AFL 1: GAME OF THE WEEK – NA FIANNA V THOMAS DAVIS
ADULT FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Saturday 17th June
NA FIANNA: 3-13
THOMAS DAVIS: 1-16
Strong performances from Tomas Brady and Glen O’Reilly were crucial at Kiltipper Road on Saturday evening, when Na Fianna recorded a much-needed win over Thomas Davis in Division One of the Adult Football League.
Excellent form to date had placed Davis’ at the summit of the table heading into this encounter, but even though their influential attacking duo of Paul Hudson and Shane McGrath finished with a combined haul of 1-9, they ultimately came up just short against the St Mobhi Road outfit.
Na Fianna had just one win under their belt prior to this game – a 1-17 to 1-11 victory over Lucan Sarsfields on April 1st – and were aiming to recover from a midweek home defeat to St Jude’s. Thomas Davis claimed a convincing triumph at the expense of Lucan last Wednesday, and they opened the scoring in humid conditions with a point from centre-forward Chris Galvin.
O’Reilly (a key member of this year’s successful Dublin U21 side) and midfielder Carl O’Connor subsequently split the posts for the visitors, before Davis replied with the first goal of the contest.
With just eight minutes gone on the clock, full-forward Ciaran Farrelly gathered a long delivery, and swiftly picked out his inside partner, Hudson, with a precise hand pass. This left Hudson one-on-one with Eoin Connolly, and he coolly fired beyond the reach of the opposition netminder.
This was a major boost for the top-flight pace-setters, but after excellent approach work from Joey Boland set-up a second O’Reilly score, Na Fianna registered a three-pointer of their own. A looping ball bounced into the path of raiding half-forward Odhran O Maoileidigh, and he palmed home from close-range to give the northsiders a two-point advantage.
Davis’ responded to this potential hammer blow with a a 0-2 salvo by McGrath, but Na Fianna once again created daylight between themselves and the home team. Former dual county star Brady was securing primary possession on the edge of the square, and following another excellent O’Reilly point, he finished to the bottom right-hand corner for his side’s second goal of the half.
The increasingly-prominent McGrath later reduced the gap, only for a similar effort from Alistair Fitzgerald at the other end of the field to ultimately offer Na Fianna a 2-5 to 1-4 interval buffer.
Yet, there was still reason for the five-time county champions to be wary of the challenge posed by Thomas Davis – who introduced three substitutes in the course of the first-half. Eoin Kirby also entered the fray at the beginning of the second period, and immediately turned provider for a 31st-minute Cian Murphy point.
McGrath (who featured for Clare on their journey to the 2016 All-Ireland quarter-finals) narrowed the deficit with another score from the right-wing just three minutes later, but although they kept the scoreboard ticking at a steady rate, Na Fianna maintained their own attacking threat.
The defensive trio of Boland, Niall McGovern and Senan Coughlan all added their names to the scoresheet, and while McGrath, Farrelly and Hudson (two) were also on target for Davis’, a third Na Fianna goal looked like placing the tie beyond doubt 13 minutes from time.
After the superb O’Reilly raised a white flag with the outside of his boot, Brady completed a strong break with a composed strike to the Davis’ net. Swapped scores between McGrath and Brady meant that Na Fianna remained six points in front heading into the final 10 minutes of normal time, but they were kept on their toes by a late flourish from their opponents.
Four points in succession courtesy of Kirby, Hudson, Farrelly and Ryan Deegan helped Davis’ to build momentum, until Darragh McHugh restored order for Na Fianna deep into second-half stoppage-time.
With an additional six minutes played, there was enough time for marauding Davis wing-back Murphy to grab his second point of the day, but it was Adam Caffrey (who spent large spells as a sweeper at the heart of the Na Fianna defence) who had the final say with a successful free from all 50 metres.
This lifts Na Fianna’s spirits ahead of their home tie against St Vincent’s on Wednesday week, whereas Thomas Davis will face another tough test away to an in-form St Brigid’s on the same evening.
Scorers – Na Fianna: Tomas Brady 2-1, Glen O’Reilly 0-5, Odhran O Maoileidigh 1-0, Adam Caffrey (f), Niall McGovern, Senan Coughlan, Joey Boland, Carl O’Connor, Alistair Fitzgerald, Darragh McHugh 0-1 each. Thomas Davis: Paul Hudson 1-3, Shane McGrath 0-6, Cian Murphy, Ciaran Farrelly 0-2 each, Ryan Deegan, Chris Galvin, Eoin Kirby 0-1 each.
NA FIANNA: Eoin Connolly; Niall Cooper, Niall McGovern, Senan Coughlan; Joey Boland, John Kelly, Jimmy Higgins; Carl O’Connor, Gus Farrell; Odhran O Maoileidigh, Michael Deegan, Glen O’Reilly; Adam Caffrey, Alistair Fitzgerald, Tomas Brady. Subs: JJ Martin for Fitzgerald (40), Killian Deeley for O Maoileidigh (47), T Foran for Farrell (52), Eoin Neville for Deegan (60), Darragh McHugh for Boland (62), Fitzgerald for O’Reilly (63).
THOMAS DAVIS: Sean Blanchfield; Adam Fallon, Gavin Carruth, Conor Molloy; Daire Kerr, Rory Gleeson, Cian Murphy; Ryan Deegan, Oisin Kelly; Shane McGrath, Chris Galvin, Daithi Ryan; Joey O’Reilly, Ciaran Farrelly, Paul Hudson. Subs: Eanna O’Toole for O’Reilly (12), Lawrence Healy for Gleeson (22), Aaron Shorten for Kerr (30), Eoin Kirby for Ryan (h-t), Peter Boland for Molloy (44).
Referee: Tony Lambe (St Vincent’s).
Written by Daire Walsh