At the end of a pulsating replay it was Aughawillan who advanced to the Connacht Gold Senior Championship semi-finals but Annaduff made them work right to the very end and even deep in injury time it seemed as though Annaduff would clinch the final spot in the last four but a last gasp block denied Ray Cox what would have been the most dramatic of winners.
An action packed game saw some great points, two excellent Aughawillan goals and a tactical battle that saw Aughawillan’s well marshalled defence soak up plenty of pressure before the pacy and accurate forwards struck.
The goals from Gary and Noel Plunkett will not have made for easy watching for the Annaduff faithful as on both occasions there was a significant gap in the heart of the defence but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they were clinically dispatched.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Niall Beirne was excellent at wing back while Sean Quinn and Gary Deane were also crucial to the Aughawillan cause.
From an Annaduff point of view last Saturday’s quarter-final replay was a case of so near and yet so far. With the game about to enter injury time Annaduff trailed by six points but after a lengthy delay following a serious injury sustained by Gary Bohan, the Annaduff players would have been aware that there was still enough time to turn the game around.
After Ronan McCormack was introduced and Brendan Guckian moved into an advanced position as Annaduff bossed the middle of the pitch and looked as though they could score every time they attacked. Ultimately time ran out for Annaduff as the good work put in by the Aughawillan players over the opening 40 minutes of the game meant the lead that was established was too great to overturn.
After the drawn match a week earlier, many may have thought that Aughawillan had missed their chance but they started last Saturday’s game in a determined manner. Although Annaduff opened the scoring through Michael Rowley it was only as a result of an excellent save from Jim McCormack to deny Morgan Quinn that Annaduff’s early lead was maintained and having survived that early let off Annaduff doubled their lead when Joe Cox pointed.
Having seen three chances go wide, as well as McCormack’s excellent save, Aughawillan opened their account in the eight minute when Morgan Quinn pointed and that was followed by a Gary Plunkett point to level matters.
Such was the tight and competitive nature of the game the possibility of extra-time was already being mentioned but Aughawillan seemed to have other ideas as they struck for the game’s opening goal in the 13th minute.
Noel Plunkett cut in from the left wing and drove straight at the heart of the Annaduff defence. His route to goal may have been easier than he would have expected but there was still the matter of finding a way past Jim McCormack and he did that in style with a powerful shot.
A Sean McNabola point reduced the deficit but Aughawillan were proving to be very difficult to break down as they defended in numbers and attacked at great speed.
A Morgan Quinn point re-established Aughawillan’s three point lead and it was to get even better for Mickey Quinn’s men as seven minutes before half-time they struck for their second goal. This time it was Gary Plunkett who was afforded too much space and he found the Annaduff net with a fine finish.
Sean Quinn and Sean McNabola (free) exchanged points but there was no denying who was the happier of the sides as they left the pitch at half-time with Aughawillan leading 2-4 to 0-4.
Annaduff began the second half in fine form and reduced the deficit with two Joe Cox points but Aughawillan were still proving to be very hard to break down and very efficient on the counter-attack. After Gary Plunkett and Joe Cox exchanged pointed frees, Aughawillan registered three unanswered points with the scores coming from Noel Plunkett, Michael Quinn and Morgan Quinn.
While they may have been struggling to break down the dogged Aughawillan defence, Annaduff did reduce the deficit to five points following two Ray Cox points but just as they seemed to be gaining momentum they were dealt a real blow. Corner back Gary Bohan was left badly injured following a collision and after receiving lengthy treatment on the pitch he was stretchered off.
When the game got underway Joe Cox converted a free to leave four between the sides with eight minutes remaining. But once again Aughawillan showed tremendous character to punish Annaduff on the counter-attack as Sean Quinn and Noel Plunkett both pointed in quick succession.
Annaduff showed great spirit to persevere until the end and that commitment was nearly rewarded in injury time as they dominated the closing stages against seemingly tiring opponents. Sean McNabola’s point was followed by two Ray Cox scores and in the fourth minute of injury time Brendan Guckian pointed to leave just two between the sides.
There was time for one final Annaduff attack and when Ronan McCormack’s dangerously flighted free fell for Ray Cox who looked as though he was going to score the goal that would break Aughawillan hearts and take Annaduff into the semi-final. However, Michael Quinn was on hand to make a last ditch block to ensure it was his side who advance to the semi-final where they will face Melvin Gaels.
Colin Maguire, Declan McGovern, Kevin McTeague, Gary Deane, Niall Beirne, Sean Quinn (0-2), Stephen Gilheaney, Michael Quinn (0-1), Christy Prior, Ciaran Gilheaney, Gary Plunkett (1-3), Paul Prior, Morgan Quinn (0-2), Noel Plunkett (1-2), Gerard Conlon. Sub: Patrick Flynn for Morgan Quinn (60 mins).
Jim McCormack, Gary Bohan, Conor McLoughlin, Nigel Cox, Jimmy Cox, Matty Cox, Dillon Keane, David Duignan, Brendan Guckian (0-1), Ray Cox (0-4), Sean McNabola (0-2), Conor Reynolds, Cathal Cox, Joe Cox (0-6), Michael Rowley (0-1). Subs: Colm Cox for Cathal Cox (24 mins), Padraig Carroll for Rowley (HT), Ronan McCormack for Reynolds (45 mins), Chris Farrell for Bohan (46 mins).
Referee: Martin Kelly.