Joe Mallon SFC quarter-final
On a day when Athy, Johnstownbridge and Moorefield all showed their credentials for winning the Joe Mallon SFC, Celbridge showed why they will be a major player in the final four as they eased to a six-point victory over Naas in the final game of the day.
The victors were superior in almost every area, with the likes of Kevin Flynn, Hugh McGrillen, Fergal Conway and Paddy Brophy all particularly impressive for Trevor O'Sullivan's men.
On an extremely wet night in Hawkfield it proved difficult for both sets of players to grips with the conditions, though the pace of the game was fast and frantic right from the off as both teams were happy to let their wing-backs attack at pace and throw plenty of bodies forward.
Naas were severely hindered from a lack of scoring chances up front however, with a staunch Celbridge backline ensuring that their forward unit never got anything easy, and the only way they remained in touch at the break was through the three points that Ronan Joyce kicked to leave the scores at 1-6 to 0-3 in favour of the north Kildare side. It was the County Town team who began the better however, and they opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Paul McDermott excellently turned the ball over and set up Joyce to slot it between the posts from the left wing.
Celbridge soon settled, and they reeled off 1-3 without response to take a firm grip of the game that they would never loosen. Paddy Brophy opened the scoring with a fine point, before efforts from Shane Harte and Tony Archbold sent them two points clear. Their goal game rather fortuitously as Brophy sliced an effort for a point high into the evening sky, it dropped to David Hughes and he finished emphatically from close range to give Luke Mullins now chance.
Joyce responded up the other end with his first pointed free of the evening, but Celbridge were dominant from goalkeeper right up to midfield as they were winning almost all the battles in those areas. Fergal Conway was particularly impressive, giving a muscular midfield display as he powered his way through the game, and he boomed over a fine point on 19 minutes to send his side five clear. Further scores from Brophy and John Costello left Naas facing into a big deficit, but that was cut slightly before the break by another free from Joyce.
Like the three games that went before this one on Saturday, there was one team needing to come out with a big response at the start of the second half to have any chance, and, like the three games that went before, the leaders increased their lead sufficiently in the opening few minutes to put the game beyond doubt.
Brophy angled over the point of the night straight upon the restart as he split the posts from the left touchline, while the impressive Archbold knocked over his second soon after. When Shane Harte raised another white flag to push Celbridge nine points clear it looked like game over, and though Naas upped a gear on the run-in, in truth Celbridge were comfortable for the remainder of the tie.
Eamonn Callaghan became Naas' second scorer of the evening when he curled over a brilliant effort from long range, but another couple of superb scores from Brophy and Harte ensured any hopes of an uprising were quickly quelled. John Joyce and Mick O'Grady swapped efforts at either end, before Naas' best scoring spurt of the game came when they notched three points in quick succession as Ronan Joyce kicked two frees either side of a Shane Bergin '45, but an audacious right wing point from a free off the boot of David Hughes kept the scoreboard ticking at the other end for the victors.
Naas put a bit of gloss on the final scoreline with late points from Joyce and Bergin, but, somewhat fittingly, it was the excellent Conway who had the final saw by striking the final score of the night at the other end.
Scorers for Celbridge: P Brophy 0-4, D Hughes 1-1(1f), S Harte 0-3, F Conway and T Archbold 0-2 each, M O'Grady and J Costello 0-1 each.
Scorers for Naas: R Joyce 0-7(6f), J Joyce, E Callaghan, S Bergin(1'45) 0-1 each.
S McNamara; D McEvoy, K Flynn, O Lyons; M Konstantin, M O'Grady, H McGrillen; C Brophy, F Conway; C Doyle(K O'Callaghan , T Archbold(D Corcoran 55mins), J Costello; S Harte(P Carty 53mins), D Hughes, P Brophy.
L Mullins; B Byrne, S Bergin, E Bateman; A McDermott(S Gibbons 46mins), E Doyle, B Kane; P McDermott, D Gahan; J Cocoman(P Sullivan 42mins), J Joyce, E Callaghan; R Joyce, C Mellett(D Shaw 26mins(W Murtagh 53mins), A Begley.
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