IFC COUNTY CHAMPIONS 2015
1st November in Pairc Chiarain
Leinster IFC Quarter Final
Athlone 1-12 O'Hanrahans (Carlow) 1-04
15th November TBC
Leinster IFC Semi Final
Athlone v Glynn Barntown (Wexford)
Leinster IFC 1st Round:
Athlone 3-12 Ballymanus (Wicklow) 0-8
Our Intermediate team qualified for the quarter-final of the Leinster Championship with a 13 point victory over Wicklow runners-up Ballymanus in scenic Aughrim on Sunday 18th October. Despite the scoreline, this was a mixed performance from Athlone, who really only put managed to finally pull away from their game but limited opponents in the final quarter.
After Ray Connellan's opening point had been matched by a Ballymanus free, a goal from a speculative John Stapleton effort that was fumbled over the line by the keeper and two further Connellan points seemed to indicate a comfortable afternoon for the Athlone supporters who made the long journey. However Ballymanus struck back and were unlucky not score a similar goal of their own when Darren Costello was caught out by a high ball, but luckily Damo Kelly was on the line to deflect the ball over the bar. Two more quick points from the Wicklow men reduced the gap to just two points, before the visitors seized back the initiative and finished the half strongly, with points from two Ray Connellan frees, John Connellan and Paul Bannon giving them a six point lead, 1-7 to 0-4, at the interval.
Ballymanus had the better of the opening stages of the second half and scored three of the first four points, Athlone's score in this period coming from John Connellan, to leave just four points between the sides with 20 minutes to play. This was a lot closer than the Blue would've liked it to be at this stage and Athlone certainly looked nervous, with a lot of passes finding their opponents rather than their own men. Fortunately Athlone had enough experience and quality to weather this storm and gradually regained their grip on the game, before finally making it safe when Jordan Marshment emphatically finished a superb move to the net. Ballymanus did get the next score but they had run out of steam as the game entered its final quarter and Athlone finished strongly with points from Mickey Greene and Ray Connellan, then a brilliant Connellan goal after another flowing move, and another point each from the same two players to leave Athlone victorious on a scoreline of 3-12 to 0-8.
Athlone: Darren Costello, Eoin Maher, Damo Kelly, Fergal Murray, Danny Lynam, Noel Mulligan, Tom Egan, John Stapleton (1-0), Paul Bannon (0-1), Stephen Ward, Jordan Marshment (1-0), Danny Reid, Dermot Bannon, Ray Connellan (1-7), John Connellan (0-2). Subs Used: Mickey Greene (0-2), Joe Fallon, Sam Omukoro, Dylan Lynch, Charlie McMickan, Declan Byrne.
Westmeath IFC Final:
Athlone 0-11 Tubberclair 0-9
Athlone captured their first ever Westmeath Intermediate football championship title and in so doing returned to the senior ranks at the first time of asking following last year's relegation, when they accounted for neighbours Tubberclair by a two point margin in Cusack Park. While the game was never a classic, it was a full blooded encounter between two very committed teams that built up to a gripping finale and was undeserving of a lot of the criticism that it attracted.
Athlone started the stronger of the two sides and dominated the early possession, but some uncharacteristic poor finishing meant that they had five wides on the board before they eventually opened the scoring after seven minutes with a Ray Connellan point. This was cancelled out shortly afterwards by a Tubberclair point after Fergal Murray had been dispossessed coming out of defence, but Connellan restored The Blues' lead from a free. Tubberclair had come much more into the game at this stage but, fortunately for Athlone, they had their own problems taking their chances and kicked several wides. Instead, after a long scoreless period, Noel Mulligan doubled the lead from a free after Athlone turned over at hop ball near the opposition goal that they had initially lost. Ray Connellan stretched the lead further with a superb point from the right sideline after substitute Sam Omukoru (on the for the injured Matty Darling) had done brilliantly to regain possession and older brother John Connellan completed the first half scoring with a typically neat finish to leave Athlone leading by 0-5 to 0-1 as the teams went to the dressing rooms.
