bottom: The Laune Rangers panel v Ardfert on Sunday. (missing from picture is Pa Joy)
Conditions could not have been better for this Round 1 Senior Club Championship tie as Laune Rangers travelled to All Ireland Intermediate champions Ardfert on Sunday. The home side was at full strength, while the visitors were without main man Peter Crowley through injury.
The opening half was very evenly matched. Points were traded and the lead was never extended to more than the minimum for either side. The visiting Rangers did have the lead going into the break though on a scoreline of 0-7 to 0-6, as points from Mike Frank Russell (0-2, 1 free), John O’Shea (0-2 frees), Pa Joy (0-2) & Chris Riordan (0-1) were met with points from Ardfert’s Damien Wallace, John Egan, David Griffin, Shane Griffin, & Eoghan Courtney (0-2, 1 free) – Ardfert kicking all of their scores from distance with the aid of the breeze.
Laune Rangers used the breeze at the beginning of the second half to open up the lead to three as Paudie Murphy and Pa Joy pointed while at the other end, Tony Lyons pulled off two fantastic saves to protect the lead. Both sides missed opportunities with wides before John Tyther pointed for the visitors to put four points between the sides. Ardfert got back into the game on the 40th minute, when John Egan found the net for the game’s first goal to reduce his team’s deficit to the minimum. As Mike Frank Russell pointed a free, Laune Rangers led on the ¾ mark: Ardfert 1-6, Laune Rangers 0-11. Russell added another point from play to put a goal between the sides shortly after. Rangers were now picking up injuries after some heavy challenges & some of the veterans amongst the team were beginning to tire. Pa Joy & Mike Frank Russell were replaced by Colm O’Shea and David Costello. John Dowling was introduced by Ardfert to bring a fresh impetus to midfield. Shane McSweeney and Trevor Wallace traded points, as the wide count was increasing with minutes left on the clock. David Costello’s point for Rangers was cancelled out by wing back Trevor Wallace’s 2nd point of the day to leave the score after 60 minutes: Ardfert 1-8, Laune Rangers 0-14.
As the injuries continued to take their toll on Rangers, Ryan Keane had to be helped off the field by his selectors as play continued around him. Then, the game’s major talking point occurred. Late in the fifth minute of stoppage time – when any applicable injury time was well and truly expired – a free was awarded to Ardfert & all 15 players moved forward to the danger area. Following some aerial pinball, the ball somehow managed to find its way to the net with Daniel Collins getting the plaudits for the finish to force extra time. This was a huge blow to Rangers as they thought they had enough done to go home with the win. The score at the end of normal time: Ardfert 2-8, Laune Rangers 0-14.
Ardfert used the momentum they had built with that oh-so late equalizer into extra time, as their superior fitness gained through their All Ireland winning run paid off. They outscored Rangers 0-8 to 0-1 with points from John Egan (0-4), Damien Wallace, Eoghan Courtney, Darren Wallace & Darren Dineen as John Sheehan pointed Rangers only point, while Michael O’Sullivan saw a red card for Rangers for what was deemed a bad challenge.
The result and 7 point differential does no justice to the Laune Rangers performance. Peter Crowley was a huge loss to the side, as was his cousin Kieran Crowley who sustained an injury late in normal time and missed extra time. The veteran group among the Rangers all contributed great performances – Tony Lyons in goal, John Sheehan & Mike Frank Russell offering much needed leadership to a relatively young team around them - while Chris Riordan, Shane McSweeney & Pa Joy offered a threat throughout. However, the resilience of Ardfert coupled with their superior fitness saw them through in the tie. Trevor Wallace scored two points at wing back at a crucial stage, but John Egan’s personal tally of 1-4 made all the difference and his was the stand-out performance.
Laune Rangers: Tony Lyons, Michael O’Sullivan, Tommy O’Callaghan, Keith Sheehan, Chris Riordan (0-1), John Sheehan (0-1), Kieran Crowley, Paudie Murphy (0-1), Maurice Foley, Ryan Keane, John O’Shea (0-2 frees), John Tyther (0-1), Michael F Russell (0-4, 2 frees), Shane McSweeney (0-1), Pa Joy (0-3). Subs used: Colm O’Shea, David Costello (0-1), Shane Daly, Aidan Cox, Ronan Sayers, Pa Sheehan, Shane O’Connor.
Ardfert: Nicholas O’Sullivan, Michael Moloney, Rory Horgan, Darren Dineen (0-1), Trevor Wallace (0-2), Daniel Collins (1-0), Fionan Horgan, Iarla Courtney, Kevin Shanahan, Darren Wallace(0-1), Damien Wallace(0-2), David Griffin(0-1), Shane Griffin(0-1), Eoghan Courtney(0-3), John Egan (1-4). Subs used: John Dowling (0-1), Jerry Wallace, Anthony Fealey, Niall Clifford.