Arravale Rovers are through to the county senior football championship quarter-finals following their win over Loughmore/Castleiney at New Inn on Friday last.
This top of the table clash between the group’s two unbeaten sides had a “go directly to the last eight” prize on offer, and this time the West Tipp side prevailed.
For Arravale Rovers, who were eliminated from the competition by the same opposition in each of the last two years, this victory will serve as a morale boosting uplift. And when their campaign resumes later in the summer the Andrew Lacey managed side will be hoping to bridge a 30-year gap since their last county senior championship win in 1985.
Arravale Rovers opened the scoring inside a minute when Brian Lowry pointed after an excellent long range pass from Donough Leahy. However, in the seventh minute, in their first real attack, Loughmore were awarded a penalty after Brian McGrath was hauled down in the square. Liam McGrath found the net with the resultant penalty kick.
Thereafter the first half followed a point-for-point pattern in an entertaining enough encounter even if it looked both sides were in need of a competitive outing. Perhaps the most noticeable difference was that the county champions were making far better use of their limited possession while Arravale were killing themselves with wides, 11 in total in the first half.
Added to that Arravale Rovers missed a great goal chance in the 21st minute when an excellent passing movement put Conor McManus through but he blazed low and wide.
Tit-for-tat points for Arravale by Donough Leahy, Paddy Dalton and Brian Lowry were matched by three for Loughmore from Liam McGrath, and two from James Egan (one a free and the other from play which looked “iffy” enough) to leave it 1-3 to 0-4 for Loughmore after 27 minutes.
Just before half-time Arravale Rovers put together a magnificent training ground move involving at least half a dozen players culminating in Donough Leahy blasting to the net for a brief lead. Two minutes into added time Cian Hennessy cut into from the left to kick a sweet point for the champions to send the sides in level at 1-4 apiece.
In a pattern similar to the first half Arravale Rovers re-opened with a point from a James Hogan free only to be rocked by another Loughmore goal. A nice diagonal ball by Cian Hennessy found Liam McGrath who did all the hard work to set up Brian McGrath to touch home. Somehow, Loughmore were back in front again.
Stung by this setback Arravale Rovers re-doubled their efforts and four unanswered points in an eight minute spell saw them take control, with a pair of points each from James Hogan (one a free) and Brian Lowry. Brian Lowry’s 40th minute point though stood out because it should have been a green flag. Ger Mulhaire set him up with a neat pass and Lowry somehow blazed it over off the crossbar from six yards out with the goal gaping.
Some excellent points followed from both sides by Brian McGrath (Loughmore) and both James Hogan and Brian Lowry (Arravale Rovers) to leave it at 1-11 to 2-5 for the West side with 10 minutes remaining.
But in true Loughmore fashion they refused to die and a period of sustained pressure realised two James Egan points to leave just the minimum in it before Donough Leahy had the last score of the game when finishing a Stevie Quinn/Conor McManus move with a fisted point.
With time almost up Aidan McGrath was given a straight red when he “stopped” the Arravale keeper Eric Higgins as he attempted to solo out.
For Arravale Rovers this win gives them both a last eight spot and also some self-belief with an overdue win over the county champions. They had some notable performances on the night with Ciaran Lowry in defence, Niall Donovan in midfield, the Leahys, James Hogan and Brian Lowry with their scoring and Paddy Dalton.
Loughmore who began with only eight of last year’s county final starting 15 cannot be too disheartened by this loss. Short the likes of Noel McGrath, John Meagher, Liam Treacy and also with John McGrath clearly not at full throttle, they were right in it up to the very end. In defence Joseph Hennessy and John Ryan did well, Joe Nyland held his own around midfield and while the forwards hadn’t the best of nights young Brian McGrath, James Egan and Cian Hennessy never stopped.
Arravale Rovers: Eric Higgins, Tommy Lowry, John Hayes, Pearse Richardson, Ciaran Lowry, Shane Leahy (0-1), Peter Mulhair, Niall Donovan, Brian Jones, Donough Leahy (1-1), Conor McManus, Ger Mulhaire; Paddy Dalton (0-1), Brian Lowry (0-5), James Hogan (0-4, 0-2F).
Subs: Darren Lowry for Richardson (black card, 24 minutes); Stevie Quinn for Richardson (50 mins).
Loughmore/Castleiney: Dominic Brennan, Lorcan Egan, Willie Eviston, Joseph Hennessy, Tom King, David Kennedy, John Ryan, Eamonn Connolly, Joe Nyland, Aidan McGrath, James Egan (0-4, 0-3F), Brian McGrath (1-1), Liam McGrath (1-1, 1-0 penalty), John McGrath, Cian Hennessy (0-1).
Subs: Tommy Maher for Lorcan Egan (injured, 13 minutes); Shane Hennessy for John McGrath (54 mins).
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Ardfinnan).