There were more than just two league points at stake when Conahy Shamrocks and Tullogher Rosbercon clashed in Bennettsbridge on Friday.
For the winner it would mean playing the first round of the intermediate championship without the worry of relegation. The loser would also play in the opening round of the championship, but that game would double as a relegation semi-final with Dunnamaggin providing the opposition.
Tullogher-Rosbercon had a double throw of the dice. Win and relegation worries disappeared, whereas they could still lose and be safe from relegation worries provided Glenmore beat Young Irelands (Gowran). As the Tullogher men had recorded a 10-point victory over Glenmore in a second round tie in May gaining four points, they would still be ahead of the Gowran men due to that victory.
An even first half which saw the teams go in level at the interval hinted at a close second 30 minutes.
However, within three minutes of the restart Tullogher Rosbercon had scored 1-2. From there to the finish Conahy Shamrocks chased the game, struggling to keep in touch with their opponents.
The first half was notable for the number of frees conceded by both teams. Each scored five points from placed balls with unerring accuracy from Cian O’Donoghue (TR) and Kieran Mooney (CS).
Most of those frees were carelessly conceded, with Conahy particularly guilty in this regard.
It took ten minutes in the opening half for the first score from play, one which John Barron pointed for the winners. Conahy Shamrocks had to wait a further five minutes to raise their first white flag from play when Tom Phelan pointed.
Goal-scoring opportunities were scarce in the opening half. Tom Phelan turned smartly in the 20th minute to evade a number of tackles, but his low shot was well saved by the Tullogher goalie Martin Roche.
At the other end of the field the Conahy netminder Andy O’Keeffe had to be alert to save a low shot from entering his goal.
Conahy’s fate was ultimately decided by some careless play at the start of the second half. Two needlessly conceded frees saw Cian O’Donoghue edge his side into a two-point lead but within a minute that margin had stretched out to five points.
The decisive goal came from a long delivery into the Conahy goal area which was contested by a defender and an attacker. Tullogher’s Liam Barron was quickest to the breaking ball, his low strike ending up in the corner of the Conahy’s net.
If ever a score defined a game it was that goal. The momentum now swung decisively in the Southerners’ favour. They played with far more confidence and composure than their opponents for the remainder of the game.
The Conahy attack still had plenty of possession but by now the Tullogher defence had closed down all avenues to goal. The losers had to be content with three pointed frees from Kieran Mooney in the second half.
The last of those points left a goal between the teams, but Tullogher stepped up the pressure in the closing six minutes. In that spell they scored three unanswered points from Walter Walsh and Cian O’Donoghue (two frees).
The winners were solid defensively with the central duo of John and Pat Hartley dominant. Walter Walsh was always a threat in attack with John and Liam Barron also impressing.
Best for Conahy Shamrocks were Philly Cass, Seamus Brennan, Peter Vickery, Paddy Mullan, Tom Phelan and Alan Healy.
SCORERS: Tullogher-Rosbercon - Cian O’Donoghue (0-9, 0-8 frees, 0-1 65); Liam Barron (1-1); Walter Walsh (0-2); John Barron, Conor Hennessy, Edmund Cullinane (0-1 each). Conahy Shamrocks - Kieran Mooney (0-8, frees); Philly Cass, Paddy Mullan, Alan Healy, Tom Phelan (0-1 each).
Tullogher-Rosbercon - Martin Roche, Anthony Cottrell, John Hartley, Terence Croke, Moling Cottrell, Pat Hartley, Donnacha O’Connor, Brendan Lalor, Jack Cottrell, Walter Walsh, Liam Barron, John Barron, Conor Hennessy, Edmund Cullinane, Cian O’Donoghue.
Conahy Shamrocks - Andy O’Keeffe, Thomas Nolan, Nicholas Feehan, Seamus Brennan, Brian Healy, John Mullan, Philly Cass, Kieran Mooney, Padraig Harding, Gavin Nolan, Peter Vickery, Paddy Mullan, Alan Healy, Paul Buggy, Tom Phelan. Subs: Micheál Lawler, Padraic Nolan.
Referee - Maurice Flynn (Mooncoin)