Ardfinnan were within seconds of lifting the Clean Ireland Recycling under 21 football B county title at Golden on Saturday, but a late point in extra time won a reprieve for Upperchurch-Drombane after an exciting encounter.
The South champions will point to some slack shooting, particularly in the early stages of the second half, to explain their failure to lift the trophy at the first time of asking. They had fifteen wides in all, ten during the first hour, compared to their rivals’ nine, so this is an aspect of their game requiring improvement for the replay.
In ideal conditions on Golden’s splendid grounds, there was an honesty, purpose, and no small level of skill on both sides. Ardfinnan were anxious for an underage boost as they seek to recapture former glory at senior level, while Upperchurch, beaten semi-finalists last year, were seeking to go one better this time. Neither went away disappointed, and it will be all to play for again whenever the sides renew acquaintance.
Ardfinnan looked the smarter in a lively opening quarter. They moved the ball intelligently in building their attacks, but in front of goal they were hesitant, and it was Upperchurch, slower to settle, who made the early running scorewise, with points from Paul Shanahan (2) and Nathan Delaney to Michael Barlow’s effort for Ardfinnan for a three to one lead at the end of the first quarter.
Significantly, Upperchurch had the use of the breeze into the road goal, but they added only two further points in the half, by Paul Shanahan and Niall Grant while Ardfinnan had points from Colin Doyle and Michael Barlow. A two points lead at the break, 0-5 to 0-3, scarcely seemed adequate for Upperchurch, but against that Ardfinnan had kicked only one point from play in the opening period.
Ardfinnan hit the ground running in the second half with three points in ten minutes through Barlow (2) and Gerry Cronin to forge ahead. Upperchurch had a great goal chance in the 34th minute but Paul Shanahan’s piledriver was well saved by Cathal Boyle in the Ardfinnan goal.
In the 41st minute, Shanahan, the best player on the field, struck gold when set up by Gavin Ryan, to get the Mid champions in front by two points again.
But Ardfinnan were motoring strongly, and after Gavin Whelan(Ardfinnan) and Dylan Shanahan(Upperchurch) exchanged points, the south lads drew level with points from Barlow and Whelan (0-9 to 1-6) with nine minutes to play.
Niall Grant nudged Upperchurch ahead again but they suffered a setback in the 55th minute when Loughlin Ryan got his marching orders after a second yellow card . Michael Barlow levelled for Ardfinnan who looked poised to win but they then lost Darragh Boyle to a second yellow card as a hectic conclusion came, with the sides level, 1-7 to 0-10.
So to extra time, with both sides restored to fifteen, and though Ardfinnan had the breeze, Upperchurch made the better start, two Niall Grant points shooting them ahead after four minutes. On the stroke of the interval, Ardfinnan got a vital break when Aaron Lonergan’s shot for a point came off the upright and Michael Barlow reacted quickest to blast to the net for a 1-10 to 1-9 lead.
That one point advantage looked like being enough for Ardfinnan, for while there were incidents a plenty in the second ten minute period there were no scores until, with time running out, Jack Butler, who had a storming game for Upperchurch, surged through for the levelling time.
Ardfinnan had key performances from Sean Nagle, Colm O’Shaughnessy, Gerry Cronin, Gavin Whelan, Colin O’Gorman and Michael Barlow while for Upperchurch, Paul Shanhan starred, with Jack Butler, Niall Grant, Gavin Ryan, John Ryan and Toby Clancy also to the fore.
Ardfinnan – C Boyle; D Boyle, S Nagle, M Tobin; S Keating, C O’Shaughnessy, R Condon; G Cronin 0-1, S Lambert; G Whelan 0-2, A Lonergan, C O’Donnell; M Barlow 1-6, M Hogan, C Doyle 0-1.
Subs- D Cunningham for Doyle; James Shine (extra time to restore fifteen), A Condon for Keating; D Slattery for A Condon(black card).
Upperchurch-Drombane - P J Bourke; D Carew, T Clancy, R Gleeson; L Ryan, J Ryan(J), T J Butler; G Grant, G Ryan; D Shanahan 0-1, J Butler 0-1, R Murphy; N Delaney 0-1, P Shanahan 1-3, N Grant 0-4.
Subs- B Sheridan for Delaney; D Brennan for Murphy; C Ryan(extra time to restore fifteen).
Referee - David Grogan (Aherlow)