Knockbride continue good form with quarter-final win
Junior Football Championship quarter-final
Kevin Óg Carney at Kingspan Breffni
Competition favourites Knockbride sharpened their claws that bit more at Kingspan Breffni last Sunday as they comfortably advanced to the semi-finals of this year’s JFC.
The winners-elect led from gun to tape in maintaining their reputation without ever enhancing it in what was an interesting contest that didn’t quite ape the script despite its positioning temporarily beside the shredder after 30 minutes.
Drung travelled to HQ in sleeves-rolled-up mode and for three-quarters of the game they gave as good as they got but their concession of a goal just seconds from the half-time break was the break Knockbride just didn’t need to justify their ranking.
The raging hot favourites seemed intent on making honest men of the bookies by forging a 0-4 to 0-1 lead inside the opening 12 minutes after Paddy Rogers’ free (3) had given them a lead that they were to hold from gun to tape.
Knockbride played with a degree of confidence and self-assuredness befitting their ranking in the competition but Drung predictably appeared on the biggest stage in the county with their sleeves rolled up and they hit hard, fought hard and ran hard to keep their opponents in their crosshairs.
Far from motivating them to seek greater heights, Knockbride’s early three point lead appeared to give the leaders’ an infusion of complacency and lethargy which helped greatly in levelling the playing field.
The Drung defenders harried in packs, were disciplined in their tackles and hard-working midfield pairing Declan McEntee and Ronan Brady had willing and able outlets in Niall Fitzpatrick and Tiarnán Reilly.
Knockbride always threatened in moving forward and in the 22nd minute, only a timely diving interception by Michael McEntee prevented a goal chance being created by Philip Rogers.
Moments later at the other end of the pitch, Tiarnán Reilly was unlucky to get in a shot on goal when he lost his footing on the slippery, soft sod 16 metres out from the Knockbride goal after good work by Niall Fitzpatrick and Ben Fitzpatrick.
Just seconds later, Reilly’s ill-fortune was rammed home when Micheál Smith superbly arrowed his shot through a trio of Drung defenders for a goal (33) which catapulted his side into a 1-5 to 0-4 interval lead.
Knockbride led by 1-8 to 0-6 when they engineered a golden chance of sealing the deal in the 46th minute but Drung ‘keeper Francis Hughes and Paul Heuston each made an important block to deny Lorcan Reilly seconds apart.
Drung continued to defend in big numbers and they continually frustrated Knockbride’s efforts at putting the issue to bed even if it took some desperate last ditch defending at times.
Drung were badly winded by the concession of the one and only goal but when trailing by five points the dismissals of Barry Watters in the 51st minute and,five minutes later, full-back John Cassidy left them taking a standing count on very nearly on their last legs.
With the concession of the only goal of the game and now down to 13 men, Drung were left facing a mountainous challenge in facing a 0-7 to 1-10 deficit and with less than 10 minutes of actual time remaining.
True to form, Drung worked away in dervish-like fashion to win and retain what was a decent amount of possession but the sharp edge they needed to put Knockbride under any kind of meaningful pressure never materialised in the run-in.
Knockbride: James Lynch; Daniel McGuinness, Mark Magee, Kyle McCabe; Philip Rogers, Fergal Smith, Roy Donohoe; Paddy Rogers (0-3, 2f), Liam Fay; Micheál Smith (1-0), Matthew Traynor (0-2), Lorcan Reilly (0-5, 3f); Paddy Smith (0-2), Ciarán Smith (0-1), Jordan McCabe.
Subs; Seán Burns for C Smith; Niall McCabe for D McGuinness; Niall O’Reilly (0-1) for P Smith; Darren Clarke for F Smith; Barry Cahill for M Smith.
Drung: Francis Hughes; Paul Heuston, John Cassidy, CJ McCabe, Ryan O’Reilly, Michael McEntee, Ben Fitzpatrick; Declan McEntee (0-4,4f), Ronan Brady; Martin O’Reilly, Niall Fitzpatrick (0-2, 1f), Gregory Rossiter; Seán Curran, Barry Watters, Tiarnán Reilly (0-1, f).
Subs; Fergal Heuston for G Rossiter; Garry Watters for B Fitzpatrick; Kieran Fay for CJ McCabe; Stephen Jackson (0-1, f) for S Curran; Seán McDonnell for R O’Reilly.