Round Towers 0-6
Joe Mallon SFC quarter-final
Athy justified their tag as the bookies' favourites for this year's Kildare Senior Football Championship as they brushed aside the challenge of Round Towers in a real show of strength at Hawkfield on Saturday evening.
Many questioned why Athy were such overwhelming favourites going into a game against Round Towers side who have performed superbly in the championship up to this point, but stirring performances from the likes of Kevin Feely, Pascal Connell and Darroch Mulhall gave credence to their favourites tag.
A word too for their miserly defence that kept a usually fluid Round Towers attack at bay throughout, conceding just three points from play, and in truth they dominated every sector of the pitch.
A really excellent first half of football finished with Athy leading by 0-8 to 0-5, and while they were the largely dominant force in the first 30 minutes, a fine seven minute spell from Towers in the middle of the half ensured that they remained well in contention at the break.
It was the Kildare Town side that opened up the scoring in the fourth minute as the ever reliable Neil Scanlon slotted over a straightforward free, but Athy took control of the game by reeling off five points in the space of eight minutes as they hit their stride. All five points came from different players, and it was their captain, Kevin Feely, who opened the scoring for them with a fine score after six minutes. James Eaton put them into the lead a minute later, before a fine score by Niall Kelly doubled their advantage.
The best score of the first half arrived shortly after when Sean Ronan cut out a Round Towers attack on his own '45, allowing Athy to break upfield at lightning pace and Darroch Mulhall applied a lovely finish from 40 metres with the outside of his boot. A Liam McGovern free put them four points clear, and seemingly in a position where they wouldn't be caught.
Towers began to get into the game from that point however, and once Neil Scanlon doubled their tally with his second point from a free they began to grow in confidence. Scanlon set up his brother Mark soon after to score from close range, and the former then pointed another free to cut the gap to one. It was during this period when Athy really struggled with kickouts as goalkeeper Stephen Davis failed to find his men with any regularity, and one poor kickout that fell to Evan Flynn was excellently capitalised upon as the flying midfielder stole up the right wing and curled a beautiful point over. Athy manager Emmanuel Kennedy then chose to change his goalkeeper, and, somewhat surprisingly sprung Rory Feely from the bench to take his place between the posts. Younger brother of Kevin, Rory has been playing with Airtricity League side St Patrick's Athletic this year and hadn't lined out for Athy in the championship so far.
The reds finished the half strongly, and an excellent couple of points from the impressive duo of Pascal Connell and Kevin Feely were added to by a point from Mulhall as they went into the turnaround with three-point lead.
A few points at the start of the second half was always likely to see Athy open up a lead that would be insurmountable for Towers to claw back, and with a couple of early points from Mulhall and McGovern they did just that. With a solid base continuing to keep out each black and amber attack, it was a matter of tagging on point after point as they grew in confidence as the half wore on.
Matthew Kelly's excellent point from the left wing was the only bit of resistance that Towers offered during those early stages of the second half, but they were pretty much beaten in every sector of the pitch thereafter. Niall Kelly set up McGovern for a close range point on 47 minutes, before the Kildare star then pierced through the Towers' defence and blazed over a point from 15 metres out.
From that point on it was all Athy as the majority of the football was played in the Round Towers end of the ground, with the likes of McGovern and Mulhall performing particularly well on the run-in. The winners scored eight points in the space of 12 minutes as the game drew to a close, with Niall Kelly and David Hyland kicking the pick of the bunch as they eased into the last four of the championship with plenty to spare.
Scorers for Athy: L McGovern 0-7(5f), D Mulhall 0-4, N Kelly and K Feely 0-2 each, D Hyland, P Connell, H Mahon and J Eaton 0-1 each.
Scorers for Round Towers: N Scanlon 0-3f, E Flynn, M Kelly and M Scanlon 0-1 each.
S Davis(R Feely 25mins); K Mulhall, D Hyland(B Curtis 57min), M Hyland; S Ronan(P Dunne 55mins), M Foley, T Gibbons; P Connell, K Feely(J Moran 55mins); N Kelly, C Reynolds, L McGovern; H Mahon, J Eaton(T Martin 49mins), N Kelly(T Foley 55mins).
J Robinson; S Comerford, M Kelly, J Dunne(M Joyce 45mins); M Scanlon, C Daffy, N Fleming(D O'Neill 16mins); M Waters, E Flynn; M Kelly, J O'Brien, M Byrne(B Robinson 50mins); C Hyland(DJ Flynn 52mins), S Murphy, N Scanlon.
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