In a truly tense and nail-biting encounter in Vicarstown on Friday evening, Emo emerged victorious over a gallant Ballyroan Abbey side by the narrowest of margins to top the group, while Ballyroan Abbey also secured a top-two finish to progress in the championship.
Throughout the game in Vicarstown an anxious buzz consumed the supporters, what with Ballyroan’s rivals for the second spot out of the group, Portlaoise, in action against Courtwood. With Portlaoise expected to comfortably dismiss Courtwood, and Ballyroan Abbey to narrowly lose to Emo, the final spot would come down to point difference - with Ballyroan Abbey holding a twelve point swing in their favour coming into the game.
As expected at the break, Ballyroan Abbey trailed narrowly by a point, while Portlaoise held a convincing 1-7 to a single point lead, and looked as if they were to continue. Fortunately for Ballyroan Abbey, Courtwood came to the fore in the second half and the game finished up 1-12 to 1-8 in favour of Portlaoise meaning they didn’t match that twelve point swing, leaving Ballyroan to claim the second spot out of the group.
Emo set the tempo for the game ahead as they slotted two points in the opening two minutes with points from Evan Costello and Nigel Murphy setting their course on track. Ballyroan Abbey opened their account after ten minutes with a well-taken point from Ciaran Keegan to register their first point.
Points arrived for Emo from Paul Lawlor and Evan Costello, while Ballyroan Abbey made up the difference and drew level with points from Eoin Kearns (2) and centre-forward Mick Brennan to leave for a tight closing ten minutes to the half.
Emo grabbed the all-important goal just two minutes later with Darren Strong claiming his third goal in two games to open a three point cushion between the sides. Paul Lawlor capitalised on Emo’s momentum to notch on another point, and Ray Ryan did likewise as Emo looked comfortable approaching the break.
Ballyroan closed out the half strongly and hit Emo for 1-1 in three minutes to go in only a point down at the break. Full-back Eoin Kearns kicked his third free, before Jamie Whelan rifled the ball into the corner of the Emo net to close the gap to the minimum at the interval.
The second half proved to be a very even tie, with both teams firing four points, yet Ballyroan Abbey’ s final search fell just short as they couldn’t find the equalising point, Thankfully for them, results fell in their favour and they emerge from the group along with table-toppers Emo.
SCORERS - Emo: Evan Costello 0-4 (three frees), Paul Lawlor 0-3 (two frees), Darren Strong 1-0, Ray Ryan 0-2, Nigel Murphy 0-1; Ballyroan Abbey: Eoin Kearns 0-5 (all frees), Jamie Whelan 1-0, Padraig McMahon 0-2 (one free), Mick Brennan and Ciaran Keegan 0-1 each.
EMO: Gerry McGill; Robert Wilkinson, Shane Carney, Brian Gorman; Mick Dowling, Paul Kerwin, Shane Murphy; Darren Strong, Paul Lawlor; Mark Carney, Glenn Brophy, Nigel Murphy; Ray Ryan, Johnny Booth, Evan Costello. SUBS: Craig Langford for Mark Carney; David Gorman for Paul Kerwin; Conor Lawlor for Craig Langford.
BALLYROAN ABBEY: Gary Scully; Mark Cahill, Eoin Kearns, Philip Shortall; Eoin O’Brien, Ruairi Dunne, Jamie Bartley; Alan Burnell, Padraig McMahon; Ciaran Keegan, Mick Brennan, James Keegan; Sean Murphy, Gerry Scully, Jamie Whelan. SUBS: Der Mulhall for Ruairi Dunne.
Referee: Maurice Deegan