Tullamore captain Michael Brazil speaking after receiving the cup.
DOING the simple thing with great efficiency and exerting a quiet control on proceedings apart from a fifteen minute spell in the first half, Tullamore showed very good health as they comfortably beat Ferbane in the Division 1 Football League final at Clara on Saturday evening.
Brosna Press Division 1 Football League final
It was an impressive, convincing win by Tullamore. They didn't set the world on fire and were quite shot shy at times in the second half but they were the better side by a considerable distance and looked like winning from a long way out.
Tullamore are without their best young talent at the moment and most likely for the season. John Furlong, Cormac Egan and Oisin Keenan-Martin are all recovering from serious injuries and Tullamore are more or less resigned to being without them for the championship – Keenan-Martin is definitely out, Furlong has been told to take six months off and while Egan is now in the rehab phase from a hamstring operation, his chances of making it back for the latter stages of the championship are very much in the long shot variety. Tullamore will be taking a holistic view with Egan and Furlong, with the focus on the players' long term interests rather than any short term gain.
With those trio on board, Tullamore would be red hot favourites to retain the Dowling Cup but even without them, they are still very formidable opposition. The evidence from this game suggests very clearly that it will take a very good side to knock them off their perch. Tullamore's record of retaining championships is absolutely dire – you have to go back to 1926 for the last time they managed it but there was something compelling about the way they won this title.
They came up against one of their main contenders for the Dowling Cup, restricted them to just eight points and never really gave them a sniff of a win. Ferbane were disappointing on the day. They never really got going apart from the second quarter when Joe Maher lifted them up by the neck and began to spray quality ball all over the place before the veteran Paul McConway went onto him and took him out of the game for long periods.
Their attack were particularly poor on the day. Cian Johnson went off injured after nineteen minutes and that was a pity for Ferbane and spectators. One of the most gifted attacking talents in Offaly, Johnson had been out of action for over a year with a groin injury and fears that he would be lost to football. He has returned this year and reports from Ferbane's earlier league and challenge games suggested that he was going very well but unfortunately, we didn't get to see him for the hour here as he was gone shortly after Ferbane found their feet – he did open their score with a brilliant won mark and beautifully floated shot in the 12th minute but he sustained a heavy knock to a leg a few minutes later and was called ashore. Johnson has bulked up and will be a great asset to Offaly if he is back to his earlier free scoring form.
In a tough but very entertaining game, Tullamore started off brilliantly and it was really the Plunkett show in the first ten minutes. Luke and Harry were given acres of space by a too loose Ferbane defence and they scored all five points (three from Luke with one mark and two from Harry, one free) as Tullamore scored five without reply – the Plunkett's got Tullamore's first six points, three apiece.
That gave them a serious foundation and while Ferbane settled well then and got three on the trot, they never really recovered from that start. Tullamore led by 0-8 to 0-4 after 28 minutes before two superb points from Darragh Flynn closed the gap to 0-8 to 0-6 at half time.
Neither side was as good in the second half and Ferbane will be particularly disappointed in the way they played. They only managed two points and their attacking play was quite impoverished – 2021 U-20 star Cathal Flynn was replaced after 49 minutes and Ferbane never escaped the shackles put on by a tenacious Tullamore defence.
The Ferbane defence were better. They tightened up on Tullamore with Conor Butler closing down Luke Plunkett after going back and other players doing their primary defensive duty better. They also worked hard at stopping impressive Tullamore centre half forward Diarmuid Egan from breaking tackles and leading the attack. Yet they never looked like winning the game and it was wastefulness by Tullamore that kept them in the hunt until late on.
Tullamore won't be jumping through hoops at the way they played either. They were a bit too cautious in attack, feeding the ball back too often when there were openings to have a pop. That nervousness may have crept in after they hit four wides in eight minutes of almost undisputed dominance at the start of the second half.
Their only reward was a good point by Diarmuid Egan but once Harry Plunkett put them four clear in the 13th minute, it was clear that Tullamore would win unless they conceded a goal. And apart from a couple of hopeful punts in, that were dealt with capably by Corey White, Ferbane didn't threaten to get in for one.
Paddy Clancy did make it a three point game 0-10 to 0-7 with 47 minutes gone but Tullamore got the next two, a fisted one from the hard working and very honest Nigel Bracken and a neat kick from Dan Fox, who also did the simple thing well. Ferbane's last point came from a Darragh Flynn free but they couldn't get closer than four. Instead Shane Nally was wide with two “45s”, one on each post and Harry Plunkett's 59th minute free sealed the deal for Tullamore.
