Joe Mallon SFC round two winners section
"It would have been great if the ref blew it up in the fourth minute" remarked one observer in St Conleth's Park on Saturday evening as Athy absolutely tore into Clane from the word go and dismantled a relatively young and inexperienced side with such ease that they looked like teams from a couple of divisions apart. They opened the scoring in the fourth minute through Brian McLaughlin, but by the time the same player had notched his side's second point Athy had reeled off 3-8 without response and it was game over.
Even the half-time break was telling as the Athy players - carrying a lead of 4-8 to 0-3 into the interval - jogged purposely towards the dressing rooms while their opponents mostly walked, heads down and probably wishing that the final whistle had just been blown rather than the half-time blast.
For all the confidence that Clane would have taken from an absolutely superb win over St Laurence's in the first round some months ago, a defeat of this manner will have knocked them for six and the only thing they can do is to try and consign in to the back of their minds and not dwell on such a hammering.
It must be said that Athy were absolutely superb. The likes of Liam McGovern, Darroch Mulhall, Niall Kelly and James Eaton played such an attractive brand of football that was littered with intricate offloads, exquisite kick-passing and eye-catching scores as they powered to their monstrous win. It took them seven minutes to really get going as until that point it was 0-1 each after McLoughlin and McGovern had traded frees, but the latter rattled the back of the net after being played in by Ross Bell, signalling the start of Athy's dominance.
There were some lovely points kicked during that first half, most particularly an early one on the turn from Kelly, while the county star almost struck an 11th minute goal but blazed a close range shot just over. He did fire past Eoin Kelly in the Clane goal soon after however, as David Hyland's brilliant ball to Eaton was offloaded into Kelly's path and he finished from close range.
Cian Reynolds and Mulhall both landed superb long range points straight after, while the former was instrumental in their second goal as he lobbed a high ball to McGovern, he flicked it out to Kelly and the corner-forward coolly found the net once again. Further points from Eaton and Tony Martin followed, and while McLoughlin managed to end the miserable spell for Clane with a point in the 25th minute and a free soon after, Ross Bell scored the goal his performance deserved when he combined with Mulhall to find space and, eventually, the net.
There was no real zip or urgency during the second half as Athy barely bothered to raise a gallop as they had their work already done, while it was a case of damage limitation for Clane from that stage. They actually stuck with their opponents reasonably well as the second half score was just 1-4 to 0-6 in favour of the winners, and they still had the shining light of McLoughlin up front as he continued to kick impressive scores from frees.
It was he who opened the second half scoring three minutes in, but frees from McGovern and Kevin Feely at the other end soon wiped that score out. Jack McCreevy came off the bench to land an impressive score from distance for Kieran McMenamin's men, but their evening went from bad to worse when Athy substitute Tony Gibbons was hauled down in the area and Feely slotted home the resultant penalty.
They sauntered towards the finish line without doing anything spectacular in the closing stages, though midfielders Sean Christiansen and Eoin Naughton both scored fine points for Clane on the run in.
Athy can turn their attentions towards a quarter-final appearance with plenty of pep in their step, while Clane will have to somehow regroup to take a shot at a third round tie.
Scorers for Athy: N Kelly 2-2, L McGovern(2f) and K Feely(1-0pen, 2f) 1-2 each, R Bell 1-0, T Martin 0-2, C Reynolds, J Eaton and D Mulhall 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clane: B McLoughlin 0-7(6f), S Christiansen, J McCreevy and E Naughton 0-1 each.
S Davis; B Curtis, D Hyland, M Hyland; P Connell(T Gibbons 43mins(B Doyle BC 51mins), S Ronan, R Bell; P Dunne, K Feely; D Mulhall(T Foley 48mins), C Reynolds(M Foley 43mins), L McGovern; T Martin, J Eaton, N Kelly.
E Kelly; B Corbett, P Regan, C Doyle; C Egan, C O'Donoghue, E Gillman(B Giffney 21mins); S Christiansen, E Naughton; P McKenna, R Hyland, C Byrne; C O'Flaherty(J McCreevy 41mins), B McLoughlin, P Doyle(S McCormack 56mins).
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