Saturday 24 March 2018

Plenty of derby fire

It had plenty of drama at the end, it had oodles of bite, it had brutal tackles at times, and it had some controversial refereeing but, unfortunately, it had very little quality football and things can only get better in that regard in the replay between Annacurra and the Shamrocks.

Just how much a Facebook spat between a member of the Shamrocks panel and quite a few of the Annacurra players earlier in the day contributed to the hostile carry-on on the field is impossible to tell but the completely unnecessary insult certainly would have only added fuel to this local derby's fire.

And that fire was very evident in the opening minutes as referee Eddie Leonard was kept very busy awarding frees and he pulled out his first black card after 120 seconds when he sent Shamrocks centre-half back, Robert Lambert, to the line after the Wicklow county goalkeeper had taken an Annacurra player out of it off the ball.

In that brief period leading up to the black card Annacurra had been like men possessed. They were hassling and harrying and the game was off to a frenetic start.

With Lambert gone the Shamrocks management stationed Billy Byrne at centre-half back and introduced Padraig Lancaster to midfield while Clive Horan opened Annacurra's account with a well-struck free in the third minute.

Corner-forward, Nevan O'Sullivan should have goaled then after a great move up the field was powered by Alan Byrne but O'Sullivan fired wide of Brendan Whelan's goal.

Johnny Wybrant broke a high ball to Derek Kavanagh then and the Aughrim star opened the Shamrocks account with eight minutes on the clock and already you could tell that this was going to be a dreadfully low-scoring encounter.

Sadly however it wasn't just the scoring that would be dreadful in this game, the whole affair was lacking in the standard required at Senior championship level.

After the blow of losing Robert Lambert the Shamrocks manager, Mervyn Travers, was forced to deal with the loss of Mark Kenny who had to leave the field due to an injury as did 16-year-old Annacurra star Elliot Robinson. Annacurra intorduced Shane McAllister for Robinson.

Travers sent in Seanie O'Neill in place of the Ballymanus man but then moments later he had to introduce Alan Humphreys after Andrew Holt was badly injured after he took a brutal knee in the head.

The Aughrim player tried valiantly to continue but collapsed a second time and, thankfully, he was not allowed to continue.

Just prior to this, Annacurra suffered their own woe when Mick O'Brien was shown a black card and Frank Clune was introduced in his place.

The game continued with almost no highlights. Paddy Byrne fired wide from a free after 22 minutes before Nevan O'Sullivan fired over a fine point.

Johnny Wybrant, who was getting no joy from Vinnie Flaherty in the opening half, fired wide for the Shamrocks after 29 minutes before Paddy Byrne took a pass from Billy Byrne and fired over to level the game at two points apiece with 29 minutes on the clock.

Clive Horan would have the last say of the first half with a free although Johnny Wybrant should have goaled immediately after Horan's point after Derek Kavanagh found himself in space behind the Annacurra back line and he fisted across to Wybrant but the Knockananna man punched wide of Bob Fitzgerald's goal.

Kavanagh had found the space because Alan Byrne, in an attempt to shoulder a Shamrocks player, accidentally collided with Liam Moules, and both men crashed to the ground with Moules being left the worst off of the two.

The dire football continued after the restart. Derek Kavanagh fired horrendously wide after 40 seconds as the Shamrocks began playing into the breeze.

But minutes later Kavanagh's superb cross field ball found Paddy Byrne in the square and he was wrestled to the ground and Eddie Leonard awarded the Shamrocks a penalty.

Amazingly, the Shamrocks players seemed unsure as to who would take the spot kick and after some confusion, Paddy Byrne stepped up but his shot was excellently saved by the tall Bob Fitzgerald who got down brilliantly to his left to push the ball away from goal.

Paddy Byrne then won a free off Frank Clune and Derek Kavanagh pointed to level matters and three points each.

An injury to Patrick Phelan saw Mervyn Travers introduce Kevin Tyrell and within seconds Tyrell had the ball blazed over the Annacurra bar. Ian McDonald fired wide at the other end before Bob Fitzgerald came to Annacurra's rescue again with a fine save at point blank range from Seanie O'Neill.

Stephen Mann was putting in a good shift at full-back for the Shamrocks and he cleared a dangerous Annacurra ball but back Annacurra came and Alan Horan equalised after 14 minutes of the second half.

A super ball from Knockananna's Paddy Byrne to Derek Kavanagh saw the Aughrim man fire over before Seanie O'Neill, just back from America, blazed wide a moment later.

Nice play between Ronan Byrne and Paddy Byrne saw the Ballymanus man push Shamrocks two in front as Annacurra introduced Pierce O'Brien for Nevan O'Sullivan.

A foul on Ian McDonald allowed Clive Horan the opportunity to reduce to deficit to one before Frank Clune spurned a chance to level matters after he fired wide after 23 minutes.

Horan did the honours though a moment later with a fine score and the game was balanced finely. Tristan Maher was introduced for Knockananna's Paddy Byrne who had taken a knock after putting in a fine shift of championship football before Clive Horan clocked up another wide after a great ball from Frank Clune.

A Paddy Byrne free pushed Shamrocks into the lead yet again after 29 minutes but Frank Clune converted a late free to earn what looked to be a deserved draw as neither team really deserved to win it to be brutally honest.

But Eddie Leonard allowed time for one more Shamrocks attack and Derek Kavanagh was pulled down 21 yards from the goal and up stepped Paddy Byrne but the Ballymanus man fired wide to leave the score at seven points each at the end.

The replay has the potential to be a much-improved affair providing football is the fore. But, despite the desperate quality in this game there were still some quality contributions.

Bob Fitzgerald was excellent in goals for Annacurra. Their full-back line was merciless with Vinnie Flaherty showing very well although it will be interesting to see how his tussle with Johnny Wybrant will unfold if better ball can be supplied to the Shamrocks sharp-shooter in the replay should he start at full-forward.

All over the field the Annacurra men were fully focused on bettering their neighbours and they came very near to doing so. Paul McDonald was excellent throughout this clash. Clive Horan, Alan Byrne, Frank Clune when introduced, and Nevan O'Sullivan all performed well on the day.

For the Shamrocks there will be concern over Mark Kenny and Andrew Holt but Brendan Whelan was solid with one fine catch in his square his standout moment. Stephen Mann was very capable at full-back, Paddy Byrne was industrious at half-back, Ronan Byrne showed real leadership from his centre-half forward berth, Billy Byrne worked his socks off while Moyne's Paddy Byrne and Derek Kavanagh provided the majority of the scoring.

Plenty of potential in the replay, but, in fairness, anything would be better than the overall display in this championship opener between two very able sides.

Scorers - Annacurra: Clive Horan 0-04 (2f); Nevan O'Sullivan 0-01; Alan Horan 0-01; Frank Clune 0-01. Shamrocks: Derek Kavanagh 0-03 (1f); Paddy Byrne 0-03; Kevin Tyrell 0-01.

Bray People