Declan Hogan was very solid at full back and Johnny Moloney led their charge in the second half but also balooned a couple of balls wide before settling back to close things down in the Tullamore defence. Ben Heffernan also caught the eye in the Tullamore defence, defending solidly and moving the ball very well. Ciaran Egan started brightly for Tullamore at midfield but Michael Brazil was their main man. He may have slowed things down a bit at times but he got on a serious amount of ball and when he had it in hand, Ferbane didn't and his display was a big factor in Tullamore's win. In the attack, Luke and Harry Plunkett were brilliant in the first quarter while Luke Egan had a super game for them – he won a lot of ball and distributed it very well.
Ferbane will improve in the championships and despite the questions raised by this defeat, they are serious contenders. They are fit and they are capable of playing much better. Conor Butler, Stephen Wren, Darragh Flynn, Jack Egan, Joe Maher and Paddy Clancy had good spells for them. Midfield was a problem for Ferbane – Kieran McManus was taken off after 19 minutes after picking up a yellow card and a tick and then his replacement Leon Fox got a yellow almost immediately which meant that Ferbane were threading on ice almost the whole day here.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Luke Egan (Tullamore): Luke Plunkett in the first quarter and Johnny Moloney in the third were pivotal to Tullamore's win but Luke Egan was very consistent over the hour. He was one of the Tullamore players who could have shot a bit more when the opening was there but at the same time, he scarcely wasted a ball while he broke the Plunkett's scoring monopoly with Tullamore's seventh point in the 24th minute.
Tullamore: Harry Plunkett 0-6 (5f), Luke Plunkett 0-3 (1 mark), Dan Fox, Diarmuid Egan, Nigel Bracken and Luke Egan 0-1 each.
Ferbane: Darragh Flynn 0-3 (1f), Paddy Clancy 0-2, Kevin Nugent, Cian Johnson (mark) and David Nally 0-1 each.
TULLAMORE: Corey White; Ciaran Burns, Declan Hogan, Paul McConway; Ben Heffernan, Johnny Moloney, Daire McDaid; Michael Brazil, Ciaran Egan; Dan Fox, Diarmuid Egan, Nigel Bracken; Luke Egan, Luke Plunkett, Harry Plunkett. Subs – Luke Bourke for Ciaran Egan (48m), Shane Enright for Heffernan (54m), Mike Fox for Luke Plunkett (59m), Dylan Hensey for McConway (60m), Padraig Brazil for Harry Plunkett (63m).
FERBANE: Adam Nugent; Michael Wren, Kevin Nugent, Shane Nally; Stephen Wren, Conor Butler, Adam Reams; Kieran McManus, Jack Egan; Darragh Flynn, Paddy Clancy, Cathal Flynn; Cian Johnson, Joe Maher, David Nally. Subs –Ronan McGuire for Johnson, inj. (19m), Leon Fox for McManus (19m), Bernard Corcoran for Reams (49m), Jack Clancy for Cathal Flynn (49m), Aaron McDonagh for Nugent (57m).
Referee – Eamon O'Connor (Ballycommon).
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Diarmuid Egan's point in the 38th minute was an important one. It gave Tullamore a 0-9 to 0-6 lead but also steadied their nerves after they had kicked four bad wides and were looking like throwing it away.
Eamon O'Connor had a good steady game. The Ferbane sideline complained at a few decisions given against him and a couple of these were harsh but they balanced out over the hour. He was up with the play and consulted well with his officials.
Tullamore's win and their championship prospects. They haven't retained the title since 1926 when they completed three in a row and that is a huge blemish on their record.
Clara's ground was in great condition and the local club hosted it very well, with loads of stewards and everything organised perfectly. They managed the traffic very efficiently. The lack of a covered stand should not be an issue in July but it was and there are not many clubs left without that facility.
Both sides now fine tune their preparations for the championship in two weeks time.
Wides: Tullamore – 8 (1 in first half); Ferbane – 10 (3 in first half).
Yellow cards: Tullamore – 2 (Daire McDaid and Ciaran Egan); Ferbane – 2 (Kieran McManus and Leon Fox).
Black cards: 0.
Red cards: 0.
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