After looking in big trouble at one stage of the first half, a couple of crucial goals got Granard back into contention and they eventually earned a draw against Abbeylara thanks to two late points from Paul Smyth.
A big attendance gathered at Devine Park in Edgeworthstown on Friday evening last to witness this intriguing local derby in Round 2 of the Senior Football Championship and the final result suited both sides in their quest to qualify for the quarter-finals.
On top in most positions on the pitch in the first half, Abbeylara established a fairly comfortable 0-5 to 0-1 lead with their scores coming from five different players - Nigel Rabbitte, Conor Berry, Jason Kelly (free), Robbie Smyth (free) and James McEntire.
St Mary’s were finding the going tough but two goals in the space of just over a minute changed the course of the game. Midfielder Charlie Martin raced through to fire home a cracking strike in the 19th minute and moments later the ball was in the back of the Abbeylara net again.
Under severe pressure to clear the danger, a deflection off an Abbey defender yielded the second goal and the lead for Granard, 2-1 to 0-5, and all of a sudden the game was blown wide open.
But Abbeylara, to their credit, showed a lot of character to recover from this double setback and five points in a row through Robbie Smyth (free), a brace from Conor Berry, a ‘45 converted by goalkeeper Damien O’Connor and another score from James McEntire left them leading by 0-10 to 2-1 at the break.
And it could have been even better for Maurice O’Connor’s charges but for a fabulous double save from the Granard keeper Eoin Mallon who prevented county minor Berry from scoring a goal in the 27th minute.
Fortunate not to be further behind, St Mary’s improved beyond recognition in the second half with their manager Niall Sheridan making a few shrewd changes including the introduction of the vastly experienced David Blessington.
Blessington got Granard back on track with a well taken point in the 36th minute and while Robbie Smyth (free) quickly replied for Abbeylara the best they could do thereafter was another score from Smyth who was bang on target from play in the 48th minute.
Revitalised St Mary’s, with the aid of the wind, were clearly the better team on the changeover and might well have won but for the fact that they squandered a few costly chances.
Four more points followed from Liam O’Rourke (free), David Hynes and the late brace from Paul Smyth who also went close to getting a goal in the 43rd minute when his flick on was cleared off the line.
In a disputed incident soon after, Robbie Smyth had a free waved wide by referee Donal Kane after one of the umpires was about to reach for the white flag and the same player was sent-off after receiving a second yellow card in the 58th minute.
Although down to 14 players, Abbeylara had a couple of good chances to snatch a win in stoppage time with both Mickey O’Connor and Kevin Smyth shooting wide but a draw was probably the fairest result in this real championship clash that was high in entertainment value.
ABBEYLARA: Damien O’Connor (0-1, ‘45’); Brian Smyth, Fergal Battrim, Barry Smyth; Colm P Smyth, Michael McHugh, Cormac Smyth; Robbie Smyth (0-4, three frees), Arthur O’Connor; Nigel Rabbitte (0-1), James McEntire (0-2), Jason Kelly (0-1, free); Conor Berry (0-3), Kevin Smyth, Sean Murphy.
Subs:- Kieran Mulvihill for S Murphy (40 mins); Barry McKiernan for N Rabbitte (53 mins); Mickey O’Connor for J McEntire (57 mins).
ST MARY’S GRANARD: Eoin Mallon; Eoin Higgins, Thomas Gallagher, Declan Murphy; Paul Smyth (0-2), Alan Neilon, Mark Tully; Charlie Martin (1-0), Liam O’Rourke (0-1, free); Stephen Lynch, Brian Sheridan, Darren Gallagher (0-1, free); David Hynes (0-1), Timmy Jackson, Declan Hynes.
Subs:- David Blessington (0-1) for A Neilon (half-time); Derek Sheridan for D Murphy (half-time); Glen Kelly for David Hynes (47 mins); Kevin McGauran for M Tully (injured, 51 mins); Liam Sullivan for Declan Hynes (54 mins).
Referee: Donal Kane (Young Grattans).