Given their own experience in the semi-final, Athlone knew that it was nowhere near job done and so it proved when Tubberclair halved the deficit with two fine points from play in the opening minute of the second half. Roving wing-forward Stephen Ward did well to gather the ball and finish under pressure from several defenders to open Athlone's second half account, and the same player added another, with a Tubberclair point in between, to make the score 0-7 to 0-4 with 20 minutes remaining. The men in Green and Gold then enjoyed their best spell of the game with three scores to bring the sides level as the match entered its final quarter, and the roar from the stand that greeted the equaliser made it clear the hopes of the majority of neutrals were with the underdogs. Ray Connellan pushed Athlone back in front from a free, but that was quickly matched by a similar score from Tubberclair.
With being able to come back to draw level after scoring only once in the first half, and with the crowd behind them, it seemed that Tubberclair had the momentum needed to push on and win the game, but instead it was Athlone, who introduced experienced campaigners Joe Fallon and Mickey Greene to the forward line, who regained the initiative. Firstly, a patient move across the forward line led to Ray Connellan restoring their advantage, which was extended two minutes later by another classy John Connellan score. The Athlone forwards were getting more space as the game wore on and another good move led to a free, which was coolly converted by Joe Fallon to put three between them. Gary Connaughton did well to save a goal-bound Mickey Greene effort that would surely have put the game beyond Tubberclair, and when a long range effort bounced over the Athlone crossbar to leave two between them with two minutes remaining, the result was back in doubt, especially when three minutes injury time was announced. Athlone then put their supporters through hell with some questionable short and backwards passing in their own half as they attempted to run down the clock. This led to a turnover which in turn led to a final Tubberclair chance when they won a free 40 yards out from the Athlone goal. Fortunately there was not enough time remaining for two attacks so they were forced to play it short in the hope of creating a goal chance. Disciplined defending from virtually the whole Athlone team meant that they were unable to force a clear cut opportunity. Instead a speculative effort from distance was safely gathered by keeper Darren Costello, who was brought down as he tried to run the ball clear. The subsequent free was the final act of the game and Athlone had held on to win their first Westmeath Intermediate title on a scoreline of 0-11 to 0-9.
Scorers Ray Connellan 0-5, John Connellan 0-2, Stephen Ward 0-2, Noel Mulligan 0-1, Joe Fallon 0-1.
Athlone: Darren Costello, Eoin Maher, Damien Kelly, Fergal Murray, Daniel Lynam, Noel Mulligan (capt), Matty Darling, John Stapleton, Ray Connellan, Stephen Ward, Jordan Marshment, John Egan, Dermot Bannon, Paul Bannon, John Connellan.
Subs Used: Sam Omukoro, Michael Greene, Joe Fallon, Dylan Lynch.
Athlone Intermediate Team 2015
IFC Semi Final
Athlone 1-10 Rosemount 2-5
Our Intermediate team qualified for the club's first ever Intermediate Championship final after an intensely dramatic day's events, both on and off the pitch, in Cusack Park on Sunday. The start of the game was delayed when a member of our panel, Cathal Joyce, became seriously ill in the warm-up, but thankfully prompt action from a number of medical personnel and officials means that Cathal is recovering well (see below).
Athlone had qualified for the semi-final after relatively comfortable progress through the group stage but any thoughts that this serene progress was going to continue were quickly dispelled when Rosemount goaled in the first minute, after Athlone had turned over possession from a free deep in their own territory. A fine team move led to John Connellan opening the Blues' account with a point after four minutes but Athlone were struggling to get into the game and some more indecisive defending let Rosemount in for another goal, which they followed up with great point to lead by 2-1 to 0-1 with 10 minutes played. They added two more fine points to stretch their lead to eight before Noelly Mulligan got Athlone's second and final point of the half from a free. Rosemount were still well on top at this stage and added two more minor scores to leave us trailing by nine points, 2-5 to 0-2, at the interval.
