A three point win in the opening round of the Connacht Gold Club Championship without playing to their full potential was enough to satisfy the Annaduff faithful when they played Kiltubrid in Ballinamore on Saturday last.
A late Dara McKiernan penalty gave Kiltubrid a glimmer of hope but the fact that the goal was their first score of the second, with just two minutes left, gives an indication of Annaduff’s superiority in the second half.
Kiltubrid began the game in the ascendancy and after Noel Gill’s early 45 drifted wide, midfielder Patrick Mollick deservedly opened the scoring for Kiltubrid.
Kiltubrid’s short passing game was proving effective but it was almost their own downfall as they were also guilty of trying to overplay the ball out of defence but Ray Cox was unable to punish the Kiltubrid sloppiness as his third minute fort went harmlessly wide.
Annaduff were deservedly back on level terms three minutes later but they were while they were enjoying a period of dominance they were unable to transfer that to the scoreboard.
Four successive Annaduff wides meant there was nothing to separate the sides but Annaduff did finally take the lead for the first time in the 13th minute. A long ball out of defence evaded the Kiltubrid defence and Ray Cox was quickest to react to apply the finishing touch.
As the game progressed the intensity increased and Kiltubrid duly hit back with a Christopher McKeon free to leave the sides deadlocked after 15 minutes.
In glimpses Ray Cox showed some of the form that caused such difficulties for the Laois defence a week earlier and Cox ran at the Kiltubrid defence before being fouled by Emmett Lee, the free was converted by Sean McNabola.
An excellent ball from Michael Earley found Dara McKiernan who seemed to be on course for a point. However at the last moment his shot dipped and withkeeper Jim McCormack beaten, the ball came back off the crossbar before being cleared to safety.
That missed chance was soon forgotten by the Kiltubrid faithful as Christopher McKeon converted two frees in as many minutes to regain the lead. Falling behind with just six minutes of the half remaining seemed to spur Annaduff into life but all they had to show for their efforts was a further four wides as Kiltubrid took a 0-4 to 0-3 advantage into the half time break.
The half-time break seemed to galvanise and refocus Annaduff who started the second half well and were back on level terms when Joe Cox converted a free. However, there was certainly no sign of Kiltubrid being overawed and after Christopher McKeon’s effort was deflected wide Noel Gill had an opportunity to re-establish his side’s slender lead but the former Leitrim netminder was off target with the subsequent 45.
The nip and tuck nature of the game continued until the 12th minute of the second half when Ray Cox scored an excellent point from a tight angle, despite the fact that there were three Kiltubrid defenders in close proximity to him and having retaken the lead there was a look of determination on the Annaduff players that they would find another gear to ensure they began the championship with a winning start.
Two Sean McNabola points in quick succession, one from a free, were followed by a Ray Cox point and suddenly Annaduff looked to be in complete control.
With seven minutes remaining a fine passage of play involving Jimmy Cox, Cathal Cox, Brendan Guckian and Conor Reynolds resulted in Ray Cox pointing to put five between the sides and when the same player registered his fifth point,the game seemed to be up from a Kiltubrid point of view.
To their credit Kiltubrid continued to persevere and when an Annaduff player was spotted handling the ball on the ground referee Seamus Mulhern did not hesitate in awarding a penalty. The resulting penalty was emphatically dispatched by Dara McKiernan and the question was whether or not Kiltubrid would be able to force their back into contention.
The next score was destined to be a crucial one and unfortunately for Kiltubrid it was Joe Cox who struck to extend Annaduff’s lead to four points.
Although the evening’s scoring was completed with a fine score from Kiltubrid’s David McCormack, this was a deserved if not emphatic win for Annaduff who should now really fancy their chances of advancing from Group 2 but for Kiltubrid the picture is very different as they know they will need improved performances against St Mary’s and Ballinamore.
Jim McCormack, Gary Bohan, Conor McLoughlin, Nigel Cox, James Cox, David Duignan, Matty Cox, Brendan Guckian, Ronan McCormack, Conor Reynolds, Sean McNabola (0-4), Dillon Keane, Ray Cox (0-5), Joe Cox (0-2), Alan Cox. Subs: Cathal Cox for A. Cox (25 mins)
Noel Gill, David McCormack (0-1), Emmett Lee, Aidan Bohan, Fergal Meehan, John McGovern, Niall Foley, Karl Scollan, Patrick Moolick (0-1), Stephen McKeon, James Gill, Michael Earley, Paddy Whitlow, Dara McKiernan (1-0), Christopher McKeon (0-3). Subs: Conor Judge for Foley (51 mins).
Referee: Seamus Mulhern.
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