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01 Dec 2021

Impressive Tullamore book final berth as understrength Ferbane's chickens come home to roost

Impressive Tullamore book final berth as understrength Ferbane's chickens come home to roost

Aaron Leavy, superb for Tullamore.

IN some ways, it was almost the perfect display by Tullamore as they booked their place in the Offaly Senior Football Championship final with an ultimately comfortable win over Ferbane in an entertaining, engrossing semi-final in O'Connor Park on Saturday afternoon.

Tullamore Court Hotel Senior Football Championship semi-final

Tullamore 4-10
Ferbane 0-14

Tullamore didn't set the world on fire and the final scoreline of 4-10 to 0-14 does not tell the full story of this game. It was not an eight point game and Ferbane were a lot more competitive than that. Yet it was a quite comprehensive win for Tullamore, a quietly impressive performance by them. It was not a performance that will raise expectations to the sky in the town but it was certainly good enough and they are in very good fettle for a final against Rhode or Durrow.

While Tullamore rattled a bit in the second half as they lost their way and mistakes, unforced and forced, crept into their game, their path to the final was never in real danger. A 2-6 to 0-6 half time lead gave them the cushion to get home and after those few anxious moments midway during the second half, they were able to pull away for the win.

Ultimately it was a bridge too far for Ferbane. They took to the field without three of their marquee forwards, the injured Oisin Kelly and Cian Johnson and the suspended Joe Maher. U-20 star Cathal Flynn's influence was clearly limited by a heavily bandaged leg and Ferbane really could not win with so many players down. While subs Bernard Corcoran, Sean Flynn and especially the very impressive Darragh Flynn made a difference when introduced in the second half, the Ferbane team that finished this game were never likely to be good enough to reach a county final.

Tullamore also had their injury problems. It looks like another U-20 hero Cormac Egan is out for the season with a bad hamstring injury while John Furlong only came on as a sub here. Despite that, Tullamore were clearly the better team and they were very good value for their win. It was just a very solid display by Tullamore. They were physical, strong in the tackle but they moved well and retained possession with great efficiency.

It wasn't a perfect performance and they will be concerned at the manner in which they almost allowed Ferbane back into it in the second half. With eleven minutes left, Ferbane had the deficit back to just four points, 3-8 to 0-13 and Tullamore were struggling. In fact, they looked out on their feet at this stage and had Ferbane got a goal, they might have generated momentum that couldn't be stopped.

Instead Tullamore weathered the storm. Shane Dooley made a terrific impact off the bench and he steadied their nerves with a fine 51st minute point after a great, patient build up. A minute later, goalkeeper Corey White rescued them with a fantastic full length save from Paddy Clancy. White had been part of Tullamore's problem for a few minutes earlier as a couple of his kickouts didn't hit the target and helped Ferbane lay on the pressure but he earned his keep with that save from Clancy, as it had goal all over it.

Tullamore closed out the deal comfortably from here as Ferbane midfielder Leon Fox got a black card, followed moments later by a second yellow for Tullamore's Michael Brazil. Johnny Moloney (free) and Sean Flynn exchanged points before a brilliant goal from Shane Dooley four minutes into injury time put the icing on the cake.

The opening exchanges were very even, closely fought. Ferbane led by 0-2 to 0-1 after ten minutes but Tullamore struck for gold in the 12th minute. Harry Plunkett did brilliantly to open space and Diarmuid Egan resisted the temptation to go for goal himself, instead fisting across for Luke Egan to punch home.

Two Moloney frees put Tullamore 1-4 to 0-2 clear but Ferbane got four of the next six points to have the deficit back to a goal by the 24th minute. Diarmuid Egan was once again provider as Tullamore got their all important second goal in the 28th minute, passing to the hard working Luke Plunkett who applied an excellent finish from close range.

Tullamore were very happy with that 2-6 to 0-6 interval lead and they really took control with a third goal in the 37th minute. Moments earlier, Luke Egan had pointed with the goal at his mercy but when Nigel Bracken's point shot rebounded off the post, he was on hand to punch home his second goal. With a 3-8 to 0-8 lead, it was Tullamore's to lose but they then conceded five on the trot with Darragh Flynn and Paddy Clancy (1 free) getting two each with one from Bernard Corcoran as Ferbane crept back into it, without doing anything special other than showing a huge desire to survive.

