NOEL HORGAN REPORTS
THAT extra-time would be required to resolve the issue seemed most unlikely early in the second-half of the county U21B football championship final at Páirc Uí Rinn last Sunday.
Leading by 0-6 to 0-2 at the interval, Newcestown extended their advantage to five points within four minutes of the resumption, and they weren’t in the least bit flattered by the situation at that juncture.
Totally dominant in the first half, they could have been out of sight had they made better use of their chances before the break, as was pointed out by selector Niall O’Mahony afterwards.
‘With the possession and the chances we had, we should have wrapped the game up in the first half,’ he said, adding that they were fully confident they’d finish the job in the second half.
‘The mood was very positive in the dressing-room at half-time, and nobody could have expected such a swing in the trend of the play in the second half,’ admitted the Newcestown mentor.
O’Mahony felt fatigue was a factor in Newcestown’s dramatic fade-out, given that they have been involved at U21 level in both codes in recent weeks, while several of the squad are also members of the club’s double-seeking minor team.
‘It’s been a very demanding season for these players, but they showed their mettle in grinding out the win in extra-time today, and we’re immensely proud of them,’ he revealed.
It was largely a case of one-way traffic in the first half when Newcestown appeared to be toying with the opposition for long periods.
Possessing an imposing midfield pairing in Colm Dineen and Eoghan Collins, they were almost constantly on the offensive before the break, with central defenders Gearoid O’Donovan and, to a lesser extent, Colm O’Donovan regularly pushing forward to increase the pressure on an overworked Aghabullogue rearguard.
Much to Newcestown’s frustration, however, their finishing wasn’t on par with their impressive approach play, as they clocked up eight wides in the first half when Aghabullogue didn’t have a single shot off target.
For all that, the Carbery side led by 0-6 to 0-1 before Luke Casey bagged his second point from a free for Aghabullogue to complete the first-half scoring in the 24th minute.
Centre-back Gearoid O’Donovan and midfielder Eoghan Collins both got on the score-sheet for Newcestown during the opening period, while Edmund Kenneally, from a free, Padraig Collins and David Buckley, who posted a brace of exquisite points, were their other marksmen.
Buckley and Kenneally, from another free, quickly added to Newcestown’s tally after Luke Casey had posted Aghabullogue’s first score from play a minute into the second half, which served to increase the sense of inevitability about the outcome.
Remarkably, Newcestown didn’t raise another flag until Colm Dineen pointed to make it 0-9 to 0-8 in the 51st minute, and it could be argued they were guilty of resting on their laurels to a certain extent in the interim.
To do so, however, would be less than generous to gutsy Aghabullogue, for whom substitute Adam Murphy at midfield, Luke Casey, David Thompson and Niall Barry-Murphy up front, and Paul Dilworth, Paul Ring and the excellent Jack Murphy in the half-back line played leading roles.
The notion that Newcestown were back on course after Colm Dineen had ended their lengthy barren spell was soon to be dispelled, as Paul Dilworth equalised for Aghabullogue before ice-cool David Thompson converted a tricky free to negate a similar effort from Edmund Kenneally on the stroke of full-time.
Denied a major boost early in extra-time when Newcestown goalkeeper Shane Scanlon saved well from David Thompson, Aghabullogue had a hill to climb again after they fell three points behind in the first period.
David Buckley nudged Newcestown ahead in the 63rd minute before winning a free that yielded another point from Edmund Kenneally, who made it 0-13 to 0-10 prior to the change of ends.
Aghabullogue goalkeeper Daniel Lane had kept their hopes alive when foiling a goal-attempt by Newcestown’s Olan Walsh at the expense of a 45 in the 70th minute, and the Muskerry side underlined their admirable resolve as
they battled hard in a bid to pull the game out of the fire during the second period of extra-time.
The result was that Newcestown couldn’t afford to breathe easily until Edmund Kenneally registered his first score from play to stretch the gap to four points, effectively sealing a hard-earned win in the 79th minute.
Newcestown: E Kenneally 0-6 (5f); D Buckley 0-4; G O’Donovan, E Collins, P Collins, C Dineen 0-1 each. Aghabullogue: D Thompson 0-5 (5f); L Casey 0-4 (3f); M Bradley, P Dilworth 0-1 each.
Newcestown: S Scanlon; J Kelleher, C O’Donovan, D Buttimer; M Shorten, G O’Donovan, G Murphy; D Dineen, E Collins; D Buckley, C Goggin, S O’Sullivan; O Walsh, P Collins, E Kenneally. Subs: D McAree for O’Sullivan (59), O’Sullivan for Walsh, (70), C Wilson for McAree (67), Walsh for P Collins (black card, 80).
Aghabullogue: D Lane; K Barry-Murphy, C Smith, T Long; P Dilworth, P Ring, J Murphy; S Tarrant, S O’Connell; L Casey, N Barry-Murphy, P O’Sullivan; A Healy, D Thompson, T Bradley. Subs: M Bradley for O’Sullivan (22), A Murphy for Smith (black card, 30), K O’Sullivan for Healy (44), J Oldham for T Bradley (54), P O’Sullivan for Oldham (74), Healy for Dilworth (79).
Referee: C Murphy (Brian Dillons).