Joe Mallon SFC semi-final
A clinical Moorefield outfit bagged the goals at the right time en route to a brilliant win over Athy as they sealed their place back in the county final.
12 months on from losing to Sarsfields in the 2016 decider, Moorefield delivered the best performance of any team in this year's championship to not only shut down a usually vibrant Athy attack, but to also plunder 3-13, with all but three points of that tally coming from play. Niall Hurley-Lynch was the goal hero again for the victors as he netted vital three-pointers either side of the break to continue what seems like a never ending goalscoring streak.
The first 10 minutes of this game left the large St Conlet's Park crowd almost breathless as Moorefield began the game in blistering fashion before Athy parried back with a few jabs of their own in response.
It took just over a minute for Ross Glavin's men to get the first score of the game as Adam Tyrrell played a one-two from a free with Niall Hurley-Lynch before curling over, and he knocked over a second a minute later with a point from the right wing. Eanna O'Connor then raised his first white flag of the afternoon with a tidy effort, and the Kerry man then turned provider for the first Moorefield goal as he cut in from the right before finding James Murray who had burst through the middle, and he fed the ball to Eddie Heavey who drove a low shot through a crowd of bodies and into the net.
Trailing 1-3 to no score, Athy needed an answer badly, and they managed to finally get off the mark in the seventh minute as the impressive Liam McGovern slotted over a point following a flowing move. They gained no momentum from that however, and Moorefield went down the other end to net their second goal as Heavey played a long ball to Hurley-Lynch, he shrugged off the challenge of Killian Mulhall and then angled a shot across the goal and into the far corner of Feely's net.
Athy were still in the dressing room at this stage, but they began to play thereafter and turned the game into a thoroughly absorbing contest. A second point from McGovern who finished off another superb move involving Pascal Connell and James Eaton came in the ninth minute helped to settle them down, and Darroch Mulhall then blazed over another score after Athy won the resultant kickout. The former Kildare star kicked a second moments later as the south Kildare side began to build momentum, but a pointed free from Tyrrell and a sumptuous point from the left wing from O'Connor pushed Moorefield 2-5 to 0-4 ahead midway through the half.
Connell landed a brilliant point from distance that was quickly cancelled out by another score from O'Connor, but Athy soon enjoyed their most impressive period of the half. McGovern wasn't missing a beat as he curled over his third and fourth points of the game from similar positions either side of a Tony Gibbons point, cutting Moorefield's lead down to just four points.
Hurley-Lynch, who was now being picked up by substitute Brendan Curtis, scored Moorefield's final point of the half, but it was Athy who finished the half in better fashion as two pointed frees from McGovern ensured that Moorefield's lead was cut to three, leaving the scores at 2-7 to 0-10 going into the turnaround.
The second half began with Tony Gibbons landing his second score of the day to draw the gap into two points, but they were never able to really kick on from there. That was due to a combination of their own lethargy in attack and Moorefield's ability to suck the life out of the game by using all of their experience. O'Connor slotted over a difficult free in the 40th minute to end a barren run in the game, and while McGovern kicked his seventh score of the day from a free soon after to narrow the gap to two once again, Moorefield were ready to kick on again.
They did so in devastating fashion as they punished Athy for their wastefulness on front of goal. Niall Kelly broke towards goal, and rather than stroking over an easy point he attempted a handpass towards Connell that was cut out by a Moorefield defender. The ball broke out to substitute Ryan Houlihan, and he showed the advantage of having fresh legs as he ran more than 60 metres with the ball, flicked it across to Liam Callaghan who had run a superb support line and he fed Hurley-Lynch who emphatically to the roof of the net.
Points in successive minutes from Tyrrell and O'Connor delivered the knockout blow to a dazed Athy, and there was little left to ponder about the outcome after that.
Athy tried to muster up the energy to mount a late comeback late in the day, but with 10 minutes left and facing an eight point deficit, they were never going to pull this one out of the fire.
Feely and Connell landed scores for Athy as they offered some resistance, but it was somewhat fitting that Roli Sweeney came off the bench to deliver the final two points for the Newbridge side, the second of which was an absolute peach following a lung-busting run.
So it's another final for the Moores, who will now fancy themselves to go one better than last year when they face Celbridge.
Scorers for Athy: L McGovern 0-7(3f), P Connell, T Gibbons and D Mulhall 0-2 each, K Feely(1f).
Scorers for Moorefield: N Hurley-Lynch 2-1, A Tyrrell(2f) and E O'Connor(1f) 0-5 each, R Sweeney 0-2.
R Feely; K Mulhall(B Curtis 18mins), D Hyland, M Hyland; B Kelly(T Foley 57mins), M Foley, S Ronan(J Moran 54mins); P Connell, K Feely; D Mulhall, L McGovern, C Reynolds(H Mahon 48mins); J Eaton, T Gibbons, N Kelly.
T Kinsella; L Callaghan, L Healy, M Dempsey; K Murnaghan, J Murray, S Healy(R Houlihan 45mins); A Masterson, D Flynn(R Sweeney 39mins); D Whyte, E Heavey(A Mullins HT), C O'Connor; A Tyrrell, E O'Connor, N Hurley-Lynch(M McDermott 54mins).
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