Laragh come up just short
With contrasting fortunes in their last competitive outings, Laragh winning the Liam Cullen Cup and An Tóchar losing out in the Timmins Cup final, it was going to be interesting to see which team would come out the better of this local derby in the Intermediate championship.
With a breeze blowing away from the town it was the men of Laragh that would have the advantage in the opening half, but it was An Tóchar that would get the opening score of the game.
With Laragh setting up with an extra defender, the attack of An Tóchar was finding it hard to find their inside line. A long ball from Matt Nolan found Niall Sheehan out in front of his man and he raised his arm to call for the mark. He composed himself and slotted the ball over the bar.
An instant reply from the Laragh men followed. From the resulting kick out the breaking ball was latched onto by David McDonald who found David Miley in space. Miley set off and with the An Tóchar defence converging, he found his midfield partner in space, and, with the aid of the breeze, Mark Miley glided the ball between the posts.
Then came what can only be described as a confusing episode. The first issue arose when a free from An Tóchar full-forward Paul Nolan – a sweet strike into the teeth of the wind from all of 50 metres – resulted in the umpire raising his hand in the air but he doesn’t reach for the white flag, and nobody knows what’s happening. Was it a point or not? A cheer goes up from the An Tóchar faithful and a point is chalked down by this reporter.
To add to the agony, the first major of the game comes when a sideline ball is taken by Conor McKenna who plays the ball back to Oisin Cullen who in turn finds a willing runner in John Paul Nolan. Nolan sells the most delightful dummy to leave Andrew Brancato face down on the ground, before turning and drilling the ball low to the bottom corner of the net. The cheers go up, but the roar is quickly muted when the linesman’s flag is seen raised aloft. Was there an off-the-ball incident that had gone unnoticed or what happened? Unfortunately for the men of An Tóchar, in their rush to get the ball back into play, Conor McKenna had stepped on to the field of play and the goal was chalked off. And now it’s the cheers of the Laragh faithful which could be heard.
Then came the signs of what An Tóchar were hoping for. Sinking back into their defence they allowed the Laragh men to make their way up the field uncontested and as Laragh moved the ball across the field the press came out and in the blink of an eye, they had the ball overturned and over the bar.
This could have raised alarm bells with the Laragh sideline but with the wind in their backs they were going to need to get the score board moving and that’s exactly what happened.
Two quick-fire frees from John Paul Nolan brought the Laragh men right back into the game. A good score by Eric Olohan after some great work by Mark Miley who remained calm as the defence closed in on him drew the sides level as the opening half entered the closing stages, but Paul Nolan would have the last say with a fine point to leave An Tóchar leading by 0-5 to 0-4 at the break.
David Miley and Conor Davis exchanged points early in the second half but with both defences remaining glue-tight both teams were finding it hard to find their forwards and in turn scores were coming at a premium.
A rare goal chance went abegging when a swift move through the hands allowed An Tóchar midfielder Matt Nolan through on goal, but his left-footed shot grazed the base of the post and out for a wide.
Both teams would trade scores and with the sides level it looked like this game could be heading for additional time, but Paul Nolan was to have other ideas.
A composed move unfolded with the ball being played across and back the field with the An Tóchar men trying to get their shooters on the ball but nobody looking to be willing to go for broke. Then a ball from Oisin Cullen over the top of the Laragh press saw John Paul Nolan gather and call for his mark. With time almost up the An Tóchar sharpshooter gathered himself and he split the post.
With the shouts coming from the crowd that time was up, one final attack was to come from Laragh, and, like An Tóchar, they tried their best to get their shooter on the ball but, unfortunately for them, a shot by David Miley is blocked down and the ball goes out for a 45.
The resulting 45 a kicked high into the air but it doesn’t have the legs and the call come out from An Tóchar keeper Peter Byrne who rises highest, and the ball is worked out and the final whistle is sounded with the Roundwood side winning by the narrowest of margins.
An Tochar: Peter Byrne; Luke Kenny, Gavin Kenny, Bobby Brady; Gavin Fogarty, Eoin Murphy, Conor McKenna; Oisin Cullen, Matt Nolan; Bill Halligan, Jordan Brady, Eamon Wolohan; Conor Davis (0-1), John Paul Nolan (0-6), Niall Sheehan (0-2). Subs: Ciaran Murphy, James Cardiff, Eoghan Marah.
Laragh: James Nolan; Aran Lynham, Andrew Brancato, Craig McCoy; David McDonald, Luke Kearney, Steve Olohan; David Miley (0-2), Mark Miley (0-1); Alex Olohan, John Nolan (0-4), Keane Murphy; Eric Olohan (0-1), Peter Merrigan, Mark Cullen. Subs Used: John Murphy, Stephen Conway.
Referee: Kieron Kenny (Tinahely)