In a repeat of last year’s Leader Cup Final, the opening game of the season for Clonguish and Abbeylara in Division 1 of the All County Football League reached quite a high intensity and tempers boiled over on a couple of occasions in the second half of this lively affair at Allen Park on Sunday last.
When a fracas erupted in stoppage time referee Frank Toher almost made a controversial decision not to finish the game but order was restored by the Killoe official at a stage when Clonguish were trailing by a point and when play resumed the home side engineered the equalising score with midfielder David Faughnan shooting over the bar.
Referee Toher immediately blew the final whistle and while he had to endure a lot of criticism for his general handling of this tight contest, few among the small attendance could argue with the fact that a draw was probably the fairest result.
The new manager of Clonguish is former Ballymahon and Longford footballer Trevor Smullen and while he was minus the services of the injured David Barden on this occasion, the home side were looking good in the early stages of the game as they led by 0-4 to 0-2 after 11 minutes of play with their scores coming from Joe O’Brien, Paddy Dowd (two frees) and Paddy Corcoran.
Shane Mahon and John Kiernan replied for Abbeylara (now coached by one of their own Donal Ledwith) and they eventually got on top to end up leading by 0-8 to 0-5 at the break. Colm P Smyth, Robbie Smyth (two frees), William Crawford, Eamon Gallagher and James McEntire all got their names on the scoresheet while the other Clonguish score in the first half came from a free converted by Paddy Dowd in the 22nd minute.
While Abbey extended their advantage with a point from Crawford four minutes into the second half, Clonguish then took over completely to register six scores on the trot and particularly impressive in the comeback were a couple of their lesser lights David Faughnan and Brendan Devine.
Defender Devine surged forward to create the space for Kevin Burke to fist a point in the 36th minute and following further scores from Faughnan and Dowd (free), a quickly taken free by Paul Barden appeared to have put Joe O’Brien through for a certain goal in the 49th minute but the alert Colm P Smyth popped up to deflect the ball over the bar.
Moments later, county captain Barden landed a point and Colin Clarke was then on target to leave Clonguish leading by 0-11 to 0-9 and apparently set for victory. But the visitors refused to accept defeat and after substitute Anthony McBrien was denied a goal in the 53rd minute following a fine save by opposing keeper Stephen Watters, another Abbeylara replacement Brian Smyth scored a point immediately to leave just the minimum of margins separating the sides.
Back came Clonguish with a point from Joe O’Brien before Abbeylara hit the front in the 58th minute with a goal from full-forward Niall Sheridan who burst his way through to find the back of the net after latching on to a centre from Brian Smyth.
But there was still time for Clonguish to snatch a draw and David Faughnan came to the rescue in keeping his composure to slot the ball over the bar with the last kick of this entertaining encounter.
CLONGUISH: Stephen Watters; Brendan Burke, John O’Brien, Brendan Devine; Padraig Cooney, Enda Williams, Anthony Watters; David Faughnan (0-2), Paul Barden (0-1); Kevin Burke (0-1), Paddy Dowd (0-4, all frees), Darren Quinn; Colin Clarke (0-1), Joe O’Brien (0-3), Paddy Corcoran (0-1).
ABBEYLARA: Damien O’Connor; Michael McHugh, Fergal Battrim, Cormac Smyth; James McHugh, James McEntire (0-1), Colm P Smyth (0-1); Arthur O’Connor, John Kiernan (0-1); Eamon Gallagher (0-1), Shane Mahon (0-1), William Crawford (0-2); Robbie Smyth (0-2, frees), Niall Sheridan (1-0), Sean Murphy.
Subs:- Brian Smyth (0-1) for E Gallagher (52 mins); Anthony McBrien for S Murphy (52 mins).
Referee: Frank Toher (Killoe Young Emmets).