A GARY SHEEHAN goal two minutes from time ensured Na Piarsaigh retain their senior status for another season, following a cracking Evening Echo SFC relegation final at Cloughduv last night.
It looked as if the city side was going to drop down to the intermediate grade after 43 years playing senior as they trailed by two points with time running out. But, in one final assault on the Naomh Abán defence, Sheehan got his fist to Padraigh Gould’s cross to spark marvellous scenes of jubilation at the final whistle, and leave their opponents shattered by the cruelty of it all.
Both sides will agree that had they played as well in previous rounds they would not have found themselves in a relegation final. Naomh Abán have only themselves to blame for losing this game. Twice in a rip roaring contest they lost a five-point lead, and over the 60-odd minutes did enough to at least earn a replay.
However, when the chips were down, Piarsaigh responded superbly, and any talk of them not being seriously interested in the big ball game was well and truly dispelled by this performance.
Aided by the breeze Naomh Abán could hardly have asked for a better start when Shane McCarthaigh fisted home a goal after a minute, and with MacCarthaigh in scintillating form at corner forward, they stormed into a 1-2 to nil lead five minutes in, and Piarsaigh looked to be in dire trouble.
However the city side settled well and some superb free-taking by John Gardiner got them back into the game and they were eventually on level terms by the 20th minute, as the county senior hurling star kicked five points from placed balls.
The Ballyvourney side struggled around midfield where Stephen Glasgow was dominant for Piarsaigh, and in effort to try and contain Gardiner, they moved Anthony Lynch back on him. It had the desired effect, and at the break Naomh Aban were full value for their 1-9 to 0-10 lead.
Naomh Abán rattled over four points without reply on the resumption, three of them by the impressive McCarthaigh, and a six-point deficit look to be beyond Piarsaigh. However, they were not quite ready to give up their status and a goal by Glasgow after a 40-yard run blew the game wide open. Glasgow was rampant, and he tacked on two points to leave just the minimum between the sides at the three-quarter stage.
The tension and excitement both on and off the field added greatly to what was developing into a gripping contest, and only a magnificent save by Naomh Abán keeper Donal O Croinin denied Shane Duggan the lead goal.
It was all Piarsaigh at this juncture and they finally levelled the game with two points in a row and were playing well enough to go on and win.
But there was still a kick left in Naomh Abán and they edged two points clear going into the closing minutes, before they were left to rue what might have been by Sheehan’s dramatic late winning goal.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: S Glasgow 1-3 (0-2 frees); J Gardiner 0-5 (0-4 frees); G Sheehan 1-1; S Duggan 0-2; A Brady, W Long, K Buckley 0-1 each.
Naomh Abán: S MacCarthaigh 1-9 (0-6 frees); Jonathan MacCarthaigh, A Hankus 0-2 each; A O Croinin, D O Croinin, Jason MacCarthaigh (free) 0-1 each.
NA PIARSAIGH: W Daly; E Moynihan, M Prendergast, D McNamara; A Brady, S Og O hAilpin, D Mannix; S Glasgow, W Long; D Gardiner, P Gould, K Buckley; S Duggan, G Sheehan, J Gardiner.
Subs: A Keating for D Gardiner (half time); A Dennehy for McNamara (40(; C Joyce for Long (45); T O hAilpin for Glasgow (55).
NAOMH ABÁN: D O Croinin; S O Mathuna, T O Scannail, L MacSuibhne; P O hIarlaithe, A O Loinsigh, D O Suilleabhain; A Hankus, M O Laoghaire; S O Laoghaire, A O Croinin, D O Croinin; S MacCarthaigh, Jonathan MacCarthaigh, Jason MacCarthaigh.
Subs: A O Loinsigh for L MacSuibhne (25); M O Croinin for A MacCarthaigh (45); D O Ceochain for Jonathan MacCarthaigh (50).
Referee: J Birmingham (Bride Rovers).
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