Emo buried the memories of last year’s disappointment by bouncing back to the Senior ranks at the first time of asking following a commanding win over Ballyroan Abbey on Sunday afternoon. Gerry McGill’s men controlled the majority of the game and they finished strongly to run out convincing winners.
Laois Intermediate Football Championship Final
Ballyroan Abbey 1-10
For Ballyroan Abbey it’s a case of déjà vu after they fell at the final hurdle for the second year running. Last year it was Killeshin who thwarted their efforts to get back amongst the big boys of Laois football, and although they showed plenty of fighting spirit in patches here, they were second best for too long.
Emo were most people’s tips to prevail, and despite an ideal start for Ballyroan who took the lead in the opening minute through a Jamie Whelan point, the favourites tag looked justified. Indeed, by the time Scott Conroy tapped over his side’s next score fifteen minutes later, Emo were five points to the good.
Paul Lawlor, supreme in midfield alongside captain Darren Strong got his side off the mark with an easy free a minute after Whelan’s opener and it was all one-way traffic for the next ten minutes. Evan Costello was Emo’s chief scorer on the day with 1-4, but he was the creator early on for Emo’s first goal. A long ball up field from Shane Murphy was gathered brilliantly by Costello who quickly fed Billy Sheehan. He was shepherded away from goal but the Kerry native spotted Conor Lawlor in space and Lawlor applied a low finish under the legs of Gary Scully.
Glenn Brophy added a fine score from play before another Paul Lawlor free left Ballyroan Abbey struggling for answers. Scott Conroy could have found one had his shot managed to find the other side of the right hand post after he was sent through on goal by a super Jamie Bartley ball but he made up for that with a handy free from close range.
Then came a five minute period that must have left both keepers looking for a large hole in the ground to swallow them up. First up was Emo’s Gerry McGill, their Donegal boss who had stepped in to fill the troublesome No.1 spot for his team, and done a mighty good job of it up to this point. However, he misjudged a Scott Conroy looping shot and spilled the ball into the path of Jamie Whelan. Robert Wilkinson got him out of jail with a fine goal-line save but McGill was adjudged to have tripped Whelan and Maurice Deegan immediately pointed to the spot.
Eoin Kearns charged up the park to take the spot kick, and he dispatched it in style, leaving McGill helpless with a bullet shot into the top right hand corner of the net. That cut the Emo lead to a single point and when Emo’s next generous gesture resulted in a straightforward free, Scott Conroy tapped over the equaliser with ease.
Evan Costello got off the mark with a well-taken free which was made a lot easier thanks to Gerry Scully’s dissenting comments, and then it was Ballyroan keeper Gary Scully’s turn to serve up a contender for a goalkeeping bloopers DVD. He did the first part of his task well by gathering a dropping ball and dumping an Emo man to the ground, but distracted by his handy work he lost concentration and Evan Costello nipped in to block his attempted pass, leaving the lively Emo forward to tap home into an empty net.
Paul Lawlor and Gerry Scully traded scores before Emo rounded off an impressive first half with the last two points of the opening half hour. Paul Lawlor’s first from play was a super effort casually struck from the edge of the ’45, and Evan Costello added another free in stoppage time to leave Ballyroan Abbey facing into a six-point deficit after the break.
They managed to do one-third of that task inside the opening three minutes of the second period thanks to two Scott Conroy scores, one from a free and the other after some neat Ballyroan build-up play but that was to be as close as they would get. The loss at that point of key man Eoin Kearns was a major blow and Emo kicked on to weather the mini-revival and secure their promotion at the first time of asking.
Four points without reply put pay to any suggestion of a comeback with Paul Lawlor, Shane Murphy and two from Evan Costello restored Emo’s dominance and by the time Ballyroan scored again, a full seventeen minutes after their last one, the game looked far beyond them. That score came from Padraig McMahon who gathered a quick free from sub Mark McDonald to leave seven between them with ten minutes left but Darren Strong rounded off a nice move with a neat point at the other end straight afterwards.
That would prove to be Emo’s final score of the game as they retreated to protect their lead, and although Ballyroan Abbey finished with three points on the bounce through Mark McDonald and two Scott Conroy frees. The late assault for a goal yielded nothing and Emo’s instant return to the top brass was secured.
SCORERS - Emo: Evan Costello 1-4 (0-3 frees), Paul Lawlor 0-5 (0-4 frees), Conor Lawlor 1-0, Glenn Brophy, Shane Murphy and Darren Strong 0-1 each; Ballyroan Abbey: Scott Conroy 0-6 (0-5 frees), Eoin Kearns 1-0, Gerry Scully, Jamie Whelan, Padraig McMahon and Mark McDonald 0-1 each.
EMO: Gerry McGill; Robert Wilkinson, Shane Carney, Brian Gorman; Michael Dowling, Paul Kirwan, Shane Murphy; Paul Lawlor, Darren Strong; Niall Wheeler, Billy Sheehan, Glenn Brophy; Nigel Murphy, Conor Lawlor, Evan Costello. Subs: Johnny Booth for P Kirwan (30 mins), David Gorman for C Lawlor (47 mins), Ray Ryan for N Murphy (57 mins), Marc Carney for Dowling (59 mins)
BALLYROAN ABBEY: Gary Scully; Mark Cahill, Eoin Kearns, Philip Shortall; Niall Wallace, Ruairi Dunne, Jamie Bartley; John Murphy, Padraig McMahon; Martin Scully, James Keegan, Ciaran Keegan; Gerry Scully, Scott Conroy, Jamie Whelan. Subs: Danny Donoghue for G Scully (30 mins), Mark McDonald for Kearns (42 mins). Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally)