O’Dempsey’s held off a late surge from Ballylinan to claim the final automatic place in the Senior Football Championship quarter-finals on Sunday evening.
Laois Shopping Centre SFC Rd 2
Six points up with ten minutes to go, they looked set to cruise over the finishing line but, as was the case in most of the games over the weekend, there was a sting in the tail as Ballylinan came back strongly kicking five of the last six points. Unfortunately for Ballylinan, they couldn’t craft the goal they so desperately needed as O’Dempsey’s held on for the win.
Both sides had goal chances throughout the game but thanks to some fine goalkeeping, timely blocks and errant shooting, the ball only hit the back of the net once and that goal from Eoin Finlay for O’Dempsey’s on the stroke of half-time proved to be the pivotal score.
O’Dempsey’s were the better team over the hour but they went into their shell in the closing minutes and nearly paid the price. Their full-forward line of Michael Finlay, Eoin Finlay and Brian Nugent were very impressive scoring 1-9 between them while subs Rory Bracken and Matthew Finlay kicked a crucial point apiece late in the game.
Defensively they were very impressive with the battle between Peter O’Leary and Gary Walsh an excellent side show as two talented players went head to head for the hour.
The concession of 1-4 either side of half-time is what cost Ballylinan. They battled well over the hour and had the momentum at the end but ultimately they left themselves too big a mountain to climb.
After a close fought first-half, O’Dempsey’s went to the break a goal to the good as Eoghan Finlay rattled the back of the net from close range on the stroke of half-time.
Up to that there had been little to chose between the sides. Ballylinan started quickly into the gusting wind with Alan Farrell opening the scoring inside the first minute. Padraig Walsh doubled the advantage two minutes later before Michael Finlay opened O’Dempsey’s account.
A Gary Walsh free put two between the sides again after nine minutes but Ballylinan would then go 14 minutes without a score. At the other end, O’Dempsey’s kept the scoreboard ticking over with Brian Nugent, Eoin Finlay, Ed Kelly and Michael Finlay all finding the target.
Both sides had goal chances in the first-half but the respective goalkeepers, Padraig Bannon and Darren Burke, both made good saves. Gary Walsh also had a good chance but he was blocked just as he shot by Peter O’Leary.
Walsh did slot over a free after 23 minutes to reduce the gap to one and that’s how it remained coming up to half-time after Brian Nugent and Cathal Dunne exchanged points.
Just before the break, the goal that had been threatened finally arrived and it was O’Dempsey’s who were the beneficiaries as Eoin Finlay fielded a high ball before turning and drilling an unstoppable shot past Darren Burke.
They built their advantage early in the second-half with four unanswered points, two from Brian Nugent and one apiece from Michael and Eoin Finlay. That left them 1-10 to 0-6 ahead and it should have been a formality to close out the game from that position.
However, as teams tend to do when they build a big lead, O’Dempsey’s began to drop deep and Ballylinan pushed on and set about getting back into the game.
A point from a free from Gary Walsh was followed by an excellent long range effort from Ciaran Farrell. Two points apiece followed to leave six between the sides entering the final ten minutes but Ballylinan were building a head of steam and they almost pulled off an unlikely win.
Cathal Dunne and Robbie Donaher found the target but Matthew Finlay responded for O’Dempsey’s with his first touch. That left five between the sides entering the last five minutes but Jamie Farrell, Gary Walsh and Andy McEvoy all found the target to reduce the gap to just two points entering injury-time.
Ballylinan pushed forward in search of a match winning goal but time ran out on them as O’Dempsey’s scrapped home with a two point win.
Scorers: Ballylinan: Gary Walsh 0-5f; Cathal Dunne 0-2; Alan Farrell 0-2; Ciaran Farrell 0-1; Padraig Walsh 0-1; Robbie Donaher 0-1; Jamie Farrell 0-1; Andy McEvoy 0-1. O’Dempsey’s: Eoin Finlay 1-2; Brian Nugent 0-4 (0-2f); Michael Finlay 0-3; Ed Kelly 0-1; Rory Bracken 0-1; Matthew Finlay 0-1.
Ballylinan: Darren Burke; Marc Garrett, Cathal Leonard, Conor Behan; Eric Kenna, Padraig McEvoy, Robbie Donaher; John Kealy, Ciaran Farrell; James Redmond, Alan Farrell, Jamie Farrell; Gary Walsh, Padraig Walsh, Cathal Dunne. Subs: Andy McEvoy for Marc Garrett (40mins); Brian Kenna for Padraig Walsh (54mins); Niall Walsh for Conor Behan (54mins)
O’Dempsey’s: Padraig Bannon; Stephen O’Leary, Cormac O’Hora, JP Kehoe; Barry Kelly, Robbie Kehoe, Brian Meredith; Brian Behan, Conor Meredith; Darren Finlay, Eoin Finlay, Stephen O’Leary; Michael Finlay, Brian Nugent, Ed Kelly. Subs: Rory Bracken for Stephen O’Leary (29mins); Matthew Finlay for Brian Nugent (52mins); Shaun Geoghan for Barry Kelly (BC) (58mins)
Referee: John Flynn (The Rock)