Newtown Blues prepared for their Senior Football Championship final next month by first preserving their League Division 1 status in Darver tonight, comfortably beating Hunterstown Rovers by 4-10 to 1-06.
Darver was abuzz despite constant all day downpours creating a damp atmosphere at the Centre of Excellence. Just prior to the match, former Down and Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath, an All-Ireland winner with the former in 1991 and 94, was ratified as the new senior inter-county manager.
A number of county players were on show this evening but it was Andy McDonnell, Kevin Carr and Ross Nally who were on the winning side tonight. Ryan Burns and Hunterstown, despite his early goal, endured a frustrating and chastening evening. If anything, this match proved perhaps, had Rovers earned promotion to the top tier for 2018, they may struggled in the face of senior opposition game after game.
In Darver, the gulf in class appeared obvious. The game was won by half time. In a slight reshuffle to the norm, Brendan Lennon was shifted to left half-back while Paul Carrie lined out in the full forwards. Captain for the evening Richie Taaffe played at centre half back, while Alan Landy was operating on the wing.
Rovers were without David Finn and the injured Muiris O’Suilleabhain. Burns’ fifth minute goal, leaving Fergal Donoghue grounded before firing in past Jay Lowney, was the highlight of Hunterstown’s night but even then he was merely cancelling out an even earlier opener at the other end. Derek Kierans’ got it after an error from Paul Taaffe.
Ronan Phillips side looked fitter, faster and stronger throughout, something especially evident in the first half. With a short hop to the Gaelic Ground to make on October 15th, it was only natural their foot came off the gas somewhat once this game was beyond a Hunterstown outfit that looked limited against opposition of such quality. Hunterstown could deal with balls played forward but when the Blues worked the ball up the field , Jim Mathews side were chasing shadows.
Within ten minutes, the Blues had built up a six point lead and although Tony McKenna scored a nice point after a quick give-and-go with Burns, it was the exception to the Blues’ rule. McDonnell was key as the Blues won virtually everything in the middle of the park and Hunterstown couldn’t get close. His first point of the game came before Kierans found himself in acres of room to score his third goal of the game.
3-07 to 1-01 at the break, the second half was a virtual non-event. Making a host of substitutions and with the foot and the pedal long parted, the Blues still managed to outscore Rovers 0-06 to 0-05.
Landy notched a point within 30 seconds of the restart but that wasn’t the start of a dramatic comeback. Hunterstown’s first wide of the game came 40 minutes – which just went to show how ineffective they were in getting the ball into forward areas and making things happen in front of the posts.
Ryan Ward did produce Rovers’ best score of the evening before Ross Nally eventually got the Drogheda men’s first score of the second period, his effort just dropping over the bar. He got another a minute later before their fourth goal arrived via sub Hugh McGinn. Landy and Burns put over twice in the space of a minute late on.
It will be Division 2 football for Hunterstown in 2018 and on this evidence, that’s where they should be. It’s a glass half full or half empty question – but what benefit would come from a year of potential struggle in the top tier?
HUNTERSTOWN ROVERS: Niall Carrie, Paul Taaffe, Brian Mathews, Martin Lennon, Patrick Taaffe, Richie Taaffe, Brendan Lennon, Tony McKenna (0-01), Ryan Ward (0-01), Alan Landy (0-02), Glen Mathews, Paddy Mooney, Keith Brennan, Ryan Burns (1-01), Paul Carrie.
Subs: Padraig Mathews for Mooney, Eddie Burke for Brennan.
NEWTOWN BLUES: Jay Lowney, Paul Moore, Fergal O’Donoghue, John Connolly, Stephen Moonan (0-01), Emmett Carolan, Kevin Carr, Andy McDonnell (0-01), John Kermode, Conor Branigan (0-01), Ciaran Downey (0-01), Robert Carr (0-01), Colm Judge, Ross Nally (0-04), Derek Kierans (3-00).
Subs: Cormac Reynolds for Judge, Hugh McGinn (1-00) for Downey, Conor Moore for Branigan, Ronan Levins for Kevin Carr, Jimmy Murray (0-01) for Connolly.