While Clonguish advanced a stage further in the Senior Football Championship and will now meet Mullinalaghta in the semi-final on Sunday September 14th, they almost let victory slip from their grasp in a close call against Abbeylara.
Seven points clear (3-4 to 1-3) when Stephen Norton shot over the bar in the 43rd minute, Clonguish appeared to be in complete control of the quarter-final played in miserable wet conditions at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday evening last.
A couple of terrific goals from the excellent Paul Barden had put Mickey Graham’s side in a strong position, despite losing defender Conor Shields who was harshly sent-off following a brief fracas in the early stages of the second half.
Abbeylara looked to have little chance of salvaging the situation but after Robbie Smyth fired over a well struck point in the 50th minute, they were thrown a lifeline moments later when county minor Conor Berry pounced on the breaking ball to score a badly needed goal.
Donal Ledwith’s side were now operating a much more direct approach and Clonguish lived very dangerously indeed in the tense and exciting closing stages with their competent keeper Stephen Watters coming to the rescue twice with great point-blank saves to prevent certain goals - both efforts from the boot of Conor Berry.
Even when Abbeylara were reduced to 14 players after Brian Smyth was sent-off in the 56th minute, they continued to surge forward and were rewarded for their perseverance in the final minute of normal time when a ‘45’ taken by their keeper Damien O’Connor was deflected to the net by a Clonguish player.
Remarkably, the sides were now all square but Clonguish regained the lead with a glorious point from substitute Paddy Dowd for what proved to be the winning score.
With referee Derek Fahy playing five minutes of stoppage time, Abbeylara had a couple of chances to force a replay with Colm P Smyth off target from a difficult effort while Damien O’Connor sent a tricky long range free wide with virtually the last kick of the game.
Clonguish (minus the unavailable county U-21 defender Stephen McLoughlin) were very relieved indeed to hear the sound of the final whistle seconds later in hanging on for a hard earned win and will have to improve if they hope to regain the Connolly Cup they last captured in 2009.
But with Paul Barden playing so well, Clonguish are still in there with a decent chance and the highlight of their shaky victory over Abbeylara was the wonderful goal scored by their class act forward in the 13th minute.
The generally prominent Ciaran Williams got clean through to grab the opening Clonguish goal in the 3rd minute and it was he who created the opportunity for Paul Barden to plant an unstoppable shot in the top corner of the net in the 13th minute.
In between, the perfect pass from Eamon Gallagher set up Abbeylara midfielder Fergal Battrim for a fine goal in the 10th minute and Clonguish ended up leading by 2-3 to 1-3 at the break with their points coming from Paul Barden (‘45), Darren Quinn and Ciaran Williams.
The Abbeylara points in the first half were kicked by Robbie Smyth (free) and a brace in quick succession from young Conor Berry (play and free) but they failed to register another score between the 17th and 50th minutes which ultimately led to their eventual downfall.
Abbeylara shot six costly wides in the first half as they struggled to get scores and it was the same situation for Clonguish in the second half with a well-taken Paul Barden goal in the 41st minute (created by his brother David) proving to be a decisive factor in the outcome.
While Abbeylara eventually got their act together to give their fancied opponents a fierce fright, it was not enough as Clonguish emerged victorious by a solitary point thanks to the cracking strike from Paddy Dowd in the first minute of stoppage time.
CLONGUISH: Stephen Watters; Brendan Burke, Ronan Sweeney, Ciaran Corcoran; Conor Shields, Enda Williams, Brendan Devine; David Barden, Padraig Cooney; Stephen Norton (0-1), Paul Barden (2-1, point from ‘45), Shane O’Brien; Darren Quinn (0-1), Joe O’Brien, Ciaran Williams (1-1).
Subs:- Paddy Dowd (0-1) for C Corcoran (37 mins); Kevin Burke for S O’Brien (59 mins); David Faughnan for K Burke (62 mins).
ABBEYLARA: Damien O’Connor (1-0, ‘45’); Anthony McBrien, Enda Ledwith, Barry Smyth; James McEntire, Colm P Smyth, Michael McHugh; Jason Kelly, Fergal Battrim (1-0); Nigel Rabbitte, Robbie Smyth (0-2, one free), Eamon Gallagher; Shane Mahon, Conor Berry (1-2, one point from free), William Crawford.
Subs:- Brian Smyth for A McBrien (15 mins); Arthur O’Connor for N Rabbitte (51 mins); Sean Murphy for S Mahon (57 mins).
Referee: Derek Fahy (Ballymore).