Carlow IFC Quarter Final
With both teams having sealed their quarter-final places last week in sweltering conditions, it was a different story in NCP on Saturday afternoon.
Temperatures halved, though at least the skies were clear. Grange remained unchanged, with Ballinabranna down Andy Mulleeney and Gary Dunne from the previous round.
Alan Fleming had the game's first score into the Dublin Rd goal before their opponents soon left their cards firmly on the table. Direct ball in to Robert Sansom, route one but accurate.
Sansom fetching one such ball, turning and finishing brilliantly all in one movement low past Seamus Hegarty. This happened either side of Shane Cormican seeing two goal-bound efforts saved by David Byrne after Grange had burst through the Ballinabranna cover. The first, in particular, was a fine save, pushed on to the crossbar, crucially both going to safety.
The response from Grange was swift, a high-hanging ball landing in the Ballinabranna square, with all eyes on the ball. When it spilled out, Paud O Dwyer blew for an infringement, resulting in a penalty for Grange.
John Murphy, having taken many successfully for club and county, was surely the taker? Wrong answer. Henry Hegarty stepped forward, and his low finish restored their lead temporarily.
The returning Jamie Lunney had it all square at 1-1 apiece on 8 mins. Sansom and Ned Pender traded points for 1-2 to 1-2 on the 12th min. Sansom, with his first free on 13 mins, restored the lead. A most enjoyable first quarter from both teams was almost complete.
The 2nd quarter had a sliding doors moment in the 16th min, a cracking goal-bound effort from Lunney parried to safety by Seamus Hegarty.
Grange took full advantage, with the ball ending up in the hands of Ned Pender in their next attack. With the point on, you could almost see a flashbulb go off to say a goal was there for the taking. His low finish gave Byrne no chance for 2-2 to 1-3.
John Murphy, from a free outside the 21, added to by a Henry Hegarty mark converted in the 23rd min, made it 2-4 to 1-3, the game's biggest lead.
Grange were in the ascendancy, but as said previously, Sansom was causing all sorts of problems when given good supply. Help arrived too with Mark Fitzgerald and James Kehoe.
The trio combined for 3 converted frees before the 29th min, with Cormican providing Grange's single response in this period, making it 2-5 to 1-6 as we headed into additional time.
Tom Dillon, who had driven forward relentlessly throughout the half, made it 2-6 to 1-6 as we awaited the half-time whistle. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Sansom gathered yet again, his low drive through the legs of Hegarty meant a cracking half ended as it started, level, 2-6 to 2-6 and Sansom with 2-5 to his name!
The 2nd half might have seen the scoring rate drop but made up for in the closeness throughout on the scoreboard. Sansom regained the lead for Ballinabranna on 32 mins before a brace of John Murphy frees in quick succession saw Grange back in front on 36 mins.
It was short-lived, though, as Celium Darcy from close range made it 2-8 to 2-8 on the 39th min. Grange started to get a bit more joy from their restarts in the following period, through Cathal Bailey in particular. Paddy Meaney had broken up a lot of these until this stage.
Alan Fleming, with the goal at his mercy at the edge of the square on 40 min, and Patrick Hickey a minute later, had the Killerig men 2 to the good, 2-10 to 2-8. Grange, for the 2nd period, put an extra body in Sansom's slipstream, to no avail on occasion, though, converting a free from distance on 48 mins.
John Murphy replied likewise in the 50th min before probably his finest being a mark on 53 mins.
Speaking of marks, Mark Fitzgerald had a mark on 54 min, leveling the score. Extra time anyone?
With a heavily strapped thigh throughout, it was sad to see Robert Sansom leave the field in the closing minutes, chasing a winner. But their talisman was now gone.
John Murphy has often been that for Grange, and so it proved again. An interception on the Ballinabranna 45m line, 30 meters from goal. Who better to try and succeed in gaining the lead than Murphy, his first and only from play on the day?
Ultimately, the winning point came on 57 mins. The remainder of the game was stop-start, with Ballinabranna reduced to 14 in added time. Grange booked their place in the last 4, with Ballinabranna just falling short on the day.
Grange: Seamus Hegarty, John Doyle, Tom Kealy, James Hickey, Tom Dillon (0-1), Cillian Murphy, Henry Hegarty (1-1, 1-0 p, 0-1m), Cathal Bailey, Fionn Murphy, Shane Cormican (0-1), Patrick Hickey (0-1), Ned Pender (1-1), Morris Walsh, John Murphy (0-5, 0-4f), Alan Fleming (0-2).
Subs - Davy Moran, Kieran Pender.
Ballinabranna: Davy Byrne, Brian Cox, Lar Dermody, Bobby Daly Snr, Liam Ryan, Jimmy Cahill, Cormac O Hara, Colin Byrne, Paddy Meaney, James Kehoe, Jamie Lunney (0-1), Celium Darcy (0-1), Keelan Brennan, Robert Sansom (2-8, 0-5f, 0-1m), Mark Fitzgerald (0-1m).
Subs - Ben McDonald, Cathal Owens, Bobby Daly Jnr, Gavin Dowling.
Referee: Paud O Dwyer.