JAFC Quarter-Final: Clonard by two

September 10, 2017

Clonard's Jason Dowdall

Clonard 3-8 St. Peter's Dunboyne 2-9

What a difference a year makes. Exactly one year ago Clonard contested the Junior relegation play-off after finishing bottom of their group without a single win. Roll forward one year and they now find themselves in a Junior championship semi-final after this quarter final win over a young, fit and talented Dunboyne outfit.

A very well-presented Summerhill grounds was the venue for this quarter final as favourites St. Peters Dunboyne travelled with confidence after topping group C with a 100 percent record. Clonard were not lacking in the confidence department either, and were full of belief after their last gasp win over a strong Clann na nGael side 11 days earlier.

On the stroke of 6 o'clock Trim referee Paddy Melia got this eagerly awaited tie under way, as Clonard's restored midfield pairing of Adam Flanagan and Jason Dowdall contested the throw-in. With just a minute on the clock Clonard drew first blood with a point from Jason Moore as the 'rugby' man bore down on goal after some fine passes through the hands from his team mates. Four minutes later Moore added his second in almost identical circumstances and position as Clonard signalled their intent in this game.

Gary Raleigh then added a third point following a below-par kick-out from the Dunboyne goalkeeper, as the hard working Clonard forwards and midfielders closed-down all his options from the kicking tee. Their dominance of the opening exchanges was rewarded further on seven minutes when another beautiful interchange of passes found Adam Flanagan bearing down on goal, and the county man coolly slotted the ball under the advancing 'keeper. A whirlwind start, 1-3 to 0-0.

More chances followed as Eoin Treacy hit wide and Mikie Mullen struck his second free wide from the ground. Dunboyne then seemed to realise they were in a game as their talented number thirteen registered their first score of the match on 15 minutes. Clonard found themselves being tested, as Paul Sheridan collected some fine balls under pressure on his goal-line and his man in front, Paddy 'The Red' Daly, battled hard with his towering opponent. Indeed, Clonard were only to score once again in the half, from a dead-ball on 22 minutes, primarily due to their wayward shooting in to a strong breeze, resulting in nine first-half wides, as Dunboyne battled their way back in to the contest.

The Dublin border side got their first major of the game on the stroke of half-time when their experienced and physical full forward went to ground in the square and Paddy Melia opened his arms to award the penalty. Paul Sheridan was sent the wrong way as the ball bulged the net and the half-time whistle sounded, Clonard led by the minimum, despite having the vast majority of possession, Clonard 1-4 St. Peters Dunboyne 1-3.

Clonard were first out on to the pitch for the second half following another rousing half-time talk from bainisteoir Damien Griffin. This seemed to show in the performance as within four minutes of the restart young Mikie Mullen found the back of the Dunboyne net, once again showing experience well beyond his eighteen years. A Gary Raleigh free pushed Clonard's lead out to five points and the South Meath side looked like they had ripped the favourites tag from their opponents.

But just like the first half Dunboyne found another few gears and took over possession in the middle of the field as every breaking ball seemed to find a black and amber player. Their number 7 at half back was giving young Dylan Flanagan a tough time, as the battle between the two young and talented players epitomised the intensity of the game.

In the ten-minute spell during the 35th and 45th minute Dunboyne registered 1-4 without reply which turned a five-point deficit in to a two-point lead. Gary Raleigh reduced it to the minimum with a free but Dunboyne were not deterred and added two more points of their own to put daylight between the teams, as they lead by three points with eight minutes to play.

Clonard supporters were not worried, because they've seen this year what this team can do when under pressure, and sure enough Clonard's belief and desire shone through again when they used a frequent Dunboyne tactic on the night and launched a high ball in to Flanagan in the large parallelogram. Well before the ball had reached Adam, Paddy Melia blew his whistle and outstretched both arms for the second time in the match and Clonard were awarded a penalty, following the Dunboyne man's attempt to strip Flanagan of his number eight jersey. Up stepped Gary Raleigh for the pressure kick with only a minute remaining of normal time, and he duly slotted the ball to the tall goalkeepers left to send him the opposite way, cue wild delight among the Clonard bench and side-line support.

But Dunboyne again showed great character to win further possession and created two more chances in injury time, both falling wide of the uprights, much to relief of their opposite numbers. There was time for one more moment of joy in the game for Clonard as Raleigh rushed on to a long ball from his corner forward position, turned and sent a right footed curling effort inside the far post and over the bar. That was to be the final act of another dramatic match and Clonard were victorious on a final score line of Clonard 3-8 St. Peters Dunboyne 2-9.

Once again, the Clonard win came in heart-stopping and nail-biting fashion. This team shows no regard for those with weak hearts or nervous disposition, something that the players can certainly not be accused of. Today, a GAA purist might argue that this victory was more important to Clonard, a small club who dream of winning a Junior Championship for the first time in their long history, versus a young and talented town team whose players strive to play at the Senior level with their first team counterparts. Judging on this game quite a few of them shouldn't have to wait too long. For Clonard, the dream is still alive, what a difference a year makes….

Clonard: 1.Paul Sheridan 2.Brian O'Reilly 3.Paddy Daly 4.Stephen Connolly 5. Paul Boland 6.Ger Foley 7.Eoin Connolly 8.Adam Flanagan (1-0) 9.Jason Dowdall 10.Dylan Flanagan 11.Eoin Treacy 12.Jason Moore (0-2) 13.Gary Raleigh (1-5 1-0p 0-3f) 14. Ken Darby 15.Mikie Mullen (1-1) Subs: Johnny Fitzsimons for K.Darby

Dunboyne: C Flynn, B Carolan, S Weston, P Lavin, C Clarke, E Ryan, C O Dwyer, J Donnelly, S mc Garrell, H Mc Cullough, B Comer 0-2, D O Keeffe, G Prior 1-5, G Gallagher, D Clarke 0-1. Subs L Conway for D O Keeffe G Robinson 1-1 for D Clarke and P Cagney for H Mc Cullough

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