Abbeylara gained some measure of revenge for the disappointment of losing the senior football championship final when they beat Killoe in the crunch All County League clash at Emmet Park on Sunday last, a result that clinched the Division 1 title for Maurice O’Connor’s team.
Just a single point separated the sides in the finish with Robbie Smyth firing over the winning score direct from a brilliantly struck sideline kick in the 56th minute. And the Abbeylara success was certainly deserved, taking into account that they played the final quarter of the contest with 14 players.
Corner-back Cian Brady was sent-off after receiving a second yellow card and tempers boiled over in a tough second half with referee Patrick Maguire losing control at certain stages as things got out of hand.
Despite the defeat, it was great preparation for Killoe in the build-up to the Leinster Club quarter-final against Navan O’Mahonys next Sunday. And with that important fixture in mind the Emmet Og manager Declan Rowley decided not to risk defenders Shane Dowd and Daniel Keogh who have injury problems but both should be fit to face the Meath champions.
Abbeylara played the entire first half without their captain Fergal Battrim, who was late in arriving for the game after just returning home from a holiday abroad, and was brought on at the start of the second half.
At that stage his side were holding a fairly comfortable 0-9 to 0-5 lead with the accurate Robbie Smyth shooting a total of six points - three from frees and three excellent efforts from play. Brian Smyth and a brace from Jason Kelly (free and play) got the other Abbeylara scores in the first half with Kelly having a great chance of a goal in the 28th minute but he elected to tap the ball over the bar.
Denis McGoldrick (two frees), Mark Hughes (a brace of fine strikes from play) and Michael Quinn replied for a rather lethargic Killoe outfit, who were very slow to settle, but they increased the tempo in playing with a lot more intensity in a robust second half littered with a number of cynical challenges from both sides.
Simon Kiernan and Larry Moran were introduced on the changeover as Emmet Og made a flying start with a point apiece from Daniel Mimnagh, Sean McCormack and Mark Hughes to close the gap to the minimum of margins.
Back came Abbeylara with a well struck score from defender Colm P Smyth in the 38th minute, only for Killoe to step up another gear and enjoy a dominant spell that yielded four points in a row through Mark Hughes, Denis McGoldrick (free) and a couple from Daniel Mimnagh, the first when a goal was there for the taking in the 49th minute.
Now leading by 0-12 to 0-10 Killoe looked the likely winners at this stage, particularly with the advantage of the extra man, but they failed to register another score whereas Abbeylara showed great character to produce a determined late recovery and which was enough to settle the issue.
Cracking scores from substitute James McEntire and Eamon Gallagher left the sides all square before Robbie Smyth landed a glorious winning point from a sideline kick. Although under considerable pressure, Abbeylara held out to win the senior league title with Killoe wasting a few chances in their frantic search for the equaliser in a tense and exciting finish which included four minutes of stoppage time added on by the referee Patrick Maguire.
ABBEYLARA: Damien O’Connor; Barry Smyth, Colm P Smyth (0-1), Cian Brady; Eamon Gallagher (0-1), Michael McHugh, Cormac Smyth; Arthur O’Connor, Conor Berry; Sean Murphy, Jason Kelly (0-2, one free), Brian Smyth (0-1); Robbie Smyth (0-7, three from frees, three from play, one from sideline kick), William Crawford, Nigel Rabbitte.
Subs:- Fergal Battrim for N Rabbitte (half-time); N Rabbitte for M McHugh (injured, 44 mins); James McEntire (0-1) for J Kelly (black card, 46 mins); Russell Brady for S Murphy (48 mins).
KILLOE EMMET OG: Cillian Burns; Shane Clarke, Padraig McCormack, Liam Hughes; Cian Farrelly, Joe McCormack, Ronan Keogh; Paddy Thompson, Michael Quinn (0-2); Denis McGoldrick (0-3, all frees), Daniel Mimnagh (0-3), Eugene Clarke; Paul O’Hara, Sean McCormack (0-1), Mark Hughes (0-3).
Subs:- Simon Kiernan for R Keogh (half-time); Larry Moran for P O’Hara (half-time).
Referee: Patrick Maguire (St Mary’s Granard).