VGC Services Intermediate Football Championship Rnd 2
Thomas McCurtains 2-16
Eire Og 0-8
By Colin Brennan
At McGovern Park, Ruislip
A barnstorming second-half display from Thomas McCurtains put a lethargic-looking Eire Og side to the sword last Sunday at McGovern Park, to keep the east Londoners in the championship mix.
McCurtians did, however, struggle for the majority of the first half to convert pressure and bright, free-wheeling football into scores, clocking up six sides after just 11 minutes of play in what was a cagey opening 30.
After the physical opening exchanges, the menacing presence of full-forward and captain Conor Murphy began to show – clipping over the game’s first point in the sixth minute.
As McCurtains attempted to capitalise on reams of first half possession in dangerous territory, two goal chances fell to Murphy’s feet. The first, he was unable to realign his balance after a piercing run, drilling it over the crossbar to scrape a point.
A second, later chance forced an exquisite save from the stampeding Eire Og shot-stopper, Dave Hegarty, whose outstretched limbs provided Murphy with little to aim for.
Had one of these chances rippled the Eire Og net, the onslaught might have arrived earlier.
Instead, though, Eire Og – led by the inspired long-range point-taking abilities of John White, off both left and right foot – dragged themselves into the dressing rooms level at the midway mark.
Ten minutes into the second half, Eire Og defender Trevor Draper collapsed into a heap after a crunching challenge.
This three minutes or so of respite seemed to energise McCurtains as their officials barked in calls and smuggled tactical advice onto the pitch via water-carriers.
Despite clawing their way back into the game, Eire Og were second to almost every breaking ball and continued to stagger in second-gear.
Their full-forward line weren’t showing and the possession they earned was either displaced or turned over by packs of McCurtains defenders.
The introduction of substitute Kevin O’Donoghue in the early stages of the second half – powered on by the dynamism of midfielder Niall Coffey – was the main catalyst in McCurtains driving the fixture home.
After finding himself in some space in Eire Og’s final third, with the game approaching its final quarter, O’Donoghue cooly slotted a shot low and hard past goalkeeper Dave Hegarty to drive a two-goal wedge between the sides.
O’Donoghue followed this up a minute later with a point from play after some intricate build-up fist-passing. McCurtains had cracked the dam and the scores began flooding in.
The impressive Patrick Halligan scored their second goal with ten minutes remaining to make it 2-12 to 0-6. Halligan then wrapped the game up with two successive points – a sumptuous 40-yarder the pick of the bunch.
Despite John White’s fine exhibition in scoring, a spirited fight-back was not to come from Eire Og, who looked energy-sapped in midfield and uninventive going forward, especially in the final 30.
Thomas McCurtains: Jake Lavery; Mick Leary, Peter Rafferty, Paudie O’Shea; Stephen Quinn, Brian Hourihane, Colm O’Neill (0-1); Niall Coffey (0-4, 2f), Darragh McNulty; Tom Keane, Johnny McGuigan, Caolan McGee (0-1); Patrick Halligan (1-4, 1f), Conor Murphy (0-4), John Winters. Subs: Kevin O’Donoghue (1-2) for Keane, John Delahunty for O’Shea, Sean Murphy for O’Neill.
Eire Og: Dave Hegarty; Sean McGrath, Peter Sweeney, Pat Tobin; Ronan Campbell, Trevor Draper, Darragh O’Mahoney; Stephen O’Keefe (0-1), Dessie McTiernan; Eoin Conway, John White (0-6, 4f), Stephen O’Neill; James Keneghan, Conor Fitzgerald (0-1), Steven Perry. Subs: Niall Walsh for Perry.
Referee: Kevin Flaherty.