Round Tower 0-13
Naomh Mearnóg 1-9
Round Tower senior footballers are off to a winning start in AFL 2 after showing great resilience and composure under pressure to edge past Naomh Mearnóg, writes Mick McGlynn. View Niall Connaughton’s pictures of the encounter here.
Both sides were evenly matched throughout an encounter that was played on heavy ground and with the backdrop of a strong wind that did not particularly favouring either side at the Community Centre.
Ultimately it was resilience and added conviction to their play in the last quarter that saw Tower’s overcome a two point deficit and a conceded goal to edge a one point win. There was nothing to separate the sides at half-time 0-6 v 0-6 and the Towers supporters were somewhat early second half as chances were kicked wide and a goal opportunity for the excellent Micheál Walsh was palmed just beyond the post. In the tough conditions and with both sides dogged in defence it was a game of tight margins moving into the last quarter.
On 47 minutes James Kelly, whose runs forward from half-back provided the Towers attack with a valuable extra scoring threat against a resilient Mearnóg defence, curled a right footed effort between the posts to leave Tower’s trailing by the slimmest of margins. Kelly started the move from half-back when his pass found Barry Gallagher in the corner and the excellent Jason Phillips took the ball into contact before palming off the assist to Kelly.
Three minutes later Tom Lyons kicked the equaliser from his right boot when under pressure. Philips was again to the fore in winning a high ball at the edge of the square after an Eric Finn strike for the corner was saved well by the Mearnóg keeper.
To their credit, the match was on edge but Towers were now playing some excellent football and keeping possession in tough conditions and under pressure. Finn’s pace was quickly turning defence into attack and he finished a superb move to edge us a point ahead. It started in defence on the left touchline with Ian Ward and Lyons playing a one-two and the onrushing Kelly transferred to the support of midfielder Derek Murray. He passed to Finn who pointed from the left.
The point lead almost became a two point deficit but Towers keeper Keith Graham pulled off an excellent save from close range from a Mearnóg corner-forward. Another excellent team-score and movement edged Towers two clear. A Mearnóg attack on goal was stifled and the Towers play started with Seán O’ Donnagain in the corner-back position and Ward jinked under pressure to buy valuable space and find Eoin Moran in the half-forwards. Moran’s inside ball found Ciaran Corrigan in the full forward line and the onrushing Kelly then used the wind to curl an excellent point. From the restart Eric Finn put Towers three points clear but our excellent work was quickly wiped out when a Mearnóg midfielder came onrushing to finish a retrieved high-ball to the corner of the net. It was a significant setback for the home side but Kelly and Murray again combined around midfield and Finn was subsequently fouled on the 21 and Corrigan pointed the resulting free. On the sixty minute mark Walsh played a sidefoot pass to Gallagher and he teed up Corrigan to point from play. It ultimately proved the winning score as the visitors pointed a 21 metre free in extra time but from the subsequent kick-out the full-time whistle sounded.
Throughout the evenly matched first half, Towers squandered good scoring opportunities and Walsh – a Minor graduate – was to the fore in utilising his pace to win possession and create opportunities. Corrigan kicked the opener from a free and Conor L’Estrange put Tower’s 0-2 v 0-1 ahead from another placed ball. Tom Lyons kicked an excellent point from distance and the left to edge Towers 0-3 v 0-2 ahead and Walsh notched his first point after a lay off from Corrigan. Murray then kicked an outstanding score from the outside of his boot at an angle but Towers were left to rue missed opportunities as Mearnóg were efficient in their score taking over a ten minute period and edged a point ahead. But we drew level before the break when Corrigan did well to win a 50/50 challenge and he passed inside to the oncoming Phillips who was pulled back. L’Estrange converted the free on half-time.
A good win for our senior footballers who were missing a number of key personnel and the next league outing is away to Cuala on 9th March.
Round Tower: Keith Graham, Eoghan Young, Mark Gahan, Seán O’ Donnagain, James Kelly, Ian Ward, Brian Costello, Jason Phillips, Derek Murray, Eoin Moran, Conor L’Estrange, Tom Lyons, Eric Finn, Ciaran Corrigan, Micheál Walsh. Used subs: Barry Keane, Barry Gallagher