By Denis J. Croke
IT took until the second last game of round one for the senior football championship to really spring into life. That was hardly surprising as these two close neighbours went head to head in O’Moore Park on Sunday evening.
Graiguecullen looked to be quite comfortably dealing with anything Killeshin could throw at them in the first half, and were leading by six points at the break.
One can only speculate when Mark O’Regan said to his charges in the dressing room but it certainly worked as they came out a different side, playing with far greater urgency, closing the gap to the minimum on a couple of occasions.
But one thing Killeshin could not cope with was the physicality, legal it must be said, Graiguecullen brought to the game. In essence they were the bigger side and time and time again brushed Killeshin challenges aside.
To say the game got off to a frantic start would be an understatement. By the end of the first quarter we had two goal and nine points scored.
With three minutes on the clock, David Aston opened the scoring from a placed ball. Within 30 seconds Ian Fleming had equalised. By the seventh minute Killeshin held a two point advantage thanks to a brace of points from Cathal Brennan.
At this stage Killeshin were winning the battle all over the field. Even when Ambrose Doran narrowed the gap with an excellent point, Killeshin responded immediately with points from Ambrose Doran (free) and Eoin Lowry.
Then with 13 minutes on the clock Graiguecullen stopped the rot, but it has to be said, thanks to a somewhat fortunate goal. A poor kick out by Shane Coakley saw the ball worked to Chris Hurley about 25 metres from goal. As the he lined up a shot, he slipped but the ball flew off his boot and into the bottom corner, not giving the Killeshin keeper a chance.
A minute later goal number two came when a long delivery was broken down, fell kindly for Ambrose Doran who raced in on goal and buried the ball in the back of the net.
Graiguecullen’s confidence was riding high now and they were taking control of the game. Doran pointed a free while Ross Hennessy landed a magnificent long range score.
Mark McDermott and Brian Byrne swapped points before the excellent David Aston converted another free. However, Graiguecullen finished the half the stronger with points from Ross Hennessy and a free from goalkeeper Danny Bolger, who was to see a number of similar efforts sail wide.
The two goals were the difference as the game restarted and that was how it remained six minutes into the new half after McDermott and Doran swapped points. But that was all about to change.
Killeshin were really flying it now. They owned the ball and swept forward in droves. Over the next seven minutes Aston with four points, two from frees, closed the gap to just two points approaching the end of the third quarter.
Mark Timmons raced forward to split the posts and somewhat ease the pressure on Graiguecullen, but only briefly.
Killeshin’s Shane Bolger launched a dangerous ball into the Graiguecullen goalmouth where Damien Lowry got a fist to it and direct it over the bar. Killeshin then won the kick out and Lowry scored his second to leave just a single point separating the sides with 51 minutes on the clock.
Brian Byrne eased Graiguecullen nerves a minute later with a good point but they could not shake off Killeshin.
With four minutes of normal time remaining it looked like Chris Hurley had put the game beyond Killeshin. He went on a jinking on past a number of defenders before unleashing a shot when Shane Coakley did well to save. And as the ball looked set to bobble over the line Barry Ryan came out of no where to clear it off the line.
Still Killeshin drove on and not surprisingly another Aston free left just a point between the sides in the 59th minute
Graiguecullen looked to have another gaol but Hennessy’s shot across goal came off the post but they did have the final say when Luke Alsybury pointed in the 62nd minute.
Graiguecullen now face The Heath who surprised the county champions Stradbally on Sunday evening while Killeshin must take on Arles Kilcruise in the qualifiers.
GRAIGUECULLEN: Danny Bolger (0-1f); Bobby Doyle, Mark Timmons (0-1), Liam Kearney; Luke Alsybury (0-1), Jimmy Bolton, Trevor Collins; Aaron Forbes, Shane O’Neill; Ross Hennessy (0-2), Ian Fleming (0-1), Chris Hurley (1-0); Daniel O’Reilly, Ambrose Dora (1-3, 0-1f), Brian Byrne (0-2).
Subs: Danny Alsybury for Forbes (47m), Jamie Parr for Hurley (56m)
KILLESHIN: Shane Coakley; James Davis, Kevin Ryan, Jeremy Mahon; Pauric Behan, Arnold Mahon, Shane Bolger; Stephen Attride, Eoin Lowry (0-1); Evan Lowry, Davis Aston (0-8, 0-6f), Mark McDermott (0-2); Adam Deering, Cathal Brennan (0-2), Simon Attride.
Subs: Barry Ryan for J. Mahon (h/t), inj), Damien Lowry (0-2) for Deering (h/t), Brian Lowry for McDermott (56m), Fionn Maher for D. Lowry (56m, inj), Eoin Scully for E. Lowry (16m, black card)
Referee: David Moore (St Joseph’s)