IT is often said that it can be more difficult to retain a title than to actually win it in the first place, whether that is a myth or not is very debatable but down Athy way this week there would be little doubt as to their way of thinking of that subject having relinquished their senior football championship title to Carbury on Saturday last at St. Conleth’s Park, the side they defeated twelve months ago, writes Tommy Callaghan.
MDY Construction Senior Football Championship Semi Final
Two early goals from James Eaton and Darroch Mulhall in last season’s final set up Athy for the title and all but destroyed Carbury’s hopes so there is no doubt that manager Stephen Darby was hell bent on not repeating those particular misfortunes this time around.
Lining out with ten of the team that took the field in the final of 2012 Carbury came into this game fit, confident of turning the tables on the side many felt could put back-to-back titles together and while the champions opened with a Liam McGovern free inside 35 seconds it didn’t take long before Carbury opened their account playing a very similar brand of football as last term but with much more conviction and even passion.
It fell to Eoghan O’Flaherty to level up after three minutes, the county man was to go and thrill the attendance with a display of top class place kicking and an overall performance that without question earned him the man of the match accolate.
Inside forward, Andrew Dermody, a constant thorn in the Athy defence fired over his side’s second as the game of cat and mouse unfolded.
James Eaton, levelled up the game soon after but the O’Flaherty boys, Eoghan and Morgan, combined with the former knocking over a point to regain the lead.
Both sides were employing two man full forward lines relying on accurate kick passing and breaking at speed to unlock respective defences and it was precisely one of those type of moves that saw Darroch Mulhall gather, turn his man, before being fouled and James Eaton hit over a peach of a free to level them up for the third time after 14 minutes gone.
Carbury fans were on their feet a few minutes later venting their anger in the direction of referee Noel McKenna, after he adjudged James Eaton had been fouled which resulted in Eaton regaining the lead for the boys in red.
It was at this stage however that Carbury lifted their game, gained a foothold around the middle and attacked Athy from all quarters.
The start of this purple spell saw Eoghan O’Flaherty capitalise on a hand passing offence by an Athy defender and two minutes later it was the turn of the Athy fans to show their displeasure when O’Flaherty (Eoghan) was deemed to have been fouled and he duly gave his side the lead.
That lead was doubled to two a few minutes later, this time Willie Groome bursting through to split the posts as the Athy defence seemed at sixes and sevens to curtail a free running Carbury forward division.
O’Flaherty then hit a beauty of a free from just inside the ‘45’ and a step inside the sideline to make it 0-7 to 0-4.
The champs were looking vulnerable; losing the midfield battle and unable to crack a packed Carbury defence.
Darren Moore picked up a yellow for a silly trip on Niall Kelly but the free failed to find the posts as did another soon after, this time Liam McGovern’s effort falling short and cleared.
Half time appoaching and Carbury were in possession mounting another blitz on the Athy goal when an alert referee penalised Brian Kinahan for a ‘pull’ on Andrew Dermody inside and O’Flaherty made it 0-8 to 0-4 as the half time whistle arrived.
With Carbury having hit the last five points without reply in that opening half, Athy certainly needed to get into their stride on the resumption. However, the opposite was the case as Carbury quickly resumed where they had left off hitting the next five points on trot, the first from the youngest of the O’Flaherty boys, Brian, quickly followed by three from brother Eoghan and another from Kenny McNamara to leave it 0-13 to 0-4 with just 36 minutes gone.
Were the champs going to crash out with a whimper or could they muster up something to show just how worthy champions there were in 2012?
The answer soon followed with Athy suddenly taking command in the middle and Darroch Mulhall finding his range, hitting three excellent points from frees before adding one from play and then knocking over his fifth to leave the score board reading Carbury 0-13 Athy 0-10, Athy having hit five points in succession.
Now suddenly Carbury were looking vulnerable but eased the pressure when Terry Rossiter took a quick free and found Willie Groome who ended Carbury’s mini drought in the 51 minute.
Eoghan O’Flaherty then dropped a free into the square, knocked out for a 45 by keeper James Roycroft but the resultant 45 saw Eoghan O’Flaherty have one of those rare moments when he failed to convert.
Athy were given a little hope with five minutes remaining when substitute Emannual Kennedy found the range after good work from James Eaton.
Carbury, however, were not for tunring, gained possession, held onto the ball with a succession of hand passes showing patience in their build up before finally drawing the free and up popped Eoghan O’Flaherty with his tenth point of the game and while Cian Roynolds got the last score of the match it was Carbury’s day who fairly and squarely booked their place in the SFC final for the second year in a row.
A fine sporting game and one that gave the Carbury fans much to look forward to and one suspects that they have learned much from last season’s journey whether it will be enough to take the cup we will have to wait and see but on this display they will certainly come into that game with their confidence on a high, playing a game they look extremely comfortable with and with Eoghan O’Flahety in the form of his life it is going to take something special to halt this particular Carbury train.
Disappointment for Athy but they are still a very young team and while they may have to plan in the future without the services of James Eaton, I wouldn’t be ruling out the boys in red to be back in force once again come 2013.
Carbury, Eoghan O’Flaherty 0-10 (7 frees), Brian O’Flaherty 0-1, Willie Groome 0-2 (1 free), Andy Dermody 0-1, Kenny McNamara 0-1.
Athy, Darrooch Mulhall 0-5 (5 frees), James Eaton 0-3 (3 frees), Liam McGovern 0-1 (free), Emmanuel Kennedy 0-1, Danny O’Keeffe 0-1, Cian Reynolds 0-1.
Noel Kenna; Garry Mangan, Liam Holt, Stephen McKeon; Brian O’Flaherty, Daryl O’Brien, Darren Moore; David Cash, Seán Costello; Willie Groome, Terry Rossiter, Morgan O’Flaherty; Kenny McNamara, Eoghan O’Flaherty, Andy Dermody. Subs: Seán Kelly for Kenny McNamara (64 minute).
James Roycroft; Conor Ronan, Brian Kinahan, David Hollilgan; David Hyland, Michael Foley, Shane O’Brien; Pddy Dunne, Kevin Feely; Liam McGovern, Niall Kelly, Tony Gibbons; Darroch Mulhall, Ken Brophy, James Eaton. Subs: Joe Kinahan for Shane O’Brien (30 minute); Danny O’Keeffe for Ken Brophy (half time); Cian Reynolds for LIam McGovern (37 minute); Emmanuel Kennedy for Brian Kinahan (50minute).