Glynn-Barntown denied in closing minutes
AIB Leinster Club Intermediate Football Championship Semi-final
A tremendous effort to reach the AIB Leinster Club Intermediate football championship final came up agonisingly short for a gallant Glynn-Barntown side in windswept Killurin on Sunday.
Athlone (W'meath) 1-6 Glynn-Barntown 0-6
They were hanging on for dear life entering the final four minutes of a game dominated by the elements, leading by 0-6 to 1-2 after giving an exemplary display of carrying the ball into the teeth of the swirling breeze.
A much-fancied Athlone side looked in danger of making an unexpected exit, but Glynn-Barntown's resolve was finally broken in the closing stages as four points without reply gave the final scoreline a rather flattering look.
The home side deserved extra-time at the very least, and they would have settled for that no doubt after inter-county regular John Connellan finally kicked the leveller to end a scoreless period lasting more than 18 minutes.
The huge physical effort involved in facing the strong wind in the second-half eventually took its toll though.
Substitute Matthew Darling gave the midlanders the lead for the first time with just over one minute of normal time left, and the Connellan brothers, John and Ray, added insurance scores in the period added on to secure a final clash with Ratoath of Meath.
There was immense relief afterwards from the Athlone contingent, managed by former Offaly defender Tom Coffey, and with good reason.
On paper it looked like Glynn-Barntown faced a very difficult task given the involvement of the likes of Ray Connellan, who is on stand-by for the Irish international rules team next weekend, his brother John, John Stapleton and John Egan, all of whom have plenty of experience with Westmeath.
Corner-back Fergal Murray is another veteran of the inter-county scene, and when the pressure to secure a result was growing, they called on another man who graced Croke Park many times, Joe Fallon, to bring some shape to a faltering attack.
Glynn-Barntown entered the fray without regular defender Cian Neville who was in the U.S.A., but they had a steely determination to record a third home win in this championship after dismissing Kilkerley Emmets from Louth and Rathcline of Longford.
And while that strong wind blew cross-field at times, it definitely favoured the home team in the opening half. And no doubt they will look back with some regret on their seven first-half wides with just one in reply, while the concession of the game's only goal just before the break was a real killer blow.
Michael O'Regan was off target early on from a line ball and then a very scoreable free, while his team was fortunate not to concede in the fourth minute when Athlone captain and centre-back Noel Mulligan got on the end of a sweeping move.
His shot was tame, but it nearly eluded Nigel Donohoe and was only cleared after some considerable effort.
Athlone almost scored a freak goal less than three minutes later when a point attempt from the left by Tom Egan spun off a defender's hand and the wind carried it at speed across the goal before it rebounded outfield via the post.
Michael Doyle and John Stapleton swapped wides as supporters still awaited the first score, with Alan Cowman, Robert Dempsey and John Leacy bringing the number of home misses to six before centre-back Craig Doyle finally got Glynn-Barntown off the mark with a long-range kick in the 19th minute.
He struck from what seemed to be the only place to pick off scores from given the conditions - the central corridor in front of the posts from 40 to 50-metre range, as closer to goal was too crowded. Doyle's score settled the underdogs, and he earned a free which Michael O'Regan converted to double their lead.
Michael Doyle and Robert Dempsey had already been booked by referee Stephen Murphy when corner-back Nigel Usher was black carded in the 21st minute, and Ray Connellan opened Athlone's account from the subsequent free.
The seventh Glynn-Barntown wide followed from O'Regan before he atoned with another pointed free, and the lead was widened to 4-1 when Seán Carmody kicked sweetly after playing a one-two with Eoin Raftery.
Brendan Doyle collected a yellow card shortly before kicking an effort short into the goalkeeper's grateful arms, but Glynn-Barntown were still doing well and looking forward to the half-time whistle.
Alas, disaster struck in the second minute of added time when Ray Connellan hung a high cross in the air from the left corner to the far post. It was met as it dropped by the fist of Jordan Marshment who directed his effort back across goal and into the corner of the net guarded by Nigel Donohoe who was replaced by Luke Rafter at half-time.
It was a huge momentum shifter for Athlone given they had wind advantage to come, although Glynn-Barntown did manage to regain the lead before the break when Ríoghan Crosbie split the posts with his left boot (0-5 to 1-1).
The midlanders kicked the first of their five second-half wides (Glynn-Barntown had none) just twelve seconds after the re-start from Ray Connellan, but they conceded another point less than two minutes in.
It came after a long, patient passing movement from left to right, with Seán Carmody finally cutting in and cleverly opting to fist the ball over the bar (0-6 to 1-1). We didn't know it at the time, but that would be Glynn-Barntown's last score, even though their use of possession and support play was first rate for the next 20 minutes.
John Egan kicked an Athlone wide before a good tackle by Robert Tierney denied Ray Connellan, but a John Bannon delivery led to the first of John Connellan's three points from play in the 39th minute.
Glynn-Barntown went on to monopolise possession for a long spell and, while the time seemed to tick away slowly, with every passing minute their chances appeared to strengthen. Indeed, Athlone went a full eleven minutes without even managing a shot for a score, and they must have been worried when the Connellans, Ray and John, eventually struck wides from a line ball and from play respectively.
Michael O'Regan caught a Joe Fallon free under the crossbar and cleared his lines, with Ray Connellan kicking another wide before his brother finally managed to grab the leveller with just over four minutes left.
The floodgates only opened at that stage as a result of the admirable effort expended by Glynn-Barntown all over the field and, unlike many Wexford teams on the provincial stage over the years, they bowed out with their heads held high.
Glynn-Barntown: Nigel Donohoe; Nigel Usher, Robert Tierney, Eoin Raftery; Brendan Doyle, Craig Doyle (0-1), Alan Cowman; Michael Doyle (capt.), John Leacy; Barry Doyle, Michael O'Regan (0-2 frees), Matthew Joyce; Robert Dempsey, Seán Carmody (0-2), Ríoghan Crosbie (0-1). Subs. - Stephen Lyne for Usher, black card (21), Luke Rafter for Donohoe (HT), Aaron Kehoe for Carmody (48), Rowan White for Dempsey (56), Pádraig Donnelly for C. Doyle (59).
Athlone: Darren Costello; Eoin Maher, Damien Kelly, Fergal Murray; Daniel Lynam, Noel Mulligan (capt.), Tom Egan; Ray Connellan (0-2, 1 free), John Stapleton; Stephen Ward, John Bannon, John Egan; Daniel Reid, Jordan Marshment (1-0), John Connellan (0-3). Subs. - Matthew Darling (0-1) for Lynam (39), Sam Omukoro for Reid (40), Joe Fallon for T. Egan (51), Jack Quinn for Stapleton (59), Mickey Greene for Marshment (60+2).
Referee: Stephen Murphy (Louth).