HAVING been given a comfortable advantage as a result of
goals from Shaun Cranley and Kieran Sheehy, Eire Og were made to survive a
brave and dogged second-half comeback from Arklow Geraldines-Ballymoney to seal
their place in the under-20 A football championship final.
Greystones went into the break with a seemingly secure eight point lead following Sheehys well-worked early goal, followed up by a Cranley penalty.
AGB did not give up the ghost, however, and upped the
aggression and physicality in a heated second-half that saw Gavin OShea
black-carded for Eire Og. Ultimately, Eire Og escaped Kilcoole with the win, as
well as a place alongside Kilaveney in the final, despite the best efforts of
Such was the wet, greasy conditions that coated the turf on
Sunday afternoon, that there was a sense that the first score would prove
crucial in a game of small margins.
It would be the Greystones side who would get that first
notch through the boot of Kieran Sheehy. Half-back Cian Hynes played the ball into
the channel for Shaun Cranley, who held it up before finding Rory Lucy. He,
then, fed Conor Fulham, who released Sheehy to blast the ball into the back of
the AGB goal.
Eire Og may have fired the first shot across the bow, but it
was AGB who spent much of the next 15 minutes in control. Andy Maher’s three
frees, either side of a Sean Crowley point, reduced the gap to within just one
point, before Shaun Cranley landed a gut-punch of his own.
Moments after Cranley had seen a wicked strike bizarrely
bounce back into play off of the tip of the post, he found himself with the
chance to double his team’s goal tally following a goalmouth scramble that
ended with the referee awarding Greystones a penalty, an opportunity he would
not pass up.
The penalty seemed to suck the air out of AGB, as further
points from Dan Clarke, Gavin OShea, Fintan OShea, and Cillian Keane sent Eire Og
into the break with a commanding 2-06 to 0-04 lead.
That Cillian Keane score would be the last that Eire Og
would register in the game, as well as being the match-winning point, as AGB
mounted a dramatic comeback that would come just shy of salvaging the
Arklows salvage mission started five minutes into the second-half when, after Kieran Sheehy ad Conor Fulham had both notched wides, Andy Maher split the posts with a free.
Both sides would fall victim to the heated atmosphere of the
second-half, with Gavin OShea being shown a black card for Greystones. Alan
Merrigan, two Maher frees, and an exquisite Maher score from play closed the
gap to within a goal.
Eire Og were struggling to hold the ball under pressure from
an AGB team that sensed blood, and were trying to break the play up with
substitutions, with the introduction of Eoin ONeill being one example.
Peter Hempenstall reduced the arrears to just a point with a
terrific score from the 45-meter line after making a break-through midfield.
While his teammates were being challenged by the aggression
of their Arklow counterparts, Greystones Fintan OShea was a constant presence
in the middle of the park; winning battles and distributing possession to get
his side going.
It was his turnover in injury-time, as well as his winning
of a free after winning possession, was one of those vital breaks in the play
that maintained Eire Ogs advantage for long enough to see the game out.
Andy Maher would nail his seventh free of the day to make it
a one-point game deep into injury-time, but it would be too little, too late
for AGB. Despite their protestations, referee Eugene OBrien called time on
proceedings after three-minutes of additional time, sending Greystones to their
first under-20 A championship final ever.
Scorers: Eire Og: Shaun Cranley (1-1), Kieran Sheehy (1-0),
Gavin OShea (0-2), Cillian Keane (0-1), Dan Clarke (0-1), Fintan OShea (0-1).