An Tochar's JP Nolan saved the day for the Roundwood Minors when he fired home a late goal to secure a draw against St Nicholas in the Minor football championship clash played in Donard on Monday evening last.
Goals had kept the An Tochar lads in this game given that St Nicholas seemed able to pull away with points thanks to the very impressive Joe Mills. Ciaran Murphy had bagged their first major early in the second half when they trailed by four to bring them right back into contention.
St Nicholas then produced some fine football to open up a three-point gap at 1-11 to 1-8 but JP Nolan fired home to level the game and then the home side looked to have done more than enough to finally put the An Tochar challenge to bed only for the Roundwood side to work one last attack into the St Nicholas defence and for Nolan to weave his way through before slotting home low and hard past Meithéal Cleary.
There was some very impressive talent on display in this 'A' championship encounter played on a cool but beautiful July evening in Joe Mills Memorial Park.
Both sides had some capable footballers in their ranks with Joe Mills looking lethal at times in the St Nicholas attack while the aforementioned JP Nolan, Conor Fee and Matt Nolan shone brightly for the visitors.
A lightning start for An Tochar had the home side concerned but they gathered their thoughts and a Sean Doyle goal, three points for Mills and singles from the lively Conor Manifold and Adam Byrne opened up a 1-5 to 0-3 lead at the first water break, Darragh Fee (2) and Niall Sheehan bagging the An Tochar scores.
At times St Nicholas looked really powerful but at other times they seemed to lapse in and out of the game but they produced a surge after the water break that earned them two points from Joe Mills (one free) and two wides.
Conor Fee replied for An Tochar to leave the score at the break 1-7 to 0-4 and a strong suggestion that St Nicholas would have too much for the Roundwood men in the second half.
But the half-time talk lifted the visitors and they added 1-3 to their tally within a matter of minutes. Niall Sheehan got the ball rolling so to speak and his effort was followed by a converted JP Nolan free after a foul on Ciaran Murphy.
An unfortunate kick-out proved costly for the home side when Ciaran Murphy pounced to fire home past Meithéal Cleary. He won't be the first goalkeeper to make an error and he certainly won't be the last. The young St Nicholas netminder made a decision that looked the best one at the time and got caught between two minds when he realised the proximity of Murphy to his defender.
Conor Fee added a point and suddenly we were all square in Donard.
A foul on the impressive Sean Doyle provided Joe Mills with a chance from the free and the lethal attacker obliged with a fine score and the gap was back out to three after points by Sean Doyle (free) and another Mills beauty.
The hard-working Ryan Hanlon pulled one back for An Tochar as the play ebbed and flowed up and down the beautiful pitch in Donard and you got the feeling that St Nicholas just weren't able to out this game to bed.
Mills added another and then the home side added two more wides to their total before JP Nolan got in for An Tochar's second major with 25 gone in the second half.
Again, St Nicholas proved very dangerous on the counter and Mills bagged a stunner to push his side back in front.
A savage kick-out from Meithéal Cleary was the source of the next St Nicholas point. The young netminder drilled a low-trajectory missile right up the field where a mark was taken.
The ball was worked to Mills and the white flag was raised. Beautiful football.
A sweet ball from Matt Miley found Sean Doyle who fired over as St Nicholas looked to be coasting but they switched off after a long ball to An Tochar's Niall Sheehan produced a late free. Centre back Matt Nolan looked for option and found JP Nolan totally unmarked to his left.
He dinked the free to Nolan. Nolan sailed past three St Nicholas men with some sublime sidesteps and dummies before firing low and had for the equaliser.
It was a class finish from the young man who had a super game and it goes to show that the game is never over until that final whistle sounds.
Credit to both teams for a very entertaining game of football.
St Nicholas: Meithéal Cleary; Óisin O'Friel, Rory Martin, Ciarán Geoghegan; Cian Fox, Mickey O'Rourke, Sean O'Sullivan; Willie Eager, Tadgh McCarthy; Eoin Sheridan, Joe Mills (0-10, 3f), Conor Manifold (0-1); Sean Doyle (1-2, 1f), Adam Byrne (0-1), Dylan Prendergast. Subs: Matt Miley for A Byrne, Cian Deering for Ó O'Friel,
An Tochar: Aaron Smith; Jack Wolohan, Dylan Cummins, Piaras Morris; Andrew Nolan, Matt Nolan, Ryan Hanlon (0-1); James Cardiff, Niall Sheehan (0-2); Enda Murphy, JP Nolan (2-1, 1f), Lorcan Smyth; Darragh Fee (0-2), Conor Fee (0-2), Ciaran Murphy (1-0). Subs: Enda Byrne for E Murphy, Ben Staunton for P Morris, Eanna Nolan for E Byrne.
Referee: Stephen Fagan (Baltinglass)