Stalemate after thrilling Knockbride comeback

Junior Football Championship round 2

Arva 1-15

Knockbride 1-15

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

A late free from Conal Sheridan earned Arva a draw in this riveting Junior Championship clash in which Knockbride came from eight down to lead, only for Arva to draw level.

Arva were ahead by 1-12 to 0-7 eight minutes into the second half but Knockbride continued to battle impressively and they showed impressive fitness levels as they overhauled the deficit.

Arva, though, will feel they should have won it, kicking three successive wides in the closing stages.

Gabriel Keogan’s side led by 1-8 to 0-7 at the end of an entertaining first half and they kicked on early in the second. They were more efficient in front of the posts and put together some lovely moves but Knockbride, bar their shooting, were not playing particularly badly either, despite the scoreline, and a penalty 10 minutes into the second half was the lifeline they needed to start hauling themselves to safety.

Scores were hard to come by early on; Knockbride had three wides in the first quarter, dropped another short and missed a good goal chance. They eventually opened the scoring after 10 minutes through Paddy Rogers but Arva replied promptly via Jonny McCabe.

Ciaran Smith, who had a super game, blasted over for Knockbride when he, too, was through on goal but after a Knockbride attack broke down, Peter Morris levelled again from the edge of the D.

Niall McCabe and Kevin Bouchier traded quality scores as the sides continued to cancel each other out. This was the pattern for most of the first half.

After a late hit on the impressive Liam Fay, Sean Burns converted a free but Arva soon struck for a brilliantly-taken goal when McCabe tore in along the endline and sent a left-footed rocket to the roof of the net.

A foul on Ciaran Brady was punished by a 40-metre Conal Sheridan free but Burns replied, finishing a move he had been involved in from the start.

Arva pressed high and forced a turnover; Brady was again felled and Sheridan did the honours from close range and on 29 minutes, they extended their lead to 1-6 to 0-6 when Shane Hamilton drove over a great point from 40 metres.

Liam Fay powered through and scored but Tristan Noack Hoffman did likewise at the other end before a good score from Morris left Arva four to the good at the break.

Arva got off to a flying start on the resumption with two points in 40 seconds, Hamilton belting over his second and Bouchier showing lovely skill to add another.

McCabe picked out Morris who did well to claim a mark and convert and when Hoffman stroked over a free with the left from the wing, Arva were 1-12 to 0-7 in front and looking comfortable.

But Knockbride were in no mood to roll over. An important free from Paddy Rogers from the right wing started the comeback. Then, Ciaran Smith found Niall McCabe who raced along the end-line and centred for Burns, who was taken down.

McCabe side-footed home the resulting penalty to cut the gap to four and when Arva kicked a wild effort wide, Knockbride sensed they could get something from this game after all.

A high ball from Matthew Traynor was broken down by McCabe for Smith to slot over with the left.

Arva had a great goal chance but Ciaran Brady’s shot rolled inches wide of the post; Knockbride won the kick-out and the ball was worked to Burns who made no mistake.

A two-point game again and all the momentum with Knockbride – could Arva respond? The answer was an emphatic ‘yes’ as Sheridan, quiet otherwise, scored a magnificent point from the right corner and then added a free to make it 1-14 to 1-10 in the 51st minute.

Yet Knockbride dug in again and would win the final 12 minutes by 0-5 to 0-1. Smith was electric, demanding the ball, and the next one he got from Paddy Rogers, he rounded a defender and pointed with the left.

He was involved again in teeing up Burns for the next; Arva’s response was two wides. After a foul on Fay on the right sideline, Paddy Rogers sent over another spectacular effort from the hands and Arva again registered a wide in reply.

Probably the best score of the game was the one that tied it, Smith curling in a magical effort from the left corner which had shades of Shane Walsh in the All-Ireland final. Knockbride were pushing forward and hit the front when the outstanding Burns scored with the outside of the boot – but Arva weren’t done yet.

Sheridan tied the game with a free and they had another good move which broke down due to a poor handpass. The final effort fell to Knockbride but Paddy Rogers was off target and that was that.

While both sides squandered chances at times, this was an excellent spectacle played at a high tempo, with many of the scores on show belying the junior grade, which is no surprise - Arva will play Division 1 football next year while Knockbride are long on talent and have been very close for the last three years.

Knockbride: James Lynch, Matthew Traynor, Philip Nulty, Daniel McGuinness, DJ Cassidy, Micheál Clarke, Roy Donohoe, Paddy Rogers (0-3, 2f), Philip Rogers, Liam Fay (0-1), Shane Carolan, Ciaran Smith (0-4), Sean Burns (0-7, 1f), Fergal Smith, Niall McCabe (1-0 pen)

Subs: Larry Maguire for Traynor (48 mins), Mark Magee for D McGuinness (51)

Arva: Cian O’Hara, Danny Ellis, Mikie Cully, Charlie Madden, Finbar McAvinue, Ciaran Brady, Shane Hamilton (0-2), Tristan Noack-Hoffman (0-2, 1f), Jonathan McCabe (1-1), Ciaran Cooney, Conor McEntee, Barry Donnelly, Peter Morris (0-3, 1m), Kevin Bouchier (0-2), Conal Sheridan (0-5, 4f)

Subs: Thomas Brady for McAvinue (25 mins), Jamie Gray for C McEntee (54), James Morris for C Cooney (58), Cormac McCabe for S Hamilton (60)

Ref: Mickey Lee