Ardara’s impressive start to the new campaign continued on Saturday evening when they snatched the full quota of spoils right at the death and in dramatic fashion.
Four Masters 0-10
By Frank Craig, PRO
In what was a championship dress rehearsal, Four Masters looked good for much of this game with Michael Doherty in superb form, as they led by five points after eight minutes.
They still had their noses in front at the interval on a difference of 7-4 with Doherty accounting for all of Masters’ first-half account. Gareth Concarr (3f) and Stephen Boyle were the men that found the mark for Adrian Brennan’s charges as they kept themselves within a goal of the leaders’ at the break.
But the loss of county man Karl Lacey, who pulled up with what looked like a hamstring complaint on 21 minutes, was a real blow for Joe Lacey’s side.
However, when Ardara coughed up a further two points right at the beginning of the restart to Conor McMonagle and Sean O’Kennedy, it looked ominous for the home support – even at this early juncture.
For the second time in the contest, Ardara were five off the pace and and on the ropes. But three on the trot, thanks to Concarr (2 f) and Nicholas Maguire all the way from wing-back, slashed the deficit back to just two and rejuvenated efforts in those around them.
Masters hit back up the other end momentarily through Barry Dunnion – but when Doherty uncharacteristically spurned a close-range free soon after – it proved to be a telling turning point in their evening. The visitors would fail to post again before the end as Ardara rallied from three down to post four in-a-row to sensationally snatch all the points a full three minutes into added time.
Peter McNelis got the salvage operation under way when he arrowed over on the left hand side. Another Concarr double, including a free after Paul Durcan was penalised for plucking the ball of the ground illegally and a huge equaliser from distance, left proceedings deadlocked on ten apiece six minutes from the end.
And despite the lack of scores on the board before the final whistle, the action remained frantic and captivating. