Tuesday 20 February 2018

Brophy delighted with young guns as Athy discover momentum to dismiss Old Leighlin


Daragh Conchir, leinster club sfc

THEY won't view it this way themselves but no matter what happens against Garrycastle in the Leinster semi-final on Sunday week, Athy are immersed in whatever terrain lies beyond bonus territory.

They are a delight to watch when in full flow and for the second week running the best team from another county tried to stymie them with numbers behind the ball, and it worked at times.

However, the fussiness of referee Joe Curley didn't help their cause at times to build up a head of steam in the opening half.

It was no coincidence that when the whistle wasn't sounded anywhere near as regularly after the break that Athy finally built up a momentum to which their opponents had no answer.

The quite remarkable aspect of this Athy side is that nine of the starting team are still involved in Athy's domestic U-21 campaign. Furthermore, their captain and Kildare All Star Mick Foley has played no part in the provincial campaign due to a pre-booked holiday and will not be back in the country until January.

And yet the novices are so accustomed to winning big games right through the underage grades in Kildare that they have no problem believing they will win, even after a sluggish start such as they had in this game.

"A 10-point victory in any competition is very good, especially at this level so we're pleased enough with it," said manager Mark Brophy. "The lads are picking a little bit up every game. We'll have to pick up a lot more for the next day but the lads are looking forward to it."

Carlow club Old Leighlin were reduced to 14 men just a minute from the end when David Dowling received his second yellow, both brandished after trips.

They were well beaten by that stage, though, having offered very little attacking threat apart from the excellent efforts of Seamus Kinsella, whose 56th-minute goal was their only second-half score.

It reduced the margin to six points but Athy responded with a goal of their own inside 60 seconds, when James Eaton slammed to the net from the penalty spot after Ger Hickey had handled the ball on the ground in the small parallelogram.

However, they were exposed for Kinsella's strike and also showed naivety in defence in the opening period, when James Roycroft was forced into three outstanding saves.

"We were very open, especially in the first half," Brophy said. "James has been fantastic for us all year. It's his first year at senior level and he hasn't really put a foot wrong. We're delighted with him."

But with the soaring 19-year-old Kevin Feely outstanding in the air and the human hoover Tony Gibbons -- captain of this year's Kildare minors -- equally as adept on the turf around the middle third, Athy always held the upper hand.

"When you've two fielders like Kevin and Paddy (Dunne) it's fantastic. We know, at worst, we're going to be breaking the ball at least.

"There's not too many out there that's going to catch the ball over these fellas' heads. Tony Gibbons is like a magnet, for a young fella of 18 years of age."

Despite Darroch Mulhall pointing after 15 seconds, Athy struggled to get going in the opening half, but with Liam McGovern and Ross Bell adding sweet scores, they were still worthy leaders at half-time, by 0-5 to 0-3.

They scored at will after the resumption, though, while also bringing their overall tally of wides to 13.

Scorers -- Athy: J Eaton 1-1 (1-0 pen), L McGovern, C Reynolds (1f) 0-3 each, R Bell 0-2, K Feely, T Gibbons, D Mulhall, D O'Keeffe 0-1 each. Old Leighlin: S Kinsella 1-2 (1f), C Coughlan 0-1 (1f).

Athy -- J Roycroft; D Hyland, B Kinahan, J Kinahan; R Bell, E Delahunt, E Kennedy; P Dunne, K Feely; T Gibbons, C Reynolds, L McGovern; D Mulhall, K Brophy, J Eaton. Subs: D O'Keeffe for Brophy (41), D Holligan for B Kinihan inj (45), C O'Brien for Delahunt (54), H Mahon for Bell (60), T Dunne for Kennedy (60).

Old Leighlin -- J Clarke; G Hickey, Michael P Meaney, E Fitzgerald; D Dowling, J Hayden, R Burke; P Hickey, M Brennan; D Kelly, C Coughlan, D Bambrick; Michael Meaney, H Gahan, S Kinsella. Subs: A Nolan for Brennan inj (27), C Brennan for Fitzgerald (50), S Kinsella for Michael Meaney (52).

Ref -- J Curley (Meath).

Irish Independent

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