Quality encounter will be of benefit to both teams
An Tóchar 3-10
Aughrim held off a determined fightback from An Tóchar on Monday evening to get their Minor football championship bid back on track. Both teams had suffered losses in the opening round of games, so the pressure was on to deliver.
A fine contest was played out in Andy Allen Park giving a decent sized crowd plenty to shout about. It is the first time Aughrim have competed in the Minor football championship as a single club.
Aughrim had looked extremely comfortable early on and actually led by nine points at one stage in the first half. The home side were enjoying the benefits of a strong enough breeze blowing into the town goal, but it was their overall direct approach play early on that was wonderful.
A point from Alex Kavanagh straight from the throw in was quickly followed by two goals in the fourth and sixth minutes. It was Kavanagh who buried the first one and Conaill O’Brien the second after Kavanagh had done the spade work, giving Declan Murphy little chance with either.
An Tóchar quickly tried to remedy the danger Kavanagh was executing by switching Matthew Fox back to the edge of the square. To his credit Fox performed well but Aughrim strangely switched to a more patient and slow build up after the opening quarter which also nullified the obvious and potent Kavanagh and O’Brien threat. Denis Leacy and JJ Brady worked hard in the corners to stem the Aughrim tide and stuck to their task well.
When An Tóchar did come raiding sporadically, Oisin Keegan, Conor Wilson and Charlie O’Connor were showing well. Midfielder Jack Byrne had another Aughrim point before Joseph McDonnell finally got An Tóchar on the board with a fine point.
The Roundwood side were growing into the game and got a goal of their own in the 16th minute after the dangerous Joe Heatly was quickest to the rebound after a brilliant Mark Shannon save from a Michael Nolan shot. Aughrim would be thankful for Shannon’s heroics between the sticks as he executed a number of fine saves over the hour.
Aughrim responded to the goal with a trio of points from Conaill O’Brien after a short 45 from Kavanagh, Joe McGuckian after a typical dart forward and Kavanagh from a long distance free.
Éanna Nolan was having a great tussle with Leo Byrne on the forty and he had a brace of An Tóchar points coming up to half time to leave the score at the break Aughrim 2-9 An Tóchar 1-5. By now Aaron Smith and Josh Healy had gotten to grips with Byrne and Dermot Toomey around the middle and Seán McHugh, Killian Byrne and Cameron Brady had stepped forward to lend a hand.
An Tóchar got a dream start to the second half with a goal from Josh Healy in the 34th minute. Éanna Nolan and Kavanagh shared the next four points between them before Cameron Brady got in for a super An Tóchar goal in the 41st minute.
He picked the ball up 50 metres from goal and soloed up the sideline before coming along the endline and finishing to the top corner. The gap was now down to the minimum 2-11 to 3-7. Joe Heatly was a constant threat to the Aughrim backs and Enda Murphy was brilliant covering every blade of grass and using the ball intelligently for the young Roundwood men.
Aughrim were reduced to 14 men moments later and were thankful for a Kavanagh free and fine individual score from Jack Byrne to give them some breathing space.
An Tóchar then lost a man of their own to a black card but they kept coming back. Nolan had two points from frees as the pressure began to show on the overworked Aughrim backs. Shannon denied Joseph McDonnell with a fantastic reflex save to keep Aughrim ahead. A brilliant interception from Lorcan Toomey also kept An Tóchar at bay as did some fine defending when it mattered from Finn Byrne and Leo Byrne.
The gap was down to one as the game ticked into the last minute when the outstanding Kavanagh kicked a sublime and much needed Aughrim score. A fine passing movement which was started by Oisin Keegan was carried on by Colm McGuckian who found Conaill O’Brien who fed Kavanagh out on the left wing. Under increasing pressure, he kept his cool and his balance to shoot over a fine score off his left boot.
An Tóchar came raiding and Éanna Nolan kicked over an injury time free to narrow the gap once again to the minimum but it was Aughrim who finished on top seeing out the remaining minute in the An Tóchar half to secure a vital win.
Both teams know there is plenty of room for improvement, but a game of this quality will bring both on a lot.
Aughrim: Mark Shannon; Finn Byrne, Oisin Keegan, Conor Wilson; Charlie O’Connor, Leo Byrne, Lorcan Toomey; Jack Byrne (0-2), Dermot Toomey; Joe McGuckian (0-1), Alex Kavanagh (1-9, 0-4 frees), Colm McGuckian, Conaill O’Brien (1-2), Cameron Byrne, Stephen O’Toole. Subs: Mark Murphy for O’Toole.
An Tóchar: Declan Murphy; JJ Brady, Seán McHugh, Denis Leacy; Cameron Brady (1-0), Matthew Fox, Killian Byrne; Josh Healy (1-0), Aaron Smith; Michael Nolan (0-1), Éanna Nolan (0-7, 0-6 frees), Enda Murphy (0-1); Joseph McDonnell (0-1), Joe Heatly (1-0), Ciaran Byrne. Sub: Daniel Concagh.
Referee: Kieron Kenny (Tinahely)