GAA: Division One
By Harry Walsh in Kentucky
JUST as Malin corner forward Benny McLaughlin was handed the ball near the right hand touch-line 30 metres from goal deep into injury time at Pearse Memorial Park yesterday he was approached by referee Connie Doherty.
The pair spoke briefly before McLaughlin returned to the task at hand, placing the ball carefully on the sodden turf before expertly judging the wind and rain to split the uprights.
The ball had barely cleared the black spot when Doherty signalled full-time and McLaughlin’s late, late score earned Liam Bradley’s charges a share of the points in this relegation four-pointer.
What Doherty had said to McLaughlin during that brief conversation was that the free kick was to be the last kick of the game and the Malin No 13 knew exactly what he had to do. No pressure.
Going into the game with two just wins, away to Four Masters and having collected the points without having to take the field against Gaoth Dobhair, the Inishowen men knew that they couldn’t afford to slip any further behind an Ardara team who themselves have won just three times this year.
On a dark, dirty and thoroughly miserable afternoon, the men from Kentucky led by six at the break (0-8 to 0-02) but facing into a strong wind and driving rain, Ardara manager John McConnell must have questioned whether or not that advantage was going to be enough.
With less than five minutes to play and Malin still four points adrift, the signs were good.
However, scores from substitute Seamus Houghton – recently returned from the World Student Games in South Korea – and Anthony Kelly (free) saw the deficit halved as the game moved into injury time.
Kelly’s free came after Kieran Breslin took one for the team and was black carded after he unceremoniously hauled down Benny McLaughlin as he bore down on the Ardara goal.
Another Kelly free saw Malin move to within a point before McLaughlin’s equalising score – also from a placed ball.
The game had started so well for Ardara. After Gareth Concarr and Seamus Doherty had exchanged early points, the hosts took control.
Minor Jack Brennan, who has brought some pace and skill to the Ardara attack in recent weeks, and Tomas Boyle added two points in as many minutes before Declan Gallagher did well to thwart Matthew Byrne at the other end of the field.
Boyle (2 frees) and Brennan stretched the Ardara lead out to five before Brendan Boyle fired over two late scores in between Malin’s second point which came courtesy of a Benny McLaughlin free.
Half time Ardara 0-08 Malin 0-02
When Concarr put Kevin Byrne through for the first score of the second half on 35 minutes Ardara led by seven.
Malin then burst into life with McLaughlin (2), Seamus Doherty – from an acute angle – and Terence Doherty who capitalised on a loose Kieran Breslin pass reducing the lead to three at the three quarter mark.
Another minor, John Ross Molloy raced clear down the right flank to put four between the teams once more with five minutes to go before Malin’s late comeback.
The Inishowen men, who knocked St Eunan’s out of the Championship two years ago, have designs on Dr Maguire this year but they’ll have to improve on yesterday’s showing.
Ardara continue to work hard under the management team of McConnell, Damian Diver and Anthony Molloy and their main focus is on retaining their long-standing Division One status.
Whether yesterday’s point at home to Malin will ultimately been seen as a point gained or one lost, only time will tell.
ARDARA; Declan Gallagher; John Ross Molloy (0-1), Declan Gavigan, Nicholas Maguire; Peter Oliver McNeilis, Conor Classon, Kevin Herron; Brendan Boyle (0-2), Kevin Byrne (0-1); Tomas Boyle (0-3, 2 frees), Gareth Concarr (0-1), Jack Brennan (0-2); Stephen Gildea, Kieran Breslin, Ryan Malley. Subs: Martin Shovlin for Herron (30 mins), Kevin Whyte for Gildea (41 mins) and Jimmy O’Connell for Breslin (BC) (59 mins).
MALIN: Darragh McLaughlin; Gary Farren, Damien Harkin, John Gerard McLaughlin; Paul McLaughlin, Charlie Byrne, Michael McLaughlin; Andrew Kelly (0-2, frees), Michael Byrne; Christopher McLaughlin, Matthew Byrne, Seamus Doherty (0-2); Benny McLaughlin (0-4, 2 frees), Terence Doherty (0-1), Stephen McLaughlin. Subs: Seamus Houghton (0-1) and Dan McDaid for Ml Byrne and Ml McLaughlin (41 mins) and Darren Mullarkey for T Doherty (50 mins)
REFEREE: Connie Doherty (Naomh Conaill)
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