Senior C’ship, Round 1

Padraig Pearses 1-16 Athenry 1-16
By Ivan Smyth, Connacht Tribune

A GOAL in the third minute of injury time from Dean Reilly salvaged Pádraig Pearses a draw in a game that Athenry should have killed off before the corner-forward’s late heroics.

When Conor Burke struck an inspirational score in the 58th minute, Kieran Coffey’s side led by six points and seemed des-tined to pick up a valuable two points to take them to the summit of Group One.

Up until this point Pádraig Pearses were reliant on Emmet Ward frees as the sharpshooter converted 11 placed balls throughout the course of this game. Aside from the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Ballymacward-Gurteen side were hanging on and trying to keep tabs on a youthful Athenry outfit.

Pádraig Pearses showed ad-mirable determination in the closing stages, however, as a well worked Tomas Flannery score and two Ward frees slashed Athenry’s lead to three points in injury time. Athenry saw two efforts drift wide of the posts during this period and they were punished to the extreme.

In the 63rd minute, a precise Fearghal Flannery puckout found Jimmy Gelston in space on the Athenry 45 metre line. The substitute cut inside and drew the last defender before handpassing to Dean Reilly who coolly finished to the bottom corner of the net.

To concede a goal in injury time and squander a winning position will no doubt frustrate Athenry, but Coffey and his management team will ponder how Gelston was able to cut inside the defence and offload possession without meeting a forceful challenge. To further rub salt in the Athenry wounds, talented forward Cian Burke limped off before half time with his fitness now a concern ahead of their final two group games.

Athenry struck 1-10 from play with nine players finding the target, while their opponents notched 1-5 as six players grabbed scores during the course of this contest. However, the most important statistic at the end of any game is shown on the scoreboard and therefore despite hanging on for much of this contest, Pádraig Pearses earned themselves a point.

The first quarter helped establish the pattern of the game. Athenry looked more threatening up front but Pádraig Pearses were hanging in there with Ward accurate from placed balls. Three Ward frees gave the Ballymacward side an early lead as Cian Burke fired over a well worked point from play before adding a free of his own.

Ryan O’Donnell and Mark Hannon also troubled the scoreboard from an Athenry viewpoint with a Ward free ensuring the sides were level at the first water break. Athenry dominated the second quarter as they adapted to Cian Burke’s injury while they began to get on top in the middle third.

Cathal Keane and Paddy Han-non added points before Ronan Hardiman fielded a long clear-ance by goalkeeper John Grealish as he flashed an effort over from an acute angle. Pádraig Pearses struggled to keep hold of possession and create chances as they failed to score from play in the opening half.

Ryan O’Donnell increased the Athenry lead after a Pearses turnover while Cathal Keane provided the assist for Paddy Hannon to fire an effort over the bar. A long range Donal Parr free gave Athenry a healthy lead as Keane also pointed a placed ball. Two Emmet Ward frees before half time helped keep Pearses in touch, but it was Athenry who enjoyed a healthy five point half time advantage.

Seven Athenry players made the scoreboard in the opening half with eight of their 11 points coming from play, while Emmet Ward was Pearses’ only scorer in the first 30 minutes of action with all their scores coming from frees.

Pádraig Pearses started the second half like a side who knew they could not afford to slip further behind. Ward converted his seventh free of the contest before Oisin Flannery, Ronan Bellew and Dean Reilly all added further scores inside the opening five minutes of the second half.

Conor Fahey struck a long range point with John Grealish and Athenry arguing that the goalkeeper had prevented the effort from going over the cross-bar. The point stood as the sides were level momentarily, although two Cathal Keane frees steadied Athenry.

The sides exchanged scores with Ward (free) and Ryan O’Donnell finding the target. In the 45th minute a long delivery into the Pádraig Pearses de-fence was not dealt with adequately as Paddy Rabbitte powered through and grabbed a goal. Warde and Keane exchanged frees after the water break before Conor Burke produced an excellent catch in the half back line before bursting forward and grabbing a brilliant long range score.

This appeared to be the score that would pave the way for an Athenry win, but a Tomas Flannery point and two Ward frees gave Pádraig Pearses a chance before Reilly’s late goal ensured his side picked up a valuable point after a gallant comeback.

Emmet Ward was Pádraig Pearses’ top performer while Gareth Lally produced an energetic display, with Richie Lally solid in defence. For Athenry, Cathal Keane worked tirelessly throughout the hour. Conor Burke produced a captain’s display in defence while Tom Flynn also helped the Athenry half back line cut out numerous attacks.

Pádraig Pearses: F. Flannery; R. Lally, T. Kenny, M. Hennelly; A. Bellew, D. Wynne, J. Barrett; C. Raftery, G. Lally; C. Fahey (0-1), T. Flannery (0-1); D. Reilly (1-1); R. Bellew (0-1), E. Ward (0-11, all frees), O. Flannery (0-1). Subs used: J. Gelston for R. Bellew (46 mins); E. Cunniffe for O. Flannery (55 mins).

Athenry: J. Grealish, S. Quirke, E. Lawless, D. Parr (0-1, free), C. O’Dwyer, T. Flynn, Conor Burke (0-1), M. Hannon (0-1), C. Lawless, P. Rabbitte (1-0), P. Hannon (0-2), C. Keane (0-5, 0-4 frees), R. Hardiman (0-1), Cian Burke (0-2, 0-1 free), R. O’Donnell (0-3). Subs used: E. Caulfield for Cian Burke (inj. 23 mins); M. Cullen for R. Hardiman (53 mins); N. Keogh for R. O’Donnell (58 mins).

Referee: S. Moran.