Round Tower Senior Footballers are a game away from securing promotion to the top tier of Dublin Football, following a hard-earned and deserved win away to Naomh Mearnóg in this ALF2 semi-final play-off, writes Mick McGlynn. It was an excellent performance that was hallmarked by steely determination and disciplined tackling, with a clinical edge in front of the posts earning the two point winning margin.
The considerable number of travelling supporters were aware of Towers intent from the off. Trevor Clendenning kicked the first of his five points within two minutes. It was followed by an great strike by James Kelly who struck across the ball to curl it over from long range. The home side notched their first before Jason Joyce, operating at full forward, won possession with back to goal turned sharp to kick successfully from 30 metres. The dominance of Towers start to the game was signified when Micheál Walsh netted on the 12 minute mark. It came from a Dan Gregg win in the full back line and fellow corner back Niall Byrne was there to support. Derek Murray carried from the middle into the forwards and popped to Walsh. One-on one he calmly slotted his low strike across the keeper into the left corner. But disappointingly the Mearnóg response was instant and their own green flag was raised. A pacey run from midfield opened the Towers rearguard and led to a low strike beating keeper Gary Cleary. Towers provided their own instant response, with Walsh releasing Clendenning on the 40 and he carried before slotting with the right. Mearnóg responded to leave the gap at two and again the visitors struck back. It came from Simon McGuinness winning a 50/50 and Walsh was again provider this time for Thomas Galvin who poked it over on the stretch. Clendenning’s third came from the subsequent kick-out when he kicked again from the right. Three successive passages of play epitomised the discipline in the Towers tackling. Clendenning, Murray and Ian Ward all turned over possession within a three minute period. The lead margin was stretched to five when Clendenning kicked his fourth, with Joyce strong in possession to enable the score. Mearnóg narrowed the advantage before Clendenning again kicked succesfully. The deficit was narrowed to four points with six minutes of the half remaining following two Mearnóg points in quick succession. But as was the hallmark of the first half, Towers responded. Galvin clipped a score from an acute angle after Kelly, Clendenning and Niall Lanigan had combined well to set him up. It was almost a carbon copy a minute later when Galvin kicked another succesfully from the right. It left Towers in control 1-10 v 1-5 at the break.
Towers started the second period once again on the front foot. They almost netted after Joyce won a diagonal Ward pass and Clendenning was released on goal. The pull-back on him resulted in Joyce tapping the free over. Walsh then struck a sublime point from the right sideline, curling inside the post. It was three in succession within the opening five minutes when Joyce fielded high and had the strength to kick a point instantly on the turn. However, a serious setback arrived on the seventh minute when Jason Murphy was shown a red. Mearnóg got a greater foothold on the game but only managed to kick two points because of Towers discipline in defending. Towers needed another score and it arrived on 22 minutes courtesy of Niall Lanigan with a terrific long-range kick that curled over from the right. Mearnóg threw everything at Towers and tagged on five points in the final ten minutes. Towers had to see out the final minutes with 13 following Niall Byrne dismissal for a second yellow. Two glimpses of goal did arrive but sufficient pressure was applied to force Mearnógs forwards to strike over. Towers composure in the final minutes saw them keep possession, with substitutes Mark Taylor, Liam Connolly and Stephen Bracken playing a lead role. The composure enabled Towers to leave Portmarnock with a terrific win that tees them up for an AFL2 final showdown.
The final will be played next Sunday at 2pm, with the opposition being the winners of Clontarf and St Anne’s in the second semi-final.
Round Tower: Gary Cleary, Niall Byrne, Derek Murray, Dan Gregg, James Kelly, Ian Ward, Barry Keane, Simon McGuinness, Mick Hallows, Micheál Walsh, Trevor Clendenning, Thomas Galvin, Kevin McGibney, Jason Joyce, Niall Lanigan. Used subs: Jason Murphy, Mark Taylor, Stephen Bracken, Liam Connolly