Graiguecullen’s grip on their ACFL Division 1 crown was loosened on Saturday night, as they lost by one point to Arles-Killeen.
The defeat means last year’s champions must win their final two games and hope for those above them to slip up if they are to make a semi-final.
There were a couple of interesting subplots to this game, with Arles-Killeen the team Graiguecullen beat in last year’s league final, while the Killeen manager, Joe Higgins, was over Graigue in 2013.
Things weren’t looking good for the hosts in the first half, as they trailed to a Danny Alsybury goal. It came about when Alsybury was quick to react to a mistake in the Killeen penalty area, and it allowed Graiguecullen a bit of leeway at the break, 1-5 to 0-5 the score.
The game turned on its head midway through the second half, as Arles-Killeen substitute Billy O’Loughlin saw his long ball into the danger area evade Patrick Scully and nestle in the back of the net.
Things went from back to worse for Scully soon after, as he was shown a straight red card, leaving Graiguecullen with a mountain to climb. They couldn’t scale it, however, losing by one point in the end.
This win leaves Arles-Killeen just one point behind Arles-Kilcruise and Stradbally in the league table. They face relegation strugglers Timahoe and Crettyard in their final two games and if they should win both of these while those above them slip up, they will make the next phase..
Graiguecullen’s title defence looks all but over. They must beat Arles-Kilcruise and Ballyroan Abbey in their final two games and hope that all three teams above them slip up if they are to have any chance.
SCORERS - Arles-Killeen: Jason Enright 0-3 (0-1 free), Conor Keightley, Sean O’Shea 0-2 each, Billy O’Loughlin 1-0, Beano McDonald 0-1. Graiguecullen: Danny Alsybury 1-1, Mark Doogue 0-3 (0-2 frees), Ambrose Doran 0-2, Lee Timmons 0-1
ARLES-KILLEEN: Mick Leigh; James Mahon, Paul McDonald, Niall O’Rourke; Enda O’Rourke, Joe Mulhare, Brendan O’Shea; Shane Julian, John Mahon; Dermot Julian, Seán O’Shea, Eamon Mahon; Conor Keightley, Jason Enright, Beano McDonald. Subs: Billy O’Loughlin for B McDonald (45 mins), Donie Brennan for E Mahon (55 mins)
GRAIGUECULLEN: Patrick Scully; Stephen Alsybury, Terry Haughney, Bobby Doyle; Shane Alyward, Liam Kearney, Pauric Murphy; Ian Fleming, Michael Hand; Lee Timmons, Patrick Murphy, Bobby Doogue; Danny Alsybury, Ambrose Doran, Mark Doogue. Subs: Jamie Malone for Alyward (5 mins), Aaron Forbes for Hande (57 mins)
Referee: Davy Moore (St Joseph’s)