Fethard fingers are crossed as regards their future at Senior level following this narrow victory over Moycarkey-Borris in the County Senior Football Championship relegation play-off at Boherlahan on Sunday last.
Three teams are involved in the relegation battle and Moycarkey-Borris must now defeat Clonmel Og to have a chance of staying in the top flight. Clonmel Og have already defeated Fethard and a draw will be enough to make the Clonmel outfit safe. A Clonmel Og defeat will see the three teams finish level, with one win each.
It is sad to see a club of Fethard’s tradition in this kind of difficulty but there is no escaping the consequences of poor results and these are anxious times for the club after an indifferent season.
It is an intriguing situation and it prompted a spirited approach from both teams, and while Fethard just about scraped home Moycarkey had their chances to make life easier for themselves. They also conceded a goal from a situation they ought to have had well in hand.
In ideal conditions and on a very favourable surface this was a fine contest. Spectators were as scare as tourists at this time of year and while the quality of the football may not have excited, the earnestness of the exchanges compensated and kept the handful of spectators on their toes to the finish.
Fethard were quickly into their stride with two points from Kenneth O’Donnell inside three minutes and in the 9th minute a smart Daniel Kirby save denied Ronan Fitzgerald a Fethard goal. Brian Healy pointed a Fethard free to extend their advantage in the 13th minute.
Moycarkey were slow to settle but in the 14th minute they almost netted when Robert Doran’s effort from a Rory Ryan delivery was taken off the Fethard line by Alan O’Connor. Doran was narrowly off target with another effort following a Kevin Moran delivery in the 15th minute.
The Mid men were now on the move, and points by Pat Ralph and Kieran Morris preceded an Anthony Healy goal in the 19th minute after good approach work by Kevin Moran, for a 1-2 to 0-3 lead.
Just when things were beginning to look good for Moycarkey Fethard hit back in style. Kennth O’Donnell kicked his third point and midfielder Jamie McCormack landed another before, in the 25th minute, McCormack’s long delivery from midfield slipped from the hands of Moycarkey goalie Daniel Kirby over the line for a fortuitous goal and a three-points lead for Fethard (1-5 to 1-2).
Pat Molloy produced an instant response by way of a point for Moycarkey but before the break Kirby made ample amends for the earlier lapse with a fine save from a Michael ”Hammer” Spillane punched effort.
Scores were at a premium in the second half, though Brian Healy had an early point for Fethard. Anthony Healy cancelled it out from a free for Moycarkey and in the 37th minute struck the timber from another free before Kieran Morris pointed a Moycarkey free in the 38th minute to leave only a point in it.
There was some breathing space for Fethard in the 44th minute as Kieran O’Meara pointed a free but Moycarkey were pressing hard now and Kieran Morris’ pointed free left them only one adrift again.
Time was now on Fethard’s side and they also had former county goalie Paul Fitzgerald to thank for a smart save that denied Niall Heffernan what would have been a match-winning goal near the end.
So Fethard got their first win in the relegation play-off to keep their hopes of retaining their senior status intact. It is a difficult time for the club which has never been out of the top flight in its history. They will be keeping their fingers crossed awaiting the outcome of the remaining game in the section between Moycarkey and Clonmel Og. Their key men in this win were Gavin Fitzgerald, Dylan Fitzgerald, Jamie McCormack, Kenneth O’Donnell, Jody Sheehan, Brian Healy and Brian Delahunty.
Moycarkey-Borris’ future lies in their own hands and they will be hoping that Sunday’s game will have primed them for the crucial clash with Clonmel Og. County intermediate champions in 2012, they gave some spirited performances last year but seemed less in focus this term, which has put them in their present predicament. They could have won, or at least drawn this encounter but no blame could be attached to Niall Fitzgerald, Rory Ryan, Kevin Moran, Kieran Morris, Robert Doran or Pat Molloy, who gave it everything.
Fethard - P Fitzgerald; A O’Connor, G Fitzgerald, P Moloney; C Manton, D Fitzgerald, J Sheehan; J McCormack (1-1), B Delahunty; K O Meara (0-1), R Fitzgerald, B Healy (0-2); F Donovan, M Spillane, K O Donnell (0-3). Subs- J P Looby for Moloney; J Nevin for R Fitzgerald; M Coen for D Fitzgerald.
Moycarkey-Borris - D Kirby; J Kelly, P Dempsey, B Moran; K Moran, N O’Sullivan, C McCullagh; R Ryan, D Morris; P Ralph (0-1), K Morris (0-3), P Molloy (0-1); N Heffernan, R Doran, A Healy (1-1); Subs- J O’Sullivan for Kelly.
Referee - Paddy Russell.