Shocks have been few and far between in this year’s Connacht Gold Senior Championship but Aughawillan came within seconds of a massive upset when they were held to a draw by an Aughawillan team who can consider themselves unlucky not to have taken the place in the semi-finals.
With Annaduff failing to find any rhythm in attack, Aughawillan’s ferocious work-rate and a superlative two man attack of Gary Plunkett & Morgan Quinn that created more than enough chances to win the contest should have been enough to see them into the semi-finals.
But Annaduff’s equally legendary determination and a superb Sean McNabola kept them in a contest that they really should have lost such were the quality of the chances Aughawillan spurned over the hour.
Yet Annaduff probably had the greater chance to kill off the game when Joe Cox was put clear with nine minutes to go only for Aughawillan keeper Colin Maguire to advance smartly off his line and halt his progress dead in its tracks, saving the day for Aughawillan.
The Willies had a chance themselves earlier in the game to find the net when Noel Plunkett drilled a great shot into the side netting under fierce pressure. Yet it was more the succession of missed chances over the hour that cost the underdogs most.
The match was everything we expected from these two teams - both were fiercely committed, time and space was at a premium and neither threw in the towel when they looked under the cosh and it should make for an exciting and intriguing replay.
Morgan Quinn and Gary Plunkett take the plaudits for their attacking display but this was a typically whole-hearted display from Aughawillan – Kevin McTague, Gary Deane and Sean Quinn were superb in defence, Christy Prior led the way at midfield and Noel Plunkett and Gerry Conlon worked their socks off in attack.
Annaduff, to be fair, deserve their share of credit for rescuing the draw despite a vastly underwhelming display – Sean McNabola was superb in attack while Conor Reynolds showed great potential. Brendan Guckian put in a great shift in the middle of the field while David Duignan was the rock on which their defence stood.
Who holds the advantage for the replay is hard to tell – Aughawillan know they have the ability to do it but Annaduff will feel they won’t play as bad again. All you can say for certain is that neither team will leave anything in the locker room next Saturday.
Aughawillan have a fantastic record in replays and they will draw great confidence from their display but will Annaduff perform so poorly in attack as they did last Sunday evening, County star Ray Cox in particular being uncharacteristically quiet.
Early tit for tat exchanges saw Dillon Keane and Ray Cox on the mark for Annaduff with Gary Plunkett replying in the first quarter. Ray Cox saw a fisted effort just kept out while Jim McCormack made a good save to deny a snap shot from Noel Plunkett on 10 minutes.
Aughawillan started to pull away with points from Morgan Quinn and Gary Plunkett before Joe Cox, who fisted a high ball in the square worked hard to regain possession and score. Two more Gary Plunkett points put Aughawillan into a commanding three point lead but a Sean McNabola free left it at 0-6 to 0-4 in favour of Aughawillan at the break.
With Aughawillan missing quite a few chances, Annaduff levelled within five minutes thanks to two McNabola points but a brilliant Morgan Quinn point from long range put the Willies back in front.
But an equally brilliant McNabola levelled again for Annaduff before a ten minute spell without a score ended when David Duignan collected a Conor Reynolds pass to score after fierce pressure from both teams.
Joe Cox had a great chance of a goal when he was put clean through but keeper Colin Maguire made a vital challenge to hold him up and the chance was lost. Back came Aughawillan with Morgan Quinn levelling from a free and then edging his side in front with a shot that hit the woodwork.
Morgan Quinn missed a great chance from a free to put his side two clear and Annaduff came back with Sean McNabola doing well to win possession and kick a brilliant equalising point as the game ticked into the first of three minutes of injury time.
Both sides tried to engineer an opening but with both defences performing heroics, neither attacking unit could force the chance to win the game, sending the contest to a replay.
Jim McCormack, Gary Bohan, Gary McLoughlin, Nigel Cox, Jimmy Cox, David Duignan (0-1), Matty Cox, Ronan McCormack, Brendan Guckian, Conor Reynolds, Sean McNabola (0-5), Dillon Keane (0-1), Ray Cox (0-1), Cathal Cox, Joe Cox (0-1). Subs: Padraig Carroll for Cathal Cox (34 mins), Michael Rowley for McCormack (42 mins), Colm Cox for Joe Cox (52 mins), Chris Farrell for Jimmy Cox (54 mins).
Colin Maguire, Declan McGovern, Kevin McTague, Gary Deane, Niall Beirne, Sean Quinn, Stephen Gilheaney, Micheal Quinn, Christy Prior, Ciaran Gilheaney, Gary Plunkett (0-5), Paul Prior, Morgan Quinn (0-4), Noel Plunkett, Gerry Conlon. Subs: Patrick Flynn for Conlon (50 mins).
Referee: Eamon O’Grady.