Tullamore, however, got their act together again and there was not one person in Ferbane to dispute the merit of their win. On the day, Tullamore had superb displays from midfielder Aaron Leavy and forwards Diarmuid Egan and Luke Egan while Declan Hogan, Ciaran Burns, Kevin O'Brien, Johnny Moloney, Harry Plunkett and Shane Dooley had excellent spells for them with Nigel Bracken also working very hard in what was a really competent overall display.

For Ferbane, it was a disappointing afternoon. Stephen Wren, Conor Butler, Shane Nally, Ronan McGuire, Paddy Clancy and Darragh Flynn were among their better perfomers but as a unit, it never quite happened for them.

MATCH ANALYSIS

THE SCORERS

Tullamore: Luke Egan 2-2, Johnny Moloney 0-4 (4f), Shane Dooley 1-1, Luke Plunkett 1-0, Aaron Leavy, Harry Plunkett and Nigel Bracken 0-1 each.

Ferbane: Kyle Higgins (3f) and Paddy Clancy (1f) 0-3 each, Darragh Flynn and Ronan McGuire 0-2 each, Shane Nally, Leon Fox, Sean Flynn and Bernard Corcoran 0-1 each.

THE TEAMS

TULLAMORE: Corey White; Ciaran Burns, Declan Hogan, Paul McConway; Kevin O'Brien, Johnny Moloney, Oisin Keenan-Martin; Michael Brazil, Aaron Leavy; Harry Plunkett, Diarmud Egan, Ciaran Egan; Luke Egan, Luke Plunkett, Nigel Bracken. Subs – John Furlong for Ciaran Egan (Half time), Shane Dooley for Keenan-Martin (41m), Pa Cosgrove for Luke Plunkett (49m).

FERBANE: Jack Cullinan; Stephen Wren, Conor Butler, Kevin Nugent; Mark Cahill, Jack Egan, Shane Nally; Kieran McManus, Leon Fox; Cathal Flynn, Kyle Higgins, David Nally; Ronan McGuire, Paddy Clancy, Jack Clancy. Subs – Darragh Flynn for Cahill (34m), Sean Flynn for McGuire (42m), Bernard Corcoran for Clancy (42m), David Kelly for Clancy (60m), Harry Balsigner for Nugent (60m).

Referee – Marius Stones (Clara).

MAN OF THE MATCH

Diarmuid Egan (Tullamore): A three way choice between Tullamore's Luke Egan, Diarmuid Egan and Aaron Leavy. Luke Egan was great up front, scoring 2-2 and showing very well for the ball. Aaron Leavy had his nose in front for three quarters of the game as he fielded brilliantly and controlled the midfield sector quite superbly. Diarmuid Egan, however, gets the nod for the way he finished the game and also for the unselfishness, intelligence and awareness he showed earlier. He set up Tullamore's first half goals, carried the ball very well and when the pressure came on them in the second half, he was brilliant. The older brother of the injured Cormac, Diarmuid drifted back to defence, winning absolutely crucial ball in his half back line, using his physicality to carry it out and distributing very well.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Corey White's second half save from Paddy Clancy was a key moment. It was a top class save and a goal at that stage would have made it very tight.

REFEREE WATCH

Marius Stones deserves credit for the way he refereed this game. He was very aware of what was going on around him and off the ball stuff and fouls, punishing these accordingly. He allowed the game to run in difficult underfoot conditions. This meant that some fouls weren't blown but he was very consistent and both sides quickly learnt that they wouldn't be getting soft frees. He was fit, up with the play and the cards he showed looked deserved – for Leon Fox's black card, which had to be shown for a heavy late hit on Kevin O'Brien, he allowed the play to develop before going back and dealing with the incident.

TALKING POINT

Tullamore's Cormac Egan missed this with a hamstring injury that has ended his season while John Furlong was also injured, only coming on in the second half. Ferbane's Cathal Flynn had a heavily bandaged leg and did not run as freely as normal. Cormac Egan and Cathal Flynn have had a particularly heavy volume of games recently between senior and U-20 football and hurling and that load is very questionable, if not wrong.

VENUE WATCH

A decent crowd created a good atmosphere here.

WHAT'S NEXT

Tullamore play Rhode or Durrow in the final.

STATISTICS

Wides: Tullamore – 5 (2 in first half); Ferbane – 7 (4 in first half).

Yellow cards: Tullamore – 2 (Michael Brazil 2); Ferbane – 1 (Stephen Wren).

Black cards: Tullamore – 0; Ferbane – 1 (Leon Fox).

Red cards: Tullamore – 1 (Michael Brazil, 2 yellows); Ferbane – 0.

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