Once again Suncroft found themselves with one foot through the relegation trap door but managed to haul themselves clear, writes Ger McNally.
MDY Construction Senior Football Championship Relegation Semi Final
Round Towers: 0-9
Most teams would dread the thought of a relegation semi final but there is something about having their survival on the line that brings the best out of the ‘Croft boys.
This was the third year in a row that they found themselves in the senior relegation semi finals but just like Clane and Kilcock in previous years, Round Towers found them too tough a nut to crack.
A late Fionn Dowling penalty eventually settled this tie but it was match that had both sets of supporters on the edge of their seats in the Hawkfield stand and really in the final few moments, could have went either way.
Round Towers have gained a reputation in the recent past of being a very dogged and hard to play against side and they weren’t about to change tact in such an important game.
Perhaps their enthusiasm got the better of them in the early stages as they gave away a couple of frees which Fionn Dowling converted. Chris Donovan then pointed in the night minute to increase Suncroft’s early lead to three points.
With the ultra experienced Brian Lacey in their ranks, Towers settled into the game and began to pin Suncroft into their own half.
Even the presence of newly appointed Carlow manager Anthony Rainbow at full back for Suncroft couldn’t stop Towers coming into the game and they scored three in a row to level things up by the 18th minute.
Towers could have taken the lead a minute later but Scanlon’s shot skewed off his boot and went wide of the post. That miss looked even worse when Suncroft grabbed a goal of with their first meaningful attack in over ten minutes.
There shouldn’t really have been a problem when Fionn Dowling’s shot went high into the quickly darkening Newbridge sky but on its way back down, Towers’ goalkeeper Paul Waters completely lost the flight of the ball and fumbled what should have been an easy catch. Tommy Cleary was first on hand and fisted the ball into the net.
Scanlon and Ciaran Dowling traded points in the final moments of the half but Cleary’s goal was the difference as the teams headed for their half time chats.
The opening to the second half was very scrappy and that frees from Trevor Moran and Ciaran Dowling were the only scores in the opening 13 minutes of the half. That gave Suncroft a five point buffer and with Towers at that stage struggling for scores, it looked as if it would be enough to see them safe.
Towers though dragged themselves back into the game. Mark Scanlon got the ball rolling with a fine score following a barnstorming run. Stuart Murphy then added two points and when wing back Niall Fleming got forward to score, suddenly there was just a point between the teams with seven minutes to play.
That led to a very tense, scoreless six minute period where both teams had chances but the game was finally put beyond doubt in the final minute of the game when John Houlihan was adjudged to have pushed Fionn Dowling in the back on the edge of the square. A penalty was awarded and 19-year-old Dowling stepped up and buried his kick to ensure that his club will have senior football next year.
Towers piled on the pressure in the remaining minutes but a Mark Scanlon point was their only reward and the team who competed in the 2003 Leinster final are now 60 minutes away from dropping to intermediate grade.
Paul Sinnott; Tommy Robottom, Anthony Rainbow, Mark Brown, Eamonn Tyrell, Tommy Cleary 1-0, Jack Setright; Killian Brennan, Trevor Moran 0-1f; Chris Donovan 0-1, John Phillips, Dean King, Ciaran Dowling 0-2fs, Fionn Dowling 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-2fs), Liam Harnett. Subs: Johnny Corr for Phillips, 56.
Paul Waters; Mick Kelly, John Houlihan, Brian Lacey, Paul Cornish, Padraig Golden, Niall Fleming 0-1; Mark Scanlon 0-2, Ken Whelan; Richie Scahill 0-1f, Neil Scanlon 0-3 (2fs), TJ Waters, Mark Byrne, Niall Cleary, DJ Flynn. Subs: Jason O’Brien for Byrne, 37; Stuart Murphy 0-2 for Lacey, 39.