GAA | Curran keeps his cool to secure the Clans a share of the spoils against St Pat’s

Division One League | Clan na Gael 1–10 St Patrick’s 2–7

An absorbing game on the Ecco Road finished up all square on Sunday afternoon as Robbie Curran’s late point secured Clan na Gael a share of the spoils against 14-man St Patrick’s in their Division One opener.

With 59 minutes on the clock, the Clans midfielder held his nerve, playing a short free to Ian Carr, before taking possession again and splitting the posts with his sixth score of the day.

It was no more than Mark McCann’s side deserved. After finding themselves under heavy pressure for periods of the first-half, the Clans were given a major boost when Pat’s defender Leonard Grey was dismissed by referee Stephen Johnson for lashing out at Ray McCabe.

However, before they could even begin to try and take advantage of the extra man, Pat’s increased their lead to six points when Danny O’Connor tucked a penalty away within seconds of the restart.

Undeterred, last year’s Intermediate Championship winner chipped away at the lead with Curran pivotal from dead balls and although they finished on a high, the feeling around the ground was that this was an opening day victory that got away.

Pat’s will return to Lordship wondering what might have been. Up to Grey’s sending-off — an easy decision for the match official — they held a three-point advantage after shading an eventful first period.

Paddy Keenan’s opener was wiped out by scores from Curran and Mark McGeown (0–2) but two quick fire efforts from Ross Murphy and O’Connor, the latter’s a sensational point from wide on the right, left it all square with less than 10 minutes played.

Gerry Cumiskey’s side controlled the next segment of the game with Jason Woods and another O’Connor eye-catcher putting them two in front, 0–5 to 0–3. It could — and probably should — have been more had Clans ‘keeper Aidan McCabe not saved from O’Connor after Keenan’s ball over the top cut Ian Carr out of the game.

The hosts got to grips with things after that, forcing Pat’s to go sideways rather than forwards, and Curran left a point in it before referee Johnson made his first big call of the day when he waved away appeals for a penalty after Mark McGeown was taken out by Sean Connor. The official’s decision to book the Pat’s goalkeeper after it led to even more scratching of the head.

Cathal Grogan and Aidan McCann both missed under pressure as Pat’s started to misfire and the Clans capitalised when JJ Quigley picked out the run of McGeown and he managed to squeeze the ball past Connor and a couple of his defenders to raise the green flag.

In contrast to the opening 10 minutes, Pat’s looked a bit short on ideas but they got a goal out of nothing in the 27th minute when Keenan picked out Grogan on the right and his angled shot deceived the Clans keeper and dropped under the bar.

Further scores from McCann and Keenan gave them the initiative but the final action of the first-half saw Grey head for the gate after he needlessly kicked out at McCabe in full view of the referee.

That didn’t seem to affect things as Pat’s opened the second-half with their second goal, O’Connor making no mistake from the spot after Dessie Finnegan was taken out by Donal Boyle following a break into enemy lines.

Three frees in the space of four minutes from the boot of Curran left a goal between the sides, though, and when Micheal McDonnell whipped over a fine point from the right after good approach play by Conall McKeever, the home support were in confident mood.

McCann worked his bench and one of those dispatched, youngster Jason Cullen, cut the deficit to just one when he got his angles right to hit the target with a difficult score from the right.

A frantic finale ensued with Billy Smith taking an extra touch when a chance presented itself in front of the posts. At the other end, Pat’s could have put it beyond doubt when Conor Grogan got in but he couldn’t apply the finishing touch which would have killed the Clans’ momentum.

Things started to simmer and O’Connor and substitute Rory Duffy were both shown yellow cards for Pat’s as the game headed for the finishing line but Curran kept his cool, right at the death, to ensure a fitting end to the first senior match played at the Clans’ new pitch.

CLAN NA GAEL: Aidan McCabe; Ian Carr, Donal Boyle, Kevin Carroll; Paul Crewe, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Micheal McDonnell (0–1); Ray McCabe, Robbie Curran (0–6, 5f); Conall McKeever, Mark McGeown (1–2), Billy Smith; Mark Newell, JJ Quigley, Paul Gore. Subs: Tiernan Reilly for D Boyle (BC), 34 mins; Conor Noonan for R McCabe, 36 mins; Leo Martin for M McGeown, 42 mins; Jason Cullen (0–1) for M Newell, 46 mins.

ST PATRICK’S: Sean Connor; Cormac Barry, Darren O’Hanlon, Jason Woods (0–1), Leonard Grey, Owen Zambouglou, Eoghan Lafferty, Dessie Finnegan, Thomas McCann, Paddy Keenan (0–2, 1f), Ross Murphy (0–1), Aidan McCann (0–1, 1f), Cathal Grogan (1–0), Danny O’Connor (1–2), Tadgh O’Connor. Subs: Cathal Grogan for T O’Connor, 38 mins; Aaron Rogers for C Barry, 42 mins; Rory Duffy for O Zambouglou, 52 mins; Sean McGeough for R Murphy, 58 mins.

REFEREE: Stephen Johnson.

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