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U21 Championship

posted 11 Oct 2015, 13:42 by Athlone GAA
Sat 10th October (Pairc Chiarain) 

Athlone 3-13 Tubberclair 2-12 

Our U21 team began their championship campaign when they overcame defending champions Tubberclair in a thriller in Páirc Chiaráin on Saturday evening.  Despite a superb start, Athlone were pushed to the pin of their collar by the holders and it took a great second half rearguard action before the victory was secured.

Athlone came flying out of the blocks and had a dream start when Ryan Gaffey goaled in the first minute. The same player added a fine point soon after, before Charlie McMickan increased the lead when he finished a great team move with another well-taken point.  A minute later, a brilliant through ball by young midfielder Danny Reid released Gaffey, whose typically cool finish stretched the lead to eight.  The interplay of the small but skilful Athlone forwards was a joy to watch throughout the game and, after another flowing move had been halted illegally, McMickan added the free to leave the home side 2-3 to 0-0 ahead after 10 minutes.

Gradually the bigger and physically stronger Tubberclair team began to get on top around the middle third and they got back into the game with a close-range goal after a long ball in had taken  a cruel bounce in front of Conor Devaney.  One minute later, a high ball from a free found its way to the net after more confusion in the home defence and the visitors were right back in the game.

The home side were under a lot of pressure at this stage as Tubberclair dominated possession and began to take their chances after some wayward early shooting, but fortunately the home forwards were very sharp when they did get their hands on the ball and great points from Richie Greene, Ray Connellan, Charlie McMickan and Danny Reid meant that the held on to lead by the minimum, 2-7 to 2-6, after a thrilling first half.

Athlone started the second half brightly when Richie Greene neatly finished off a nice move straight from the throw-in, but the hosts were rocked when midfielder Jordan Marshment was sent off a minute later, after an incident near the sideline.  The 14 men responded well, with another McMickan free, but three consecutive Tubberclair points brought the sides level with 20 minutes remaining.

The momentum appeared to be with the Green and Gold against the 14 men, but, just as in Sunday's Intermediate Final, Athlone responded well to being pegged back.  An Aidy Byrne point put them back in front, and this was followed almost immediately by a Connellan free, before the subsequent kick out was won in midfield and sent back in to Byrne, who got behind the defence to score Athlone's third goal.  This left the Blues leading by 3-11 to 2-9 with 45 minutes played.

Tubberclair dominated possession for the final quarter, but, due to some superbly disciplined defending by the extremely hard-working Athlone full-back and half-back lines, they only had two further points to show for their efforts as the game entered injury time.  A Ray Connellan free that stretched the lead to four points after 61 looked like being the insurance score, but there was still time to be played after Tubberclair pulled back a point on 64 minutes.  Eventually a Connellan free in the 68th minute put the game out of reach of the visitors and left Athlone the victors on a scoreline of 3-13 to 2-12.

Team: Conor Devaney, Jack Ruane, Danny Lynam, Eoghan O'Reilly, Shane Galvin, Stephen Ward, Shay Byrne, Daniel Reid (0-1), Jordan Marshment, Tadhg Prendergast, Charlie McMickan (0-4), Ryan Gaffey (2-1), Aidy Byrne (1-1), Ray Connellan (0-4), Richie Greene (0-2).  Subs used: Fionn Dowd, Tommy McCoy.  Unused: Sam Omukoro, Matty Darling, Conor Melinn, Neil Scally, Kieran Rigney.