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Junior 'B' Football Championship Semi-final: Avoca 0-14 Avondale 2-7
Avoca charged into the final of the Philip Doyle Junior 'B' Football Championship with a stunning finish to their fierce battle with Avondale in Annacurra last Thursday night.
Before a decent crowd of spectators on a dry but chilly evening, Michael Quinn's men rallied from three points down early in the second half to win by a single point thanks to the scoring exploits of centre forward Dean Power who lashed over three beauties in the closing stages to undo a gallant Avondale challenge that looked in fine form after first-half goals from Seamus McGraynor and Callum Pursey had rocked the Avoca men.
What this return to the Junior 'B' final means to players and supporters alike was abundantly clear upon Darragh Byrne's final whistle after a last-gasp effort at an equaliser from second-half substitute Shane Burch had drifted to the right of the uprights at the Aughrim end of the pitch. Players hugged each other, some dropped to their knees and supporters of all ages flooded on to the pitch to celebrate less than 12 months after a heart-breaking defeat in the county final against Hollywood.
This year you get the impression that this Avoca team are much wiser and much more capable than 2018 with performers like Andrew Doyle Jnr, Dean Power, Martin Kenny, Mickey Fahy and Robert Wilson flying in the team the decider with Enniskerry who defeated Knockananna in the other semi-final should be a belter.
Things didn't look terribly rosy midway through the first half for Michael Quinn's men. Trailing 2-2 to 0-3 after 23 minutes there was every chance that this wasn't going to be a good night for the black and amber.
Avondale had built a wall across their own 45 and Avoca were having major difficulties in breaching the defence with Andrew Doyle and Martin Kenny not really featuring as strongly as the Avoca management team would have liked.
As always, Avoca deployed Aaron Tuke as an extra defender around the 45 and both he and Mikey Fahy were busy trying to contain a very useful Avondale attack with Callum Pursey and Donal McGraynor looking decidedly dangerous early on.
Martin Kenny opened the scoring from a deliciously floated 45 in the opening moments after Shane O'Neill did very well to get a hand to a ball that had been delivered in long to full-forward PJ Fluskey. Had Fluskey gathered the possession there was a route open to Cory Chambers' goal.
Donal McGraynor curled over an absolute bomb in reply to Kenny's opener but Avoca settled the better and points from PJ Fluskey (free) and Dean Power's first of a five-point haul opened up a 0-3 to 0-1 lead.
And then the stuffing was very nearly knocked out of the Avoca challenge.
Seamus McGraynor sauntered through the Avoca defence exchaging a one-two with his son Donal before firing home a gorgeous goal with 14 on the clock.
The 51-year-old Avondale stalwart watched moments later as his effort at a point tailed off, but Aidan Murray was picking the ball out of the back of his net after 17 when Callum Pursey rifled home a screamer after a pass from Anthony Byrne who had been picked out with a peach of a delivery from out the field.
Avondale were hit with a black card then when Mikey O'Dea was given his marching orders after a foul on Liam Dickenson off the ball that was spotted by linesman Robert Roche. In came Cathal Doyle to replace O'Dea.
A majestic point from Karl Phelan made it 2-2 to 0-3 after 23 before Martin Kenny pulled one back from a free which was answered by an excellent Callum Pursey point off his right to leave the Dales leading 2-3 to 0-4 at the break and looking more than comfortable it should be said.
The second half was all about the running of Andrew Doyle and the scoring of Martin Kenny and Dean Power.
Where Avoca were having difficulty breaking through in the first half, Andrew Doyle stepped up in the second and brought major pressure to bear on the Avondale half-back line.
A sublime Martin Kenny point from a free on the wrong side for a right-footed kicker opened the scoring in the second half. There was a certain element of softness to the free with Avondale full-back Connor Sheehan doing very little wrong against PJ Fluskey other than being skintight when coming out for a Andrew Doyle ball.
Cory Chambers drifted over a dream 45 moments later but that would be only one of four scores Avondale would record in the second half and therein lay their problem - they just couldn't penetrate the Avoca defence to the same extent as they had done in the first half.
A Martin Kenny 45, Dean Power, Martin Kenny from a free and a sublime score from Dale Fluskey off his left brought Avoca to within a point of the Dales who then lost Callum Pursey to a second yellow in what was a devastating blow for the Rathdrum side's chances with seven to go.
Jack Manley pushed the lead out to two points after 25 with a fine effort off his right in heavy traffic but five minutes later Avoca led by two after aa Martin Kenny effort from distance and three wonderful Dean Power scores all created through the running of Andrew Doyle Jnr and a solid performance from Mikey Fahy, Dean Carter and Colin Doran.
Substitute Shane Farrar dropped over a lovely free to ensure high blood pressure on the bank among the supporters for the last few moments. Avondale would have time for one more chance and it would fall to Shane Burch whose lofted effort off his right drifted across the face of the goal and out wide.
Darragh Byrne's final whistle brought jubilation and delight to the Avoca faithful and disappointment and despair to the Avondale contingent but both sides played their part in a fierce battle that was entertaining and electric from the very start to the very last kick of the game.
Scorers - Avoca: Martin Kenny 0-7 (4f, 2 45), Dean Power 0-5, PJ Fluskey 0-1 (f), Dale Fluskey 0-1. Avondale: Callum Pursey 1-1, Seamus McGraynor 1-0, Cory Chambers 0-1 (45), Donal McGraynor 0-2, Karl Phelan 0-1, Jack Manley 0-1, Shane Farrar 0-1 (f).
Avoca: Aidan Murray; Colin O'Connor, Robert Wilson, Liam Dickenson; Dean Carter, Mikey Fahy, Colin Doran; Stephen McCauley, Martin Kenny; Chris Arthur, Dean Power, Andrew Doyle Jnr; Dale Fluskey, PJ Fluskey, Aaron Tuke. Subs:
Avondale: Cory Chambers; Shane O'Neill, Conor Sheehan, Kieran Penn; Paudie O'Toole, Karl Phelan, Harrison Penn; Seamus McGraynor, Paul Gahan; Mikey O'Dea, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Jack Manley; Anthony Byrne, Donal McGraynor, Callum Pursey. Subs: Cathal Doyle for M O'Dea (BC, 18), Shane Burch for A Byrne (42), Ian Heffernan for S O'Neill (53), Shane Farrar for J Manley (57), Darren Beevor for
Referee: Darragh Byrne (Ballymanus)