Granard’s first Leinster Club game in 30 years ended in defeat but the north Longford side ran the Dublin champions Cuala close in the Intermediate Championship first round clash at O’Toole Park in Crumlin on Sunday last.
St. Mary’s will feel they really should have done better and had enough possession to cause an upset against a hotly fancied Cuala side but their passing and decision-making at times cost them.
The pitch in Crumlin certainly didn’t help the Longford Intermediate champions; it was badly cut up due to two matches played on it. There was a club hurling match on before the Granard game which went to extra-time and because of that and with late notice Granard had to find alternative facilities to warm up before their game.
They also came up against a poor referee who gave some strange decisions against them. And RTE Personality Des Cahill, who is involved with Cuala, was certainly making his presence felt on the sideline during the course of the game.
Granard looked shaky at the start of the game and wasted a lot of possession. It was the Dalkey side who got the first score of the game in the 7th minute; Thomas Gallagher was adjudged to have touched the ball on the ground in the square and a penalty was awarded but James Power elected to take his point.
Glen Kelly got Granard off the mark in the 10th minute and two minutes later James Hynes fired over a free to put them in front but then Cuala took control. Power levelled the game in the 16th minute. Luke Keating put them back in front before Granard keeper Eoghan Mallon pulled off a great save to deny Niall Carthy a goal.
Granard had a chance to level the game but Glen Kelly blasted his free wide in the 22nd minute. Cuala went down the field and a questionable free which was pointed by Conor O’Brien put them ahead by two and the lead was extended when Carty fired over another free.
St. Mary’s netminder Mallon denied Paul Schutte in the 28th minute and just before the break Granard got their third point; James Hynes pointing his second free with Cuala having to be content with a slender 0-5 to 0-3 lead at the break.
The gap was down to the minimum of margins four minutes into the second half. St. Mary’s substitute Edmund Kelly started the move and it ended with Liam O’Rourke being fouled and James Hynes fired over the free.
Granard gave away a needless free in the 36th minute which Carthy duly pointed and another free from Carty left Cuala three points ahead.
Glen Kelly had a great chance to bring Granard back into the game in the 40th minute but his shot was saved by Cuala keeper Darren McBrien. Brian Sheridan was clearly fouled minutes later but the referee gave a free against him and Carthy made no mistake to register a point.
Granard were dealt a massive blow in the 45th minute when Charlie Martin received his second yellow card and was subsequently sent-off. Points from Niall Carthy (free) and Paul Schutte extended Cuala’s lead to six in the 47th minute.
But suddenly Granard enjoyed a new lease of life. Liam Sullivan brought a save out of the Cuala keeper in the 48th minute and scores from Michael Murray, James Hynes (free) and Stephen Lynch cut the gap to three points in the 56th minute.
Try as they might Granard just couldn’t get the goal they badly needed and Dublin senior defender Michael Fitzsimons got the insurance point for Cuala in the 59th minute. Granard’s woes were complete in the 60th minute when Bernard Clyne (who was the subject of robust challenges throughout the game) was shown a second yellow card for remonstrating with the referee and was sent-off.
CUALA: Darren McBrien; Davy Sheeran, Sean Fitzsimons, Philip O’Donnell; Ronan Murdoch, Marc Schutte, Adam Hudson; James Power (0-2), Scott O’Brien; Luke Keating (0-2, one free), David Treacy, Michael Fitzsimons (0-1); Conor O’Brien (0-1), Niall Carthy (0-4, all frees), Paul Schutte (0-1).
Subs:- Conor Mullally for D Sheeran (43 mins); Eoghan Breathnach for S O’Brien (46 mins); Dan Keating for D Treacy (48 mins).
GRANARD: Eoghan Mallon; Vinny Nally, Thomas Gallagher, Jody Connolly; Bernard Clyne, David Blessington, Brian Sheridan; Charlie Martin, Fergus Kelly; Liam Sullivan, Liam O’Rourke, James Hynes (0-4, all frees); Stephen Lynch (0-1), Timmy Jackson, Glen Kelly (0-1).
Subs:- Edmund Kelly for V Nally (half-time); Michael Murray (0-1) for L O’Rourke (47 mins); Alan Neilon for F Kelly (47 mins); David Hynes for G Kelly (56 mins).
Referee: Gareth Whelan (Wicklow).