Darcy and Dillon deliver
Explosive second half showing by Celtic boys
ON THOSE few occasions when the action wasn't of a very entertaining standard in the Division 3 clash between Fairwood Celtic and Ballywaltrim FC, the tiny gathering of spectators at the Coolboy Sports Ground could feast their eyes on the splendid scenery that stretched for miles in almost every direction.
FAIRWOOD CELTIC 3 Darcy 27, 80; Dillon 73 BALLYWALTRIM FC 1 Cowan 20.
But the chances for a glance away from the action were scarce as this was a charged, busy and interesting encounter that could all too easily be described as a game of two halves.
Ballywaltrim made the long journey down through the heart of the Garden County and took to the field on a cold brisk morning looking like a handy bunch of soccer players.
Any team, in any code who venture into Coolboy territory however, know they will experience a tough encounter and looking at the Fairwood Celtic ensemble it was plain to see that this would be no different.
The opening half saw Ballywaltrim lead the way with Ciaran Dunne and Mark Flanagan looking like mobile rocks in defence while the busy Tom Cowan seemed to have a magnetic attraction to the ball as it constantly ended up with him in or around the Fairwood Celtic box.
But it was the home side who had the first shot in anger through a John Blake rasper after a pass from the boot of Brian Hickey. The shot was wide but we were off to an excited start.
Things remained edgy for the opening minutes with probing balls from either side being dealt with by competent defences on either side.
Mark Flanagan looked imperious at the heart of the Ballywaltrim back four while Ciaran Dunne and Shane Donnelly were offering decent ball at a very productive rate.
However these early forays into the Fairwood Celtic territory were yielding little enough for the visitors as they were coming up against a determined Brian Hickey and company. Hickey especially looked frighteningly dominant in the early stages but despite this, a moment of magic unlocked the home side's defence on 20 minutes.
A Fairwood Celtic attack was cleared down the left hand side by Ballywaltrim and away they went.
Owen Mason and Derek Scanlon played a one-two down the sideline and a lovely cross arrived in to the right hand corner of the six-yard box and there waiting was none other than the tormentor himself, Tom ' Redser' Cowan.
Cowan struck a sweet, sweet volley with his right foot and lashed the ball right across the Fairwood Celtic goal where it rattled off the upright and rocketed right back across the goal into the opposite side netting.
Ballywaltrim were off the mark and deservedly so as they had looked effective and handy in the early stages.
Fairwood's reply wouldn't be long in coming. The workaholic and superb Tony Darcy was proving to be a thorn in the Ballywaltrim defence and it was the blonde haired raider who was put through with a delicious pass from PJ O'Keeffe after he had bravely won the ball in a crunching tackle.
Screams and roars went up for offside but the whistle stayed silent and Darcy worked his magic to slide the ball past Jonathan Mason in the Ballywaltrim goal.
Darcy and Mason went head to head again soon after but this time Mason stood up to the test and saved an excellent shot and minutes later John Blake sent Jonathan Nolan through for Fairwood but Nolan just couldn't make it.
The remainder of the opening half saw Ballywaltim utilise Tom Cowan and despite some lovely play, the visitor's attacks kept perishing on the rock that was Brian Hickey who was exerting a calm and steady influence.
Sean Kenny ended the first half with some good passes for the home side and a vital interception after a potentially devastating pass from Mark Flanagan into Emmet Costello.
On the restart Tony Darcy capitalised on some sloppy Ballywaltrim play and raced through but some great defending from Graham Donnelly allowed Jonathan Mason to save.
And this became the trend for the second half as Fairwood Celtic stepped up a few gears while Ballywaltrim never looked as threatening as they had done in the opening half.
David Dillon was sent into the fray for the home side 10 minutes into the second half at the expense of the lively Jonathan Nolan and the Tinahely GAA star began to have an immediate impact.
And even if he had done nothing else other than effect the performance of Mark Flanagan he would have completed a good day's work.
But do more he did. After a period of sustained Fairwood Celtic pressure that saw Brian Hickey fire a rocket wide of the target after a PJ O'Keeffe corner, it fell to Anthony Byrne to deliver another corner kick into the heart of the Ballywaltrim defence.
And from the moment it left his boot you could tell it had only one destination, the rising forehead of substitute David Dillon, whose mighty frame proved unstoppable, as did his powerful header to the back of the net past Jonathan Mason on the Ballywaltrim line.
The visitors, to their credit, never gave up the fight although they could never regain their fluidity or influence on the game that they had in the first half and now every time Fairwood Celtic attacked there was danger.
And speaking of danger, Fairwood's third and final goal would come from the boot of the determined and dogged Tony Darcy who gathered on the halfway line from a pass by Sean Kenny and moved at speed into an acre of space towards the Ballywaltrim goal.
Inches behind him was the thundering presence of Mark Flanagan who just couldn't catch the sprinting Darcy whose low strike was superbly saved by the advancing Jonathan Mason only for the now entwined pair of Darcy and Flanagan to somehow coax the spinning ball over the line.
Ballywaltrim did come with a late surge and strikes from subsitute Sean O'Toole and Kevin Cowan from a free did trouble the Fairwood defence but it wasn't to be and Fairwood Celtic deservedly claimed the points while Ballywaltrim endured a long drive back home.
Top form - Tony Darcy Fairwood Celtic. Unstoppable.