Abbeylara cruise to U-21 ‘B’ title triumph

Goals either side of half-time from Mark Smyth and Jason Earley capped an impressive display from Abbeylara last Sunday as the north Longford side cruised to a most emphatic victory in the U-21 ‘B’ Football Championship Final at a bitterly cold Keenan Park in Ardagh.

And much of the credit for their facile 15 point winning margin will undoubtedly go to midfield maestro Robbie Smyth, who once again illustrated his potential as a star for the future with a polished performance throughout.

Smyth apart Abbeylara, in truth, had star performers all over the pitch in an encounter that was effectively over as a contest at half-time.

By that stage, there was already nine points between the sides (1-9 to 0-3), three of which came in the opening eight minutes from Jason Kelly, Colin Sheridan and Robbie Smyth.

Ballymahon/Forgney never really looked like stretching a stubborn Abbeylara defence, marshalled superbly by Alan Earley and James McHugh.

In fact, only a point apiece from Lee Masters, Pedro Byrne and Thomas Mulvihill (free) was all Ballymahon had to show for their efforts 30 minutes in.

Further Abbeylara scores in the first half followed from Robbie Smyth and Jason Kelly and when Mark Smyth smashed home a goal in the 18th minute, the writing was already on the wall for Ballymahon/Forgney.

And so it proved with just three points on the scoreboard going in at half-time, Jason Kelly continued where he and his fellow team-mates had left off during the opening half hour by raising the white flag after just two minutes.

White turned to green four minutes later however, as Abbeylara notched their second goal and in so doing erased whatever faint hopes Ballymahon/Forgney had of mustering an unlikely comeback.

The only surprise perhaps was that it wasn’t Robbie Smyth or Jason Kelly doing the damage. That honour instead, fell to Smyth’s midfield opposite number Jason Earley as he ghosted through a gaping hole in the Ballymahon/Forgney defence to drill the ball past the despairing dive of goalkeeper James McCormack.

That intervention brought the score to 2-10 to 0-3 after just 36 minutes. Well aware of their fate, Ballymahon/Forgney continued in their battle to add some semblance of respectability to the scoreline.

But Abbeylara continued to surge forward. Such was their dominance and eagerness to press home their advantage, even half backs Anthony O’Reilly and David Reilly got in on the scoring act. With ten minutes to go, Anthony McBrien and Robbie Smyth added further scores, leaving Ballymahon/Forgney still searching for their opening point of the second half.

It eventually arrived six minutes from time, courtesy of a disconsolate looking Niall Noonan. Further mild and somewhat muted cheer was to arrive a minute later when Thomas Mulvihill scrambled the ball over the line after Lee Masters saw his effort come crashing back off the underside of the bar.

Perhaps fittingly, the final say went to Jason Kelly as he slotted over his seventh score deep into stoppage time, setting the seal on a fine title triumph for the men from Abbeylara.

ABBEYLARA: Shane Gallagher; Alan Earley, James McHugh; Anthony O’Reilly (0-1), Michael McHugh, David Reilly (0-1); Jason Earley (1-0), Robbie Smyth (0-4, one free); Colin Sheridan (0-1), Jason Kelly (0-7, four frees), Anthony McBrien (0-1); Sean Berry, Mark Smyth (1-1).

Subs:- Peter Brady for M Smyth (52 mins); Gavin Kelly for D Reilly (54 mins); Thomas Quinn for C Sheridan (54 mins).

BALLYMAHON/FORGNEY: James McCormack; Jamie Noonan, Niall Dowler; Lee Masters (0-1), Matthew Daly, Niall Noonan (0-1); Thomas Mulvihill (1-1), Charlie Byrne; Sean McMullen, Niall Sheehy, Paul Keegan; Jordan Mulvihill, Pedro Byrne (0-1).

Subs:- Daniel Steele for S McMullen (26 mins); Paul Kelly for J Mulvihill (30 mins); Shane Rowan for N Sheehy (47 mins).

Referee: Ger Carberry (Killoe Young Emmets).