Athy end 24-year famine in style

TEARS of joy flooded onto the St Conleth’s Park pitch in Newbridge yesterday as Athy ended a 24-year wait for a county title in convincing circumstances.

As their manager Mark Brophy, hoarse from barking instructions, explained afterwards: “It means everything.”

For a club that hadn’t reached a senior county final since 1995 when Brophy himself was playing, the celebrations were understandably unbridled.

Carbury, bidding to bridge a 26-year gap to the last time they held the Dermot Burke Cup, were left playing catch-up after 35 seconds when James Eaton palmed the ball over a hesitant Noel Kenna’s head and into the net.

With Athy playing into the wind in the first-half, Kenna failed to negotiate the flight of the ball and Eaton, who was his club’s star man on the day with 1-4, seized the opportunity.

An almost identical one came Athy’s way in the 16th minute. Kenna incorrectly read a squared kick from Ken Brophy and Darroch Mulhall took advantage to palm the ball up and over the Carbury goalkeeper.

The score put Athy eight points clear and although they saw that margin sliced to two with three minutes to go they kept their composure to seal a deserving victory.

A delighted Brophy admitted the two first-half goals against the wind were the foundation for their success.

“The two goals gave us a great platform. We didn’t have to go chasing the game and it meant we could hit on the counter-attack after that. Carbury are a fabulous team and had come back from the dead in every game this year. They nearly pulled it out of the fire. Luckily enough, we held out there in the end.”

Carbury manager Stephen Darby agreed those early blows dealt by Eaton and Mulhall were tough to take.

“The two goals that we leaked in the early stages went against us for the rest of the game and that’s where we lost it.

“Athy were driving at us the whole time and we only came in patches. The two goals made a big difference.”

Carbury initially struggled to respond to Eaton’s goal but finished the half just down by four points, 2-5 to 1-4.

Even with a strong wind, they had only three points in the first 15 minutes, the excellent Terry Rossiter scoring either side of an Eoghan O’Flaherty point.

Athy were far more astute in finding their men in the forward line. Cian Reynolds tagged on three points to Eaton’s goal while Athy’s first goalscorer slotted over a brace, one from a free and a smartly curled effort from play.

However, Mulhall’s goal turned out to be their last score of the half as both sides were guilty of poor finishing before Rossiter split the posts again.

Two minutes into injury-time, the dangerous Daryl O’Brien was foot-blocked in the parallelogram with referee Noel McKenna awarding a penalty which David Cash converted into the left corner. On that, the half-time whistle blew but with the wind now in Athy’s favour Carbury’s hopes seemed all but written off.

Six minutes into the new half, Athy had extended their lead to seven points with two from Eaton, his second a delightful point, and one from Kevin Feely, a promising young midfielder.

Yet Athy could have been home and hosed but for some pot-shots from the silliest of angles.

“We started very well but we didn’t capitalise on it (the wind),” acknowledged Brophy. “We didn’t get enough scores and allowed Carbury to hang in there but thankfully we got a couple near the end that got us over the line.”

After O’Flaherty and Reynolds exchanged frees, O’Brien, through sheer will, fought off tackles and kicked Carbury’s first point from play in the second-half.

Almost directly from the restart, O’Flaherty fed Rossiter whose kick from the left wing defied the breeze to land over the crossbar.

With Carbury’s forwards making life difficult for Athy’s defenders to clear their lines and their support in the 6,000 crowd finding their voices, a grandstand finish was set up when the battering ram O’Brien weaved his way through to beat James Roycroft.

But stung into action, Athy put paid to the revival. A foul by Carbury substitute Seán McLoughlin in a central position 30 metres out was punished by Reynolds and the young corner-forward added the insurance point after a well-worked move a minute into injury-time.

Scorers for Athy: J Eaton 1-4; C Reynolds 0-6 (3f); D Mulhall 1-0; K Feely 0-1.

Scorers for Carbury: T Rossiter 0-4; C O’Brien 1-1; D Cash 1-0 (pen); E O’Flaherty 0-2 (1f).

ATHY: J Roycroft; D Hyland, J Kinihan, D Holligan; R Bell, M Foley, T Gibbons; P Dunne, K Feely; A Kelly, K Brophy, L McGovern; D Mulhall, J Eaton, C Reynolds.

Subs: B Kinihan for Holligan (40); D O’Keeffe for Kelly (45); N Kelly for Brophy (57); E Kennedy for Bell (59); H Mahon for Eaton (64).

CARBURY: N Kenna; J Crowe, C Kearney, D Cummins; P O’Reilly, M O’Flaherty, D Boyle; L Holt, S Costello; T Rossiter, D Cash, E O’Flaherty; D O’Brien, A Dermody, K McNamara.

Subs: D Moore for Cummins (21); W Groomes for Costello (h-t); G Mangan for Boyle (36); P Grace for Holt (48); S McLoughlin for McNamara (57).

Referee: Noel McKenna

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