Ballyroan Abbey 2-9
Crettyard Gaels 0-14
THERE is no doubt Crettyard Gaels blew the chance of at least forcing a replay when they took on Ballyroan Abbey on Friday evening.
Last year’s beaten semi-finalists had four chances to draw the game in the final moments but kicked each of them wide as Ballyroan Abbey clung on for the narrowest of wins.
This was one of the more entertaining games of the weekend, with the result in doubt right until referee Clifford Ward blew the full time whistle.
The game began at lightening speed as MJ Tierney and Cormac Murphy swapped early points from play and then Ballyroan got the game’s first goal.
Padraig McMahon blasted through the centre of Crettyard’s defence and his thunderous shot produced a fine save from Jeff Moran only for the ball to fall into Tierney’s path of and he finished to an empty net from about two metres.
Tierney was in fine form and he dropped over a beauty of a point from an acute angle moments later but Crettyard responded well to that early set back.
Cristoir Maher clipped one over with the outside of the boot and Murphy and Evan O’Carroll added frees. By the eighth minute, Ballyroan Abbey’s lead had been cut to just a single point.
While Tierney was dangerous, Diarmuid Whelan, who has excelled for Laois at minor level over the last two years, was equally so and the pair accounted for all bar one of Ballyroan Abbey’s eventual total.
They got their second goal when a Tierney pass found Whelan and he finished to the net via the post in the 18th minute.
But Crettyard refused to lie down and Cormac Murphy landed four frees in a row to cut the margin and leave the score reading 2-6 to 0-9 in Ballyroan’s favour at half time.
The second half lacked the thunder and fire of the first half and didn’t really get going again until the final ten minutes.
Two Murphy frees were sandwiched between three from the Whelan cousins; two from Diarmuid, one off each foot, and one from Jamie. But Diarmuid’s second point of the half, which brought his tally to 1-4 in total, was to be their last score.
Crettyard took over and Pa Brennan came up from centre back to kick a fine score. The same player could have had a goal moments later when he exchanged passes with Pa O’Reilly, but Cormac Murphy then landed a 45 and a long-range free after Laois hurler Sean Downey was fouled which brought the deficit back to a point.
And Crettyard had four chances to win it. Murphy, Maher and substitute Paul Simms all saw efforts go wide before Murphy had another chance with the last kick of the game.
Referee Clifford Ward gave another late free just inside the 45 metre line. Conor Brennan failed to retreat quickly enough leaving the referee with no choice but to bring it up.
That made it even more kickable. Maher and Murphy had a quick meeting but Murphy backed himself.
Unfortunately for him and for Crettyard his touch abandoned him. He had scored nine points up to then but this one never threatened the posts and the final whistle went straight away.
Ballyroan Abbey next meet the winners of the Portarlington v Arles Killeen replay while Crettyard must beat Clonaslee Gaels if they are to remain in the championship.
BALLYROAN ABBEY: Andrew Bonham; Mark Cahill, Gavin Tynan, Cian Moffitt; Oisin Carroll, Ruairi Dunne, Conor Brennan; Padraig McMahon, Ciaran Carroll; Colin Kinsella, Mark McDonald, Jamie Whelan (0-1); MJ Tierney (1-4, 0-1f, 0-1 45), Adam Brennan, Diarmuid Whelan (1-4, 0-1f).
Subs: Eoin Reilly for Kinsella (35m), Eoghan Whelan for C Carroll (51m), Danny Molloy for J Whelan (58m)
CRETTYARD GAELS: Jeff Moran; Pierce Nash, Sean O’Shea, Jason Dunne; Paddy Gorman, Patrick Brennan (0-1), Michael Jordan; Patrick O’Reilly, Evan O’Carroll (0-2f); Cristoir Maher (0-1), Sean Downey, Paudge Lalor; Michael Nash (0-1), Cormac Murphy (0-9, 0-5f, 0-2 45s), Niall Purcell.
Subs: Connor Barry for Dunne (19m), James Brennan for Conor Barry (37m, black card), Paul Simms for M Nash (58m)
REFEREE: Clifford Ward (Portarlington)