Stradbally edge dour battle
A late point from Colm Kelly proved the difference between two defensive sides at O'Moore Park on Sunday evening as Stradbally progressed to ACFL Division 1 Final.
Neither side could muster a goal scoring opportunity in the 60 minutes and this was mainly due to the fact that both teams dropped a forward back and had a strong defence as the basis for their play. It guarantees a low scoring game but it also virtually ensures little in the way of entertainment.
Stradbally emerged from the blocks quickest with a free from Kelly when Gary Kavanagh was fouled and then Jamie Kavanagh posted a fine point off the outside of his right foot after a strong individual run. Play was then halted for almost ten minutes as former county player Gary Kavanagh was stretchered from the field after an seemingly accidental collision on the stand side of the field.
When play commenced he was replaced by Colin Beale and Arles-Killeen began to show signs of life. Donie Brennan launched a superb effort from a free 50 metres from goal and he then began the move which resulted in Sean O'Shea scoring an impressive equaliser.
Stradbally were then gifted the lead when, after good defending, an Arles-Killeen player touched the ball on the ground and Kelly converted the free. Arles seemed to be working slightly harder at this stage and great work from their forwards resulted in a turnover of possession and John Mahon pointed to level matters before a score by Jason Enright, after a nice dummy, gave Arles-Killeen a slight advantage going in at the break.
However, the sides were level within moments of the restart as Greg Ramsbottom placed the inrushing Paul Begley who slotted over from distance. Both sides missed chances immediately after, before Ramsbottom offloaded for Conor Delaney to give his side the lead. It didn't last long though as Sean O'Shea levelled the score for the fourth as both teams struggled for supremacy.
Arles-Killen had introduced Conor Keightley at half-time and he pointed superbly after fielding a high ball before repeating the trick after a clever move involving Brennan and Enright. They now had a two point advantage with ten minutes remaining but despite this lead they failed to kick for home as Stradbally began to claw back.
Wing back Ciaran Delaney cut the deficit to one with a long range effort and Greg Ramsbottom equalised following good play from midfielder Conor Delaney with five minutes left. Arles-Killeen introduced Brian McDonald in an effort to snatch a victory but it was Colm Kelly who claimed what proved to be the winner with a swivel and point from 20m.
Donie Brennan did have one final chance to draw the game but, under serious pressure from the Stardbally defence, his effort finished wide of the target and the Little Town survived.
Despite the close nature of the exchanges the game never reached the tempo of a championship encounter and both teams will feel they have a gear or two in reserve for the business end of the year in August. Arles/Killeen will be disappointed to have lost but with Donie Kingston and Brian McDonald to come back to full fitness they can look forward to the championship with confidence.
STRADBALLY: Darren Maher; Damien Murphy, Paudge Langton, Billy Murphy; Steven Lalor, Paul Begley, Ciaran Delaney; Mick McEvoy, Conor Delaney; Jamie Kavanagh, Gary Kavanagh, John Donohue; Greg Ramsbottom, Colm Kelly, Cormac Delaney. Subs: Colin Beale for G Kavanagh (10 mins - injured), Dan Larkin for M McEvoy (35 mins), Jamie Kelly for Cormac Delaney.
ARLES-KILLEEN: Mick Leigh; Joe Mulhare, James Mahon, Barry Miller; Niall O'Rourke, Paul McDonald, Richard Dunne; Arnie Mahon, John Mahon; Donie Brennan, Dermot Julian, Billy O'Loughlin; Sean O'Shea, Jason Enright, Eamon Mahon. Subs:Conor Keightley for Dermot Julian (half time), Brian McDonald for Eamon Mahon (56 mins)
Score of the game
There weren't too many contenders for this accolade but Paul Begley's point just after half time put Stradbally on the front foot and came from distance off the outside of his right foot.
With both teams dropping a forward back to help their midfield/defence the game became very congested and possession was difficult to hold on to. Arles/Killeen will more than likely play a two man full forward line featuring Donie Kingston for the championship. This should allow them to play more direct and will give them more options regarding their style of play.
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