Cleary the hero for Aodh Ruadh

Senior Football Division 3
28 September 2013
Aodh Ruadh 2-10
Downings 2-9
John Hughes reports from Father Tierney Park

A Damien Cleary goal a minute from the end saw Aodh Ruadh snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on an evening when much of the second half was played in very poor light, despite the game throwing in not much after the 6pm mark.

The first drama of the opening half came when Downings had a shot on goal ricochet out, Gary Ban McClafferty's followed up but his shot was saved and scrambled away. It was to be the eighth minute before the opening score came, Anthony Boyle screwing over a fine point. Shortly after that half back Kieran Keown hit a better effort again before Michael 'Sticky' Ward put the homesters into a three point lead after Aodh Ruadh won the kick out.

Downings were strangely tentative and Ballyshannon made full use of their superiority in this period of the game. The next score came from patient recycling of the ball, David Dolan eventually coming onto possession and lofting over a trademark left foot point. Shortly after Sticky Ward thought he had stretched Aodh Ruadh's lead when the umpires raised their flag from a point effort, but the referee Enda McFeely made the correct call in ruling it wide.

Downings finally got their opening score of the game in the 17th minute with Aaron McClafferty knocking over from close range. But the Ernesiders were well on top and Ronan Drummond was on hand to point sharply after an Aodh Ruadh attack looked to have broken down. That effort took the scores to 0-6 to 0-1. A minute later and Brian McGee had to been in top form to deny a Kerry Ryan goal chance.

With ten minutes left in the half Gary McClafferty made some inroads into the Aodh Ruadh lead tapping over from close range, however two minutes later a laser guided ball in from Niall McCready found David Dolan on the edge of the square where he slipped his marker and buried the ball in the back of the net for a superb goal.

Dolan played a part in the next move, again gathering the ball on the edge of the area where he was strongly tackled, but he retained the presence of mind to feed the incoming Anthony Boyle who slipped over. A minute later and Barry Ward fired over a magnificent point off his trusty left boot to take the scores to 1-7 to 0-2.

The visitors third score of the half came with just a minute of the 30 left, Lorcan Connor tapping over a routine free, but Aodh Ruadh quickly erased that, working the ball rapidly up the pitch for Anthony Boyle to notch his third score of the game.

The last action of the half was to take the shine off the Ernesiders first half efforts. A foot block in the area saw McFeely show no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Gary Ban McClafferty was just as emphatic with his spot kick, leaving Peter Boyle with no chance and the half time scores at 1-8 to 1-3.

Downings were hoping for a good start to the second half, but it was Aodh Ruadh who made the first impression on the scoreboard, Peter Boyle hitting a brilliant dead ball into the wind to put two goals between the side. Things were about to swing towards the visitors though.

Lorcan Connor missed an early chance to open Downings second half account, but he atoned by notching a close range free in the 38 minute to take scores to 1-9 to 1-4. A minute later and Patrick McGruddy unleashed a real rasper which flashed across the face of Peter Boyle's goal and came off the post for a point. Lorcan Connor followed up three minutes later with his third free of the game to put a goal in the game. Downings won the kick out and got the ball to Patrick McGruddy who bombed over a magnificent effort to take the scores to 1-9 to 1-7. In the 46th minute McGruddy added another superb point, this one dropping neatly just over the Aodh Ruadh crossbar to cut the deficit to the minimum with Downings piling on the pressure.

Shortly after they made it count again with Lorcan Connor registering his first score from play, and important one it was too, a slick low shot under Peter Boyle's left hand and into the corner of the net which took Downings into the lead for the first time in the game, 2-9 to 1-10.

With time slipping away Aodh Ruadh finally got their second score of the half after Conor Patton shipped a very heavy tackle and Peter Boyle stepped up to drive over another quality long distance effort. To be honest though, it looked like a case of putting a good look on the scoreline as the balance of play was still very much with Downings.

However Ballyshannon managed to forage some possession out around the centre of the field and as a quick hand passing move developed Aodh Ruadh's ambitions rapidly switched from point to goal and Damien Cleary, the man over on the end of the move, lashed home an unstoppable left foot shot which took the homesters back into a two point lead with less than a minute of the regulation 60 left.

As the game ticked into added time Lorcan Connor showed his class to respond with a free which bounced over off the cross bar to take the scores to 2-10 to 2-9 and give Downings a late lifeline. Unlike Joe McQuillan, McFeely allowed an extra play in the ever deepening gloom, but it was the Ernesiders who wrestled possession from the kick out and held on for the final whistle and a well-received victory in front of their jubilant home support.

Heartbreak for promotion-chasing Downings who had a vital victory in their grasp, but Aodh Ruadh's battling qualities saw them just about deserve the two points in the final analysis.

Aodh Ruadh's midfield partnership of Conor Patton and Barry Ward were probably the key to the winning of the game, earning the first phase possession which kept the homesters on the front foot for much of the game. The half back line of Anthony Boyle, Eamonn McGrath and Kieran Keown were also excellent. Indeed with Boyle hitting three points, corner back Damien Cleary a goal and Peter Boyle two long range frees, the back seven made a significant contribution to this victory, above and beyond their defensive duties.

For Downings Lorcan Connor was flawless from out on the left and he took his goal with enormous brio, while each of Patrick McGruddy's three points were more lovely than the last.

A word too for Enda McFeely who reffed the contest well throughout, aided by two sides who played the game in the right spirit.

Vital Statistics
Teams
Aodh Ruadh
Peter Boyle (0-2f); Damien Cleary (1-0), Ciron Whoriskey, Niall McCready; Kieran Keown (0-1), Eamon McGrath, Anthony Boyle (0-3); Barry Ward (0-1), Conor Patton; David Dolan (1-1), Diarmaid McInerney, Ronan Drummond (0-1); Kerry Ryan, Michael 'Sticky' Ward (0-1), David McGurrin.
Substitutes: Brian Roper for Kerry Ryan: 25 minutes, Kerry Ryan for Kieran Keown: 44 minutes; Stephen Ward for Barry Ward 54 minutes.
Yellow cards: Damien Cleary: 30 minutes.
Wides: First half: 7; Second half: 2; Total: 9.
Frees conceded: First half: 12; Second half: 12; Total: 24.
Downings
Brian McGee; Gerard Coyle, David Hay, James McFadden; Brian McGinley, Oisín Boyce, Mícheál Bradley; Sean McBride, Sean McGinley; Shea Coyle, Gary Ban McClafferty (1-1, 1 pen), Patrick McGruddy (0-3); Lorcan Connor (1-4, 4f), Colm Gallagher, Aaron McClafferty (0-1), Seamus Gallagher.
Substitutes: Finnian McClafferty for Sean McGinley: 25 minutes; Seamus Gallagher, Eric Roberts.
Yellow cards: Colm Gallagher: 15 minutes; Sean McBride: 33 minutes.
Wides: First half: 1; Second half: 1; Total: 2.
Frees conceded: First half: 9; Second half: 12; Total: 21.
Referee: Enda McFeely (Robert Emmet's)
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Last modified: Sunday, 29 September 2013 at 10:22pm