  John Stapleton then struck Athlone's first point from play with an excellent score off the outside of his boot, but again this was cancelled out almost immediately by a similar Shamrocks score as Athlone struggled to deal with the pace and power of the Mullingar attacks.  John Connellan did add another fine score as the half entered its closing minutes, but Shamrocks continued to force the pace and two more points in injury time gave them a six point half-time lead, 1-7 to 0-4.

Athlone made a raft of positional changes during the break and got off to an ideal start with another Connellan free in the first minute, this time after Alan Gaughan had been fouled.  Now playing with the aid of the strong wind, and the positional changes taking effect in, the Shannonsiders seized the momentum and a superb long range effort from Jordan Marshment and another John Connellan free left just a goal between the sides with 20 minutes still to play.  As well as the tactical switches, Athlone were also to able to spring inter-county panellists Noel Mulligan and Ray Connellan from the bench in this period and it was these two who combined to bring the sides level with Athlone's first goal, as Connellan caught a Mulligan pass on the edge of the square and beat the keeper with a looping effort into the corner of the net.  The younger Connellan's arrival caused all sorts of problems for the Mullingar defence and lightning struck again two minutes later when he got on the end of a long ball from his brother John to punch Athlone into the lead with his second goal.  From six points down to three points ahead in 15 minutes, Athlone were in dreamland, but Shamrocks showed their quality and replied with three quick points to bring themselves back level with 10 minutes still to play.

The game was back in the melting pot at this stage, but to their credit Athlone did not panic at losing their lead so quickly and went back in front when the tireless Jordan Marshment sensibly fisted over the bar after the Shamrocks keeper had fumbled a high ball.  In response, Shamrocks cranked up the pressure again as they poured forward in search of an equaliser, but the Athlone defence did brilliantly not to foul and concede an easy frees, instead restricting Mullingar to some speculative long range shots, all of which went wide and instead it was Athlone who got the next score when John Connellan landed a long distance effort as the match entered injury time.  They say that a two point lead is the most dangerous in football and the three minutes of added time were excruciating for the large Athlone support as Shamrocks poured forward in search of the goal that would've given them the win.  Again superb tackling and covering from the Athlone defence prevented any clear Mullingar Shamrocks scoring opportunities and when a Shamrocks free from the 45 was caught under the crossbar and cleared by Ray Connellan, Athlone had done enough to earn an unlikely, but very much deserved, victory and a place in the semi-final v. Tyrrellspass in Cusack Park on Sunday.

Athlone:  Conor Devaney, Eoin Maher, Damien Kelly, Fergal Murray, Stephen Ward, Paul Bannon, Tom Egan, Alan Gaughan, Jordan Marshment (0-2), John Egan, Daniel Reid, John Stapleton (0-1), Matthew Darling, Jack Quinn, John Connellan (0-6)  Subs Used:  Noel Mulligan, Ray Connellan (2-0), Mickey Greene, Sam Omukoro.

SFC Semi-Final

Following their great win over Mullingar Shamrocks in the quarter-final replay, our Seniors play Tyrrellspass in the semi-final of the Senior Championship in Cusack Park, Mullingar this Sunday, October 16th at 2pm.  The large Athlone attendance in Tubberclair really helped the lads so please come out again and support them in what will be our first Senior semi-final since 2003.