Dunlavin revival falls short
Blessington survived a late Dunlavin rally by the skin of their teeth to emerge with a one-point victory and the prize of a meeting with last year’s beaten finalists Tinahely in the second round of the Boom & Platform Hire Senior Football Championship this coming weekend.
The introduction of Dunlavin substitute Cian O’Sullivan was a major factor in the Dunlavin revival as they clawed their way back from a 1-11 to 0-2 deficit 15 minutes into the second half with the lively attacker going on to harvest 2-3 while causing the Blessington defence nightmares in the process.
For three quarters of this game, it was looking like a Blessington cruise as they caused havoc in the Dunlavin defence with Patrick O’Connor, Martin Shannon, Dean Siney and Anto McLoughlin all featuring strongly while they thwarted their attacks through the defensive power of Paul McLoughlin, Conall Gallagher and Steven Bohan.
A nasty looking injury to Dunlavin midfielder Henry Healy caused a major stoppage in the game early in the second half as they awaited the arrival of an ambulance but that didn’t seem to disrupt Jonathan Daniels’ men too much as they went on to add three points upon the resumption of play only to be knocked back just before the second water break by a great goal from Gary Allen.
Dunlavin showed a number of changes to their starting 15 with O’Sullivan being the most obvious, named at 13 but with Gary Allen taking his place in attack.
Curtis Geraghty got Blessington off the mark early on thanks to a Patrick O’Connor ball after he collected a wayward kick-out in the middle, but this was answered swiftly by Martin Stack from a free after he was fouled by Steven Bohan when collecting a great pass from dual player Tom Moran.
But Blessington looked dangerous. They were physically superior and looked in better condition to their Dunlavin counterparts and another point from Geraghty after a surging run from Kevin Hanlon, a sweet goal from Patrick O’Connor who drilled home low and hard, and a point from Martin Shannon left the Blues in a healthy position at 1-3 to 0-1 ahead early on.
Dunlavin were trying hard, but they were finding it very hard to handle the energy of Patrick O’Connor, Brian Bohan, Kevin Hanlon, Craig Maguire and Kevin John Rogers around the middle third and further points from Anto McLoughlin, now stationed at full-forward on Sean Phelan (free) and Curtis Geraghty left Jonathan Daniels’ men in charge at 1-5 to 0-1 at the water break.
Shane O’Rourke provided some balm for the Dunlavin supporters with a wicked score after the restart, but Blessington drove on relentlessly in the second quarter with points from Shannon and Anto McLoughlin while also clocking up five more wides, McLoughlin hitting the post, and drawing a good save from Tom McGuirk.
Anto McLoughlin opened Blessington’s account in the second half but then Henry Healy was injured in a completely accidental collision and play was halted for some time. Upon resumption, Blessington continued as they had left off, rattling over scores from Anto McLoughlin (free), Kevin John Rogers and another McLoughlin free.
Cian O’Sullivan had been introduced at the break for Dunlavin and he was the last pass to Gary Allen who finished low and hard to the back of Jack Sargent’s net to make it 1-11 to 1-2, still an awful long way back you felt.
That’s how it stayed until the second water break but when Dunlavin fired over two lovely points with the wind at their backs (O’Sullivan from a mark and Gary Allen from a free) you wondered could they pull off something spectacular here.
Mikey O’Connor was now on the field for Blessington, and he pointed a free to deflate the Dunlavin resurgence somewhat but when Gary Allen flicked sweetly to Cian O’Sullivan there was only one place the ball was going and that was the back of the Blessington net.
The pressure was starting to tell for Blessington. The Dunlavin crowd was in full voice. A kick-out went over the sideline. The tide was turning.
The wonderful sight of Kevin Quinn back in action was welcomed by all football supporters and he forced McGuirk into pushing over his shot for a point and Anto McLoughlin looked to have pushed Blessington to relative safety when he fisted over to make it 1-14 to 2-4.
But back came Dunlavin. Eoin Murtagh with a beast off the floor, two wonderful Cian O’Sullivan points (one free) and then a ripper of a goal from O’Sullivan and it was back to a one-point game.
Was there time? Alas, it wasn’t to be. Extra-time would have been a welter of excitement and drama for sure, but Blessington survived. Jonathan Daniels will have learned plenty from this game as he heads into the game against Tinahely this weekend. On their day, Blessington are capable of beating anyone.
Dunlavin will regroup. Cian O’Sullivan will undoubtedly start the next day and nobody will take Stephen Maxwell’s side lightly after this stunning revival.
Blessington: Jack Sargent; Steven Bohan, Jack Gilligan, Conall Gallagher; Kevin Hanlon, Paul McLoughlin, Brian Bohan; Patrick O’Connor (1-0), Eoin Keogh; Craig Mcguire, Kevin John Rogers (0-1), Martin Shannon (0-2); Dean Siney, Anto McLoughlin (0-6, 4f), Curtis Geraghty (0-3, 1m). Subs: Kevin Quinn (0-1) for Dean Siney, Mikey O’Connor (0-1, f) for C Geraghty, Dan Cooney for E Keogh, David Boothman for KJ Rogers.
Dunlavin: Tom McGuirk; Alan O’Sullivan, Sean Phelan, William Kennedy; Tom Moran, Eoin Murtagh (0-1), Mark Reid; Henry Healy, Aaron Phelan; MJ Moran, Mark Murtagh, Mikey O’Rourke; Gary Allen (1-1, 1f), Shane O’Rourke (0-1), Martin Stack (0-1, f). Subs: Daniel Dawson for H Healy (inj), Cian O’Sullivan (2-3) for M Stack, Marty Caplis.
Referee: Darragh Byrne (Ballymanus)