A good start to second half was vital to Athlone and they got that when John Connellan scored within 30 seconds of the restart. Athlone then had major let-off when Rosemount struck the crossbar when a goal would almost certainly had put the game beyond them, and they responded with two frees from Ray Connellan and Noelly Mulligan. The Athlone defence had tightened up considerably at this stage and Rosemount weren't getting the chances they did in the first half, but scores were also hard to come by at the other end and there were still six points between the sides with twelve minutes remaining, although Ray Connellan was unlucky not to score a goal after a great run along the end line.
It really looked that Athlone had given themselves too much to as the game entered its final stages, but another John Connellan point give them hope. Noelly Mulligan followed this up with a free and substitute Mickey Greene scored a great solo point to bring the gap back to just one score. Athlone were now on top in most positions but still trailed by three as the game entered its final two minutes. The pressure was beginning to tell on the Rosemount defence, however, and John Connellan added a free before his brother Ray reduced the gap to a minimum with a great point from out on the sideline. An Athlone team, who would've been grateful for a draw up to this now felt that they could win it and they got their chance when Mickey Greene got pulled down in the square as the game ticked into injury time. John Connellan stepped up to take it, and while most people were discussing whether he should take a point, calmly blasted the ball to the Rosemount keeper's left to put Athlone ahead for the first time. There was still time for a couple of Rosemount attacks but, fortunately for the Shannonsiders, they were unable to add their total and Athlone held out to win on a scoreline of 1-10 to 2-5, a result nobody who witnessed the first half would've predicted.
Team: Darren Costello, Eoin Maher, Damo Kelly, Fergal Murray, Danny Lynam, Noelly Muligan, Mattie Darling, John Stapleton, Paul Bannon, Stephen Ward, Ray Connellan, Dermot Bannon, John Connellan, Jordan Marshment, John Egan. Subs: Sam Omukoro, Charlie McMickan, Mickey Greene
We wish Cathal Joyce a speedy recovery and wish to thank sincerely all those who assisted Cathal including Donal McCabe, First Responder from the Order of Malta, Dr. Patrick Boland a player with Rosemount, our own Colin O’Leary, a Garda trained in CPR. We also wish to thank Physios, Stacey Egan and Gerry Sommers from Milltown CLCG who as well as assisting Cathal stayed behind to help when our own Physio, James Joyce (brother of Cathal) accompanied him to hospital. The Club is extremely grateful for everyone's assistance and support.
Sunday 23rd August at 5.30pm in Milltown
Athlone v Castletown Finea Coole Whitehall CFCW
Athlone 0-16 Tubberclair 1-07
Athlone made it three wins from three in the 2015 Intermediate Football Championship following a deserved win over Tubberclair in Hogan Park, Moate on Tuesday evening last. The win however came at a cost with goal keeper Conal Sheeran removed from the pitch on a stretcher having sustained a serious knee injury following an innocuous looking challenge late in the second half. We wish Stretch well in his recovery and hope to see him in sky blue sooner rather than later.
The game started in a low key manner as the crowds were still making their way in for the early throw in and it was Tubberclair who raised the first white flag with a fine point from midfield. This would be the only time that Athlone were behind in the contest and following a five minute “settling in” period the Blues finally registered their first score with a 45 from Noel Mulligan. The teams then traded points before a Ray Connellan free and a sweet point from John Egan put Athlone two in front. The rest of the half was a tense affair as scoring chances went a-begging for both sides with Tubberclair guilty of some poor placed ball misses. At the half time whistle each team had tacked on two further points each to leave the score 0-06 to 0-04.
