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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Curraha have last laugh over O'Connell's

GAA AIB Leinster Club IFC: Curraha 2-7 O’Connell’s 0-12

Jackie Agnew, O’Connell’s, challenges for the ball with Andrew Battersby and Mark Phelan, Curraha, during their Leinster IFC Championship Quarter-Final at The Grove.
Jackie Agnew, O’Connell’s, challenges for the ball with Andrew Battersby and Mark Phelan, Curraha, during their Leinster IFC Championship Quarter-Final at The Grove.

Sean Wall at The Grove

Louth teams have over the years developed a habit of dominating their more fancied Meath opponents everywhere except where it matters most - on the scoreboard.

This AIB Leinster Intermediate Club tie was no different and few will argue with the assertion that this was a game that O'Connell's left behind them at The Grove, last Saturday.

The Louth champions seemed to get most things right against their more fancied opponents, making a terrific start, dominating for long spells, curtailing Curraha's danger men, before falling on their own sword.

Three points within the opening two minutes gave the hosts the perfect start to a first half that they dominated, however a 0-7 to 0-3 interval lead was scant reward for those efforts. Their lack of a killer instinct when they had their opponents for the taking eventually came back to haunt Paddy Bates side at the final whistle.

On numerous occasions O'Connells efforts for points fell short and into the grateful hands of Curraha keeper Luke McCarthy. Such was the chances created in that first half O'Connells should have enjoyed a much bigger lead at the break.

It was goal poacher Andrew Battersby who came to Curraha's rescue in the second half with two superb finishes after O'Connells had squandered possession on both occasions.

The 18-year-old scored a number of crucial goals during Curraha's memorable county championship campaign and he came up trumps once more in his sides hour of need.

In contrast to an indifferent opening half display when they managed just a single point from play, scored by Conor Moriarty on 22 minutes, Curraha restarted in terrific fashion. Within a minute of the resumption Battersby struck for his opening goal, producing a sublime finish to the roof of the O'Connells net from a David Coyle pass.

The lead was wiped out by the 33rd minute when James McEntee pointed a free after O'Connells keeper Stuart Reynolds was penalised for a pick up.

Despite that improved second half showing Curraha had to wait 52 minutes to lead for the first time and it was Battersby who was again on the end of a move to find the net and put his side 2-7 to 0-10 ahead.

Curraha didn't score again after that but with Neil Shortall playing a captain's role at the back they held out in spite of late O'Connells pressure.

The hosts already had an outing behind them, overcoming Kilbride of Carlow in an infamous match that saw 10 players sent off. Two of the four O'Connells players sent off that day, Paul McKeever and Sean Connolly, were unavailable because of suspension and those absentees proved a blow.

However the Castlebellingham side couldn't have asked for a better start with quick fire points from Niall Conlon, Robert Quigley and Dean Stanfield. James McEntee was wide twice for Curraha before Conor Moriarty eventually got them off the mark from a free.

Another converted free, this time from McEntee, left the minimum between the teams but it was the home side who continued to set the pace and by half-time Robert Quigley had accounted for four of their points with midfielder Dean Stanfield notching a brace.

O'Connells hopes diminished following the concession of those scores immediately after half-time but they replied with points from Quigley and Conor McGill and were still two clear, 0-10 to 1-5, following Niall Conlon's 43rd minute pointed free.

Moriarty's third point brought it back to the minimum before substitute Evan McGovern's first time effort flew over the bar when it could quite easily have gone under. Then came what proved to be the match winning goal as Curraha went in front for the first time.

Hard as they tried O'Connells were unable to reel in their opponents in the closing stages. Conlon converted his third free and in virtually the last action Quigley saw his screamer from a free fly over the bar when it needed to go under.

The home side finished with 14 men following the sending-off of Dean Stanfield just before the final whistle, while keeper and captain Stuart Reynolds was black-carded earlier in the final quarter.

CURRAHA: Luke McCarthy; Mark Phelan, Niall Murphy, Seamus Hogan; Sean O'Hanrahan, Neil Shortall, David Toner; Brian Joyce, Brian Murphy; Andrew Battersby 2-0, Gavin Coyle, Phelim Dowling; Conor Moriarty 0-3 (2f), David Coyle, James McEntee 0-3 (2f). Subs: Evan McGovern 0-1 for G Coyle (38), Sean Keogh for D Coyle (52).

O'CONNELL'S: Stuart Reynolds; Keith Woods, Salem Rifaie, James Clerkin; Emmet Byrne, Stuart Osbourne, Jason Carroll; Conor McGill; Dean Stanfield 0-2, Sean Cairns; Conor McGill 0-1, Robert Quigley 0-6 (3f), PJ Tuite; Jackie Agnew, Conor Kieran, Niall Conlon 0-3 (2f). Sub: Dean Corrigan for Tuite (38), Liam Kieran for Reynolds (BC 53).

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