By MARK KENNEDY At Aughrim
Wednesday December 07 2011
CONFEY GOT themselves trapped in an inescapable webb spun by Eire Og Greystones as the Wicklow men powered their way to the Leinster intermediate football title at Aughrim on Sunday.
The Kildare champions came to Aughrim as the firm favourites of many but they left the county grounds shattered and beaten into submission by a Greystones team that just does not countenance defeat this year.
Every member of the Greystones side stood tall in this match and with the wind behind them in the second half, corner-forward, freetaker and sharpshooter Daniel Webb set the march to victory in motion with his superb scores from placed balls.
In the third quarter he drilled two beauties between the posts to bring Eire Og level with their opponents at 0-5 apiece, and then banged over a mighty point from the left wing to give his team the lead for the first time in a very tight and tough contest.
Confey were reduced to 14 men on 46 minutes when their inspirational wing-forward Joe Keogh received a straight red card for a tackle, but in truth they could scarcely used that as an excuse for their ultimate defeat.
Long before that it was becoming evident that Eire Og were exerting tighter control on the exchanges, their players were growing in stature and confidence all the time. County star Darren Hayden was at the heart of their drive to victory, scoring the two winning points in rapid succession with five minutes to go.
Confey looked a beaten side, they were spilling possession more frequently than ever before in the game. Indeed Eire Og had an opportunity to kill the game off with a goal at the death, but Gino Fuisciardi saw his attempt to chip the advancing Confey keeper Keith O'sullivan rebound off the crossbar.
There was so much more to savour about this Greystones performance. They were uncompromising and unyielding in defence and every one of the sixteen players used stood tall.
A large contingent of supporters travelled with the Confey team for this final, indicating that they were reasonably confident of repeating their Leinster junior football win of 2004. They threw everything at their opponents but Eire Og were determined that they were not going to be turned over a second time by their Kildare opponents.
Every time a Confey player though it had broken free from the cluthes of his marker, he was met by another equally formidable obstacle, and another and another. Eire Og's players were no going to give ground; Confey became frustrated with several of their forwards ballooning wide from good scoring positions in both halves.
They were restricted to just four points in the first half even though they had the wind at their backs.
Top scorer and full-forward James Gately opened for the Kildare club in the second minute but they had to wait another 18 minutes for their second score, Joe Keogh accepting a rare gift from Eire Og's James Kelly who lost possession as he tried to break up field on a solo run.
A wet and greasy pitch made it difficult for both teams to play good football, controlling a slippery ball was not easy and a lot of possession was spilled on both side, but nonetheless the players served up a very competitive contest.
But Confey frustration surfaced as Gately, centre-forward Robert Mcmahon, and Thomas Mccann ballooned wide from good positions.
Darren Hayden opened for Eire Og with a point off his left boot on 24 minutes and bustling full-forward Billy Cuddihy pumped over a splendid point minutes later to send the Greystones men in at half time trailing by 0-2 to 0-4.
Once again Eire Og were first out on the field ready to go for the second half. Confey were still trying to bolster their ebbing confidence.
Immediately after the restart Eire Og's full-back James Kelly made a vital interception to stop the Kildare men stretching their lead. Confey had the overlap and a goal looked on, but Kelly flicked the ball away just in the nick of time.
Jack Tanner was his usual reliable self in the corner, Stephen Kelly was the anchor man at centre-back, while Eoin Mchugh, Craig Smullen and attacking Sean Horan were all working their socks off.
Gino Fuisciardi got the Greystones second half surge under way with a point in the 36 minute but it was Daniel Webb who began to shine brightest in attack in the third quarter. He was deadly accurate with his free taking and his fine brace brought the teams level at 0-5 apiece at the end of the third quarter.
Eire Og were getting a firm grip on the exchanges, rattled Confey continued to shoot blanks with their attacks.
Thomas Gberevbie and captain James Leonard were scrapping for everything around midfield and it was hard to find a weak link in attack with Karl Manahan, Fuisciardi, Billy Cuddihy and substitute Daniel Wood putting their hands to the pump.
Webb scored his best point from the left wing, a difficult position for a left-foot kicker, to give Eire Og the lead for the first time on 48 minutes.
By then Confey were reduced to 14 men with the sending off of Joe Keogh, but increasingly they had been losing the battle to the Wicklow men long before that.
From a free on 51 minutes, James Gately restored Confey to parity with their opponents, but effectively it was their last throw of the dice.
Darren Hayden, the general of the Eire Og attack, drove his team on and was at the heart of their attacking moves.
The Greystones men closed down everything and their opponents repeatedly spilled possession under intense pressure.
In rapid succession, Darren Hayden fired over the two winning points, but there was still five minutes left on the clock, plus injury time.
Confey had time to pull a rabbit out of the hat but it was Eire Og who provided the magic as well as being majestic in their performance.
At the death they could and should have hit Confey with a knockout goal.
Confey, in trying to respond, left themselves exposed at the back. Darren Hayden spotted Gino Fuisciardi in splendid isolation with only the keeper to beat.
Fuisciardi, having received a quick ball from Hayden, tried to lob the advancing goalie Keith O'sullivan, but he overcooked the chipped shot and it rebounded off the crossbar of an empty net.
Unbounded celebrations erupted in the Eire Og Greystones camp at the sound of the final whistle.
This win was a dream ending to a great year and a case of sweet revenge for Eire Og Greystones as they had been beaten by Confey in the Leinster junior championship back in 2004.
And there is more to come in the new year, with the Greystones men heading into the All-ireland series.
They will not be just representing their club and county, but now also their Leinster province when they take on the Connacht champions from Mayo in the All-ireland semi-final.
Scorers for Eire Og Greystones: Daniel Webb (0-3), Darren Hayden (0-3), Billy Cuddihy (0-1), Gino Fuisciardi (0-1).
Confey: James Gately (0-3), Joe Keogh (0-1), Paul Smith (0-1), Thomas Mccann (0-1).
- MARK KENNEDY At Aughrim
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