CHAMPIONS Athy made their exit from the Under 21 Football Championship at the penultimate round after a humdinger of an encounter with Celbridge in Sallins last Saturday afternoon, writes Ruth Chambers.
Under 21 Football Championship Final
Both teams served up a delightful game of football, an unexpected occurrence in the month of December, and it was the team from the Hazelhatch Road that halted Athy in their quest for three titles on the trot.
The side in red and white began excellently with Niall Kelly on song. He put them in front with an early point but Paddy Brophy cancelled it out before Athy got their noses ahead again when Darroch Mulhall and Kelly again split the posts.
Athy might have enjoyed the better of the early exchanges but soon after Celbridge sprung in to life. A super point from distance from the boot of dual star Fergal Conway set them on their way to dominance.
Conway’s effort was followed by a goal and a point as Celbridge assumed control. The point came from the ever impressive Paddy Brophy, while midfield man Conor Plunkett was the man to grab the game’s opening goal when he palmed the ball passed Athy net minder James Roycroft.
From the kick out possession went the way of Conway and he laid off possession to Gerry Keegan. He used his pace to breeze past Athy challenges before off loading to Conor Kelly and it was his rasper of a shot that had Roycroft beaten for a second time to give his side a five point advantage, a deserved one at that.
Further points from Jordi Morrissey and Brophy stretched that lead to seven before Athy finally responded. With 15 minutes on the clock Cian Reynolds raised a much needed white flag but it was cancelled out by a point from David Hughes, who finished up as Celbridge’s top scorer on the day.
Niall Kelly added the next for the Geraldine Park outfit but once again Hughes answered before Darroch Mulhall added to his tally.
Celbridge were seven points clear soon after when Hughes grabbed his third point in succession but before the interlude Mahon and Mulhall pointed for the team in red to give them some hope and leave the score board reading 2-7 to 0-8.
After the turnaround Athy were back to within three of their opponents when Mulhall pointed a free and David Hyland knocked over a brace and it most definitely was a case of game on!
Brophy eased the Celbridge nerves with a point but Mulhall responded with a fantastic score from a sublime Kelly pass.
At this stage calling a winner was difficult but Celbridge were given a major boost soon after when Dylan Corcoran was fouled and referee Liam Herbert signalled for a penalty kick. David Hughes was the man that took it and scored it and thus gave his side a six point advantage.
Substitute Craig Mooney almost added a fourth goal moments after entering the fray but Roycroft saved acrobatically and Kelly hit back with a free to cut the deficit to five points.
Ten minutes from time Celbridge looked to have put the result beyond doubt when the rampaging Corcoran set up Mooney and he made no mistake this time sending the ball low past the exposed Roycroft.
Brophy followed that with an audacious point from virtually the end-line when it looked impossible to score to put nine points between the sides with nine minutes left on the clock, but Athy weren’t finished yet.
Athy bombarded the Celbridge goal with high balls as they went in search of goals but time and again Shane McNamara dealt with everything thrown at him from every angle. Mahon and Mulhall kicked two points in the space of sixty seconds and then a minute later Mahon drove just over the bar from close range to reduce the lead to six points.
Five minutes from the end Mulhall lofted over his seventh of the afternoon but try as they might in the closing stages Athy could not get any closer and their unbeaten run ended as Celbridge continue on their quest for just their second ever under 21 A title.
Celbridge, David Hughes 1-3 (1 pen, 1f), Paddy Brophy 0-4 (1f), Conor Plunkett 0-1, Conor Kenny 0-1, Craig Mooney 1-0, Fergal Conway 0-1, Jordi Morrissey 0-1.
Athy, Darroch Mulhall 0-7 (1f), Niall Kelly 0-4 (1f), Hugh Mahon 0-3, Cian Reynolds 0-1, David Hyland 0-1.
Shane McNamara; Emmet Conaty, Mick Konstantine, Liam McDonagh; Dylan Corcoran, Mick O’Grady, Ronan Brophy; Conor Plunkett, Fergal Conway; Jason Doran, David Hughes, Paddy Brophy; Gerry Keegan, Conor Kenny, Jordi Morrissey. Subs: Kevin Murphy replaced R Brophy 10 mins, Shane O’Flynn replaced J Morrissey HT, Craig Mooney replaced E Conaty 35 mins, Bryan Flynn replaced C Kenny 54 mins, Owen Mullen replaced J Doran 58 mins.
James Roycroft; Sean Ronan, Luke Thomas, Dylan Lee; Killian Mulhall, David Hyland, Keelan Bolger; Liam McGovern, Pascal Connell; Tony Gibbons, Cian Reynolds, Hugh Mahon; Stephen Doyle, Darroch Mulhall, Niall Kelly. Subs: Nathan Owens replaced S Doyle 41 mins, Conor Harrington replaced L Thomas 50 mins.