Whatever was said in the dressing room at half time seemed to have the desired effect on the Athlone lads as they hit the ground running and tacked on four quick-fire points within five minutes of the restart. Two scores from play from Ray Connellan (fist) and John Stapleton were book ended by two frees from the deadly accurate boot of Noel Mulligan. This left six points between the teams and seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Tubberclair lads. However a well taken score from the Tubberclair corner forward seemed to rouse them but just as their confidence seemed to be returning, Jordan Marshment grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and kicked a hat-trick of points of the highest quality, one from the right, one from the left and one from dead centre. The contest was effectively over at this point as there was eight points between the teams and Athlone were dominating possession. It was at this point, however, that Conal sustained his injuries and the sight of their stricken colleague as he received prolonged attention from the medics seemed to knock the lads off their stride and when play resumed they were very lucky not to concede a goal, only for Darren Costello to make his first meaningful contribution by parrying a shot out for a 45 that was duly dispatched over the bar. Two more frees from the ever reliable Noel Mulligan were followed by the only major of the game as a loose ball from the advancing Athlone half back line was launched in to the Athlone square where the ball was bundled to the net as the exposed full back line back tracked. A final free from Noel brought his personal tally to six points and left the final score 0-16 to 1-07. Overall, there were many positives to be taken from the game, particularly the second half display where the lads notched up ten points but the lads will know that there will have to be improvements as they enter the business end of the championship.
The Athlone team on the night was: Conal Sheeran, Eoin Maher, Damien Kelly, Fergal Murray, Daniel Lynam, Noel Mulligan (0-6, 0-5f, 0-1 ’45), Matthew Darling, John Stapleton (0-1), Paul Bannon, Stephen Ward, Jordan Marshment (0-4), John Egan (0-1), Ray Connellan (0-4, 0-2f), Jack Quinn & Charlie McMickan. Subs used: Darren Costello for Conal Sheeran.
Athlone 2-9 Milltownpass 0-11
The Intermediate Championship returned after its summer break when Athlone took on Milltownpass in the second round of matches in Moate on Saturday night. Despite being expected to win comfortably against a team that has struggled in Division 2 this year, Athlone were unable to shake off their physical opponents and it was only as the game entered second half injury time that the two points were secured for the Sky Blues.
Starting with the aid of a strong wind, Athlone were quickly into their stride and, after a Milltownpass wide from the throw-in, Ray Connellan opened the scoring in the first minute with a fine solo score. The resultant kick out was won in midfield and quickly returned to Connellan on the edge of the large square and he again showed his marker a clean pair of heels before coolly sliding the ball under the keeper to open up a four point lead for the Shannonsiders with less than two minutes played.
With this lightning start and the wind at their backs, Athlone looked set fair to build up a substantial lead, but instead it was the men in black and white who struck the next two points, the first after Athlone had given away possession from a free in their own half, to leave two between the sides at the 10 minute mark. At this stage, Athlone were guilty of taking too much out of the ball when trying to launch attacks, but a return to the direct approach paid dividends when John Stapleton's long ball into the corner released Connellan who set up Charlie McMickan to score the second goal with another cool finish to the net.
Just as after the first goal, Milltownpass responded well to this setback and scored their third point from a great effort from a free near the sideline. A fourth followed immediately, even though the Athlone defence were adamant that the ball had gone wide, to leave just three points between the sides as the game approached the 20 minute mark. A great John Stapleton point from distance, followed by another Ray Connellan solo effort after he was released by Stephen Ward's long ball, restored the Shannonsiders' five point lead approaching the interval, but the final two scores of the period came from Milltownpass to leave the half time score Athlone 2-3 Milltownpass 0-6.
Playing into the wind with only a three point advantage, Athlone needed to start the second half strongly and did so, dominating possession for the opening 10 minutes. However some over-elaboration and poor decision making meant that they failed to extend their lead during this period and instead it was Milltownpass who opened the scoring with a superb effort from a lineball. Another great effort from distance reduced the gap to the bare minimum and an upset looked on the cards. Fortunately Athlone rediscovered their scoring touch before Milltownpass could draw level and a Ray Connellan point from the left wing was followed by a rasping effort from John Egan, before a Connellan point from a free after Egan had been the victim of high tackle left the Páirc Chiaráin men four points to the good midway through the half.
