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Senior Focus

Rathangan AFC 2 Newbridge Hotspurs FC 2

As most games fell foul of the weather this weekend, it was testament to the groundmen at Rathangan FC which ensured this Senior Division opener occurred on what ended up being a fine spring morning.

Newbridge Hotspurs having been promoted to the senior division were looking to make their mark at the first attempt of asking despite being devoid of a number of players. That being said Rathangan and Hotspurs served up a spicy and enthralling affair with the outcome delicately balanced until the final whistle.

The first twenty five minutes of this encounter saw little in the way of chances with a midfield and defensive battle taking centre stage. Newbridge Hotspurs did have an early casualty when Eoin McGrath was forced off with ankle injury and was replaced with Mark Woulfe. The game ebbed and flowed but it was on the twenty fifth minute when the game kicked into gear. Rathangan forced a corner from the Hotspurs defence. From the resultant corner a Rathangan striker headed off the post, the ball rebounded back into the penalty area where a scramble ensued and the ball eventually fell to Rathangan’s Colin Scanlon who slotted home to put the home side 1-0 up. Hotspurs didn’t let that phase them and continued to press Rathangan. On the thirty third minute, Hotspurs came close when a Scott O’Donoghue corner was whipped in and met by the head of Mark Woulfe which was cleared off the line. Some three minutes later, a Scott O’Donoghue free kick found Sean Higgins at the back post, Higgins header struck the post with the Rathangan keeper making contact with it to thwart a certain goal. Hotspurs efforts were rewarded on the forty third minute. A good tackle and interception from Anthony Durney in midfield opened up play for Hotspurs, good interplay between Scott O’Connor and Mikey Murphy found Durney again who made a pass to Greg Kelly. Kelly composed himself and slotted a delicious pass to Chris Higgins. Higgins controlled the pace of the pass and neatly slotted past the Rathangan keeper to even matters. The game went in at half time 1-1.

The second half started much the way the first half ended. Hotspurs were certainly on the ascendancy and were creating some chances with good link up play between Mikey Murphy, Scott O’Donoghue and Mark Woulfe. But once again, Hotspurs were caught with a sucker punch when they were gaining more control of the game which shows the fine margins of senior division football. Rathangan took the lead on the sixty sixth minute when on the counter they forced a good save from Hotspurs keeper, Ryan Harvey, the rebound was quality followed the impressive Arun Doyle slotting home to put the home side 2-1 up.

The growing maturity of Hotspurs led by the effervescent Barry Doyle kept composed and stuck to the task at hand. In the following fifteen minutes, Hotspurs created a number of chances. The first was from Scott O’Donoghue who volleyed at goal following a fine pass from Mark Woulfe, the keeper pulled off a fantastic save. The second was from a Mikey Murphy shot which was tipped over the by the Rathangan keeper. Another Hotspurs chance occurred on the 80th minute when a fine Scott O’Donoghue corner found Mark Woulfe at the front post and his header went narrowly over the bar. Hotspurs efforts were rewarded on the eighty fourth minute when a pass from Sean Higgins found Robbie Higgins and he controlled the ball well and struck with his right foot around the keeper from fifteen yards to make it 2-2. The final ten minutes saw both teams create some half chances but the game finished 2-2.

Best for Hotspurs were Anthony Durney, Sean Higgins, Scott O’Donoghue and Hotspurs man of the match Mikey Murphy while best for the home side were Colin Scanlon, Keith Scanlon and Jim Brennan.

Clonmullion FC 2 Arlington FC 1

Senior Division newcomers Arlington were the first visitors to Micheal O Neill Park and proved to be a resilient opponent for the reigning champions. The first meaningful effort on goal came on the fifteen minute mark courtesy of Clonmullion full back Jay Connell after good interplay between Nathan Robinson, Jody Dillon and Benny Lawlor but Connell pulled his effort just wide. Dillon himself brought the best out of keeper Evan Grattan after a great through ball from Gary Comerford a few minutes later. Grattan quickly threw the ball to Jake Nickol who found Robbie McNeil out wide on the left who whipped in a great ball to Olu Solanke but stand in keeper Timmy Doyle pushed the effort around the post.

With twenty minutes gone Comerford was alert to a short kick out and intercepted the ball and fed Dean Fennessy but Grattan saved comfortably. The home side were really on top and won a succession of corners which Arlington dealt with well until Keane Cully flicked on Robinsons delivery to the back post where debutant Benny Lawlor was quickest to react and prod home from close range to make it 1 nil on the half hour mark. Five minutes later the visitors went close after a quickly taken long throw from Nickol picked out Ceilum Maher but he fired his effort straight at Doyle. With five minutes left in the first half elegant centre half Mark Hughes stepped out of the back and pinged a ball to Comerford who in turn found Connell on the overlap. His pinpoint cross found Dillon who made no mistake to make it 2 nil. The visitors were to have the final effort of the half when Nickols excellent free kick from 20 yards was well gathered by keeper Doyle.

The second half started with the home side on the front foot and another expertly taken corner kick from Robinson was headed clear by Jason Conlon but Fennessy was lurking just on the edge of the box but his shot was just too high. However Arlington were always dangerous on the break and McNeil won the ball on the edge of his own box and played a lovely ball through to Maher who beat the offside trap and finished superbly from an acute angle to make it 2 1. The Mull then lost talisman Dillon through injury and that seemed to unsettle the champions for a ten minute period which saw Solanke and substitute Jordan Fallon both denied by last ditch tackles by full backs Johnny Fennell and Connell respectively. Clonmullion substitute Lee Day was having more and more of an influence on the game and he was unlucky to see a volley fly just over the bar from a Nicky Leonard cross. Solanke was always dangerous out wide and another great cross picked out Maher but Doyle was again able to tip the ball away to safety. Day again went close after winning the ball in the middle of the park and as he was about to pull the trigger only for a great tackle by Chris Hoskins denied the midfielder. Arlington really had a good go at the champions and were best served by Grattan in goals Conlon at the back, McNeil and Hoskins in the middle while Solanke and Maher were always dangerous. The Mull had good performances from Timmy Doyle in goals, Hughes, Cully and Connell at the back, Robinson and Comerford in the middle with Lawlor and Fennessy up top.

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