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Blues set the record straight with classy win

Anchor Tours SFC: Newtown Blues 2-12 St Joseph's 0-9

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Daire Smyth collects possession as John Connolly takes an awkward tumble. Pictures: Ken Finegan

Daire Smyth collects possession as John Connolly takes an awkward tumble. Pictures: Ken Finegan

Ken Finegan/Newspics

Daire Smyth collects possession as John Connolly takes an awkward tumble. Pictures: Ken Finegan

If a mediocre group campaign cast a few doubts on Newtown Bues' appetite for the four-in-a-row, the champs set the record straight with a typically assured and ruthless display in Sunday's opening quarter-final at Darver.

After topping their own group in some style, St Joseph's were fancied to ask the Drogheda men a few tough questions, and for 25 minutes they looked perfectly capable of pulling off a shock.

But two slack first-half goals eroded all of the good work, and maybe a bit of the Joe's confidence too.

Despite being the better team for a large chunk of that opening half, the underdogs trailed by three at the break, 2-4 to 0-7 and when the Blues re-emerged to kick four points without reply there was an air of inevitability about it all.

As comprehensive as the final scoreline looks, the Joe's will have regrets, however.

They put the Blues' defence under pressure from the start and opened a 0-3 to no score lead with scores from Alan McKenna and Alan Quigley, with two frees.

The Blues hadn't even managed to launch an attack at that stage, but they unravelled all of the Joe's early endeavour in the blink of an eye.

Ollie McDonnell's men gave them a big helping hand, relinquishing possession in a dangerous area, and then allowing Robbie Carr to play a neat one-two with Andy McDonnell before teeing up Ciaran Downey for a simple slap to the net.

The sides were level heading into the first water break, 1-1 to 0-4 and again at 1-2 to 0-5, but another soft goal, from the Joe's point of view, put the champs firmly in control.

To be fair, Andy McDonnell pressed them high and made a superb tackle to create the chance for Carr to punch to the net, but the Joe's will feel that both of the Blues' goals were cheap.

Having said that, the Joe's had Mark Neary to thank for keeping them in the game at crucial stages.

He saved superbly from John Kermode midway through the first-half, and produced a couple of even better stops to deny Ciaran Downey and Robbie Carr in the third quarter.

But the Joe's couldn't take advantage of those let-offs and ultimately a return of two second-half points was hugely disappointing given their first-half display.

But that shouldn't take anything away from the Blues, who were close to, if not at, their very best in the second period.

Even without Ross Nally, Colm Judge and Conor Branigan, they took control of the contest in a very familiar fashion after the re-start and the Joe's found Ciaran Downey and Jamie Kelly particularly hard to handle.

But for all their attacking prowess, the Blues are blessed with the best defence in the county, bar none, and the Joe's will certainly testify to that.

Not only are the Blues defenders all ultra composed in possession, they are all capable of performing a man-marking job when required and they did a superb job of stifling Conal McCaul, Ben Collier and Alan Quigley.

Of the absent trio Colm Judge is back training, despite breaking his arm just over a month ago, while Nally also trained during the week, but wasn't risked.

As they head for the last four, there are very real and present threats to their Joe Ward crown, particularly from St Mary's and Naomh Mairtin, but with the best defence around and an attack that's warming to the task with every passing week, the Blues still look like the team to beat in this surreal 2020 campaign.

NEWTOWN BLUES: Jay Lowney; Paul Moore, Fergal Donohoe 0-1, Kevin Carr; John Connolly, Emmet Carolan, Alan Connor 0-1 mk; John Kermode, Ciaran Cluskey Kelly; Daire Nally 0-1, Andy McDonnell, Robbie Carr 1-0; Conor Moore, Ciaran Downey 1-5 (3f), Jamie Kelly 0-4 (2f). Subs: Decky McNamara for R Carr (50), Thomas Cotsello for P Moore (52), Johnny McDonnell for J Kermode (58).

ST JOSEPH'S: Mark Neary; Liam O'Leary, Michael Staunton, Conor Neary; Adam O'Connor, Killian Staunton, Gabriel Bell; Alan McKenna 0-1, Thomas Smyth 0-1; Jack Mulligan 0-1, Ben Collier, Daire Smyth; Alan Quigley 0-5 (3f) Conal McCaul, Ben Mulligan 0-1. Subs: Alan Lynch for K Staunton (36), Craig Doherty for T Smyth (53), Peter Brennan for A Quigley (60).

REFEREE: David Fedigan.

Drogheda Independent