Any thoughts that this was the end of the Milltownpass challenge were quickly dispelled when they got in behind the Athlone defence but fortunately a clever chip went just over, rather than under, the bar. Another free brought them back to within two but this was cancelled out by a close range Connellan free. As the game entered its final 10 minutes, Athlone took control around the middle third but were unable to put the game beyond their opponents until veteran corner back Fergal Murray popped up at the far end and finished neatly. As the game entered stoppage time, Ray Connellan closed Athlone's account for the day when his powerful goal-bound effort was pushed over the bar by the keeper, before a Milltownpass point with the last kick of the game left Athlone victorious on a final scoreline of Athlone 2-9 Milltownpass 0-11.
Athlone: Conal Sheeran, Eoin Maher, Damo Kelly, Fergal Murray (0-1), Danny Lynam, Noel Mulligan, Matty Darling, John Stapleton (0-1), Paul Bannon, Stephen Ward, Jordan Marshment, John Egan (0-1), Ray Connellan (1-6), Jack Quinn, Charlie McMickan (1-0). Blood Sub: Dylan Lynch
21 June Pairc Chiarain
ACFL Division 1
Athlone 3-13 Caulry 1-05
After watching the hurlers of Kilkenny and Tipp put up big scores on Sunday afternoon it was a little more surprising to see the Athlone team put up a score of 3-13 against Caulry later in the evening. The half time score-line of 0-06 to 0-04 belied the host of chances missed by both sides. A couple of fine saves from the Caulry keeper denied what looked certain goals from Sam Omukoro and Jordan Marshment. Athlone had their own double let-off when firstly, a low drive came back off the post, but even more fortuitous was just when the rebounded effort as about to cross the goal line, a last second tap in from a Caulry forward caused the goal to be ruled out for a square ball (Cue a five minute debate in the crowd over the square ball rule. It appeared to this onlooker that neither side of the debate seemed to know said rule but that’s the joys of the GAA!!). The pick of the first half scores came from a typically lung bursting run from Stephen Ward and a Jack Quinn effort where he won the ball over the full back's head and split the posts, a real full-forward's point.
Athlone started the second half with real intent. A fine individual point from Paul Bannon was followed by a brace from Charlie McMickan and the first green flag was raised when Jack Quinn finished to the net after a good pass for Sam Omukoro. Further points from Eoin Maher (a collector’s item) and Tadhg Prendergast left the score-line at 1-11 to 0-04 and Athlone seemed to be cruising. Caulry scored the next point with a fine solo run down the Athlone spine before Dylan Lynch capped a fine individual performance by finishing off a lovely team move. The next score came from the penalty spot as Athlone keeper Conal Sheeran mistimed his jump for a high ball and caught the Caulry forward late. Niall Ward had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and the kick was duly dispatched to leave the score 1-12 to 1-5. This turned out to be the last score for the lads from Mount Temple as Athlone pushed on. Another Stephen Ward special from distance was followed by Athlone’s second major when Jordan Marshment palmed to the net from two yards following a flowing move. Caulry were unlucky not to register their own green flag when a palmed effort came back off the Athlone crossbar following a 45. Athlone finished the scoring as the Caulry backline was once again exposed by the impressive Athlone full forward line who combined to set up Jack Quinn for goal number three. Overall this was a fine result for the lads but they know there is plenty of work to be done.
The Athlone team was: Conal Sheeran, Fergal Murray, Damien Kelly, Eoin Maher (0-1), Daniel Lynam, Noel Mulligan (0-2), Rory Donnellan, Stephen Ward (0-2), Paul Bannon (0-1), Jordan Marshment (1-0), Shane Kilroy-Glynn, Dylan Lynch (0-1), Tadhg Prendergast (0-2), Sam Omukoro, Jack Quinn (2-1), Subs used: Charlie McMickan (0-3), Eoin Jordan, Joe Fallon and Andy Lynam.