Another defeat leaves Ardfinnan staring down the barrel

County Senior Football Championship

County Senior Football Championship

Thomas MacDonaghs 1-14

Ardfinnan 0-7

Ardfinnan’s County Senior Football Championship hopes are hanging by a thread after a second successive defeat in their group, this time to 2011 County Champions, the North combination Thomas MacDonaghs, at Drombane on Saturday evening.

The manner of the defeat as much as the loss itself left Ardfinnan supporters among the small attendance very disgruntled. Having played against the breeze in the first half, and gone in at half-time level, the South side looked perfectly positioned to push on for victory.

However Ardfinnan faded completely out of the picture in the second half, and though aided by the breeze were outscored 1-9 to 0-2 in the period, slumping to a morale-sapping defeat.

MacDonaghs had already beaten Fethard in this four-team section and their clash with Moyle Rovers will determine the group winners. Ardfinnan, meanwhile, are without a win from two outings, having already lost to Moyle Rovers. They face Fethard next and could be relying on MacDonaghs winning the North championship for them to figure in the closing stages, presuming they can overcome their South colleagues.

There was no indication in a competitive first half that there would be such a lopsided outcome. Indeed Ardfinnan looked well-placed for victory when they reached half way on level terms, 0-5 each, having played against a fresh breeze.

MacDonaghs, with county men Philip Austin and George Hannigan leading by example, were well on top early on and by the 18th minute were 0-4 to 0-1 clear. Austin (2), David Young and Hannigan got their points with Colin Nugent replying for Ardfinnan.

However the closing ten minutes of the half belonged to the South side. They kicked four unanswered points in nine minutes through Danny O Regan (3, two frees) and Aidan Savage and looked as though they would go in leading, but in injury time Philip Austin pointed a Mac Donaghs free for parity at 0-5 each.

The ball was definitely in Ardfinnan’s court but, amazingly, they collapsed entirely after the break as the North side took complete control. Two Jason Fitzpatrick points and another from Philip Austin had MacDonaghs coasting by the three quarter stage. Danny O’Regan pointed for Ardfinnan but Austin and sub David Buckley added further MacDonagh points before, in the 53rd minute, the victory was sealed for the winners when Buckley set up Jason Fitzpatrick for a goal and a lead of 1-10 to 0-6.

By now Ardfinnan had capitulated and in the closing minutes MacDonaghs added to their winning margin with scores from Buckley, Austin (2) and Shane Dooley, Johnny English registering a token reply for Ardfinnan.

It was a most pleasing win for MacDonaghs who had to line out without several first choice players because of hurling commitments on the Sunday. The additional games they will get through the new championship round-robin group system will stand to them this year and at full strength they will again be a force to be reckoned with. They had the luxury in the closing stages, with the victory secure, of being able to use their full quota of subs.

Philip Austin was star of the show for them with George Hannigan in the first half, Alan Hannigan, Padraic O’Meara, Andy Austin and Jason Fitzpatrick all having big games also.

Ardfinnan supporters in the handful who attended the game were very dismayed by their side’s second half showing. The euphoria of winning a county under 21 title a week previously had quickly evaporated and there is a lot of work to be done to keep their championship prospects alive.

Danny O’Regan was Ardfinnan’s most dangerous attacker while Thomas Maher worked very hard and Billy Hewitt had his moments. Colin Nugent did well at midfield and was a loss when forced to retire injured. In defence Michael O’Sullivan and Karl Costigan fought hard.

Scorers - Thomas MacDonaghs - P Austin (0-7), J Fitzpatrick (1-2), D Buckley (0-2), D Young, G Hannigan and S Dooley (0-1 each).

Ardfinnan scorers – D O’Regan (0-4), J English, C Nugent, A Savage (0-1 each).

Thomas MacDonaghs – Jim McDonnell; Cathal Dooley, Joe Carroll, Gordon Harding; Enda Forde, Padraic O’Meara, Conor Forde; George Hannigan, Alan Hannigan; Andy Austin, Philip Austin, Tom Hogan; Shane Dooley, David Young, Jason Fitzpatrick.

Subs- Cormac Houlihan for C Forde; David Buckley for Houlihan; Conor Austin for Hogan; Aidan Boyle for E Forde; Conor Doheny for Young;

Ardfinnan – Niall Hickey; Michael Sullivan, Jonathan Ryan, Karl Costigan; Jason Coffey, Kieran O’Brien, Aaron Cowan; Aidan Savage, Colin Nugent; Billy Hewitt, Brian Lonergan, James O’Mahoney; Danny O’Regan, Thomas Maher, Johnny English.

Subs- Brian Dillon for Cowan; Michael Goonan for Nugent;

Referee - Sean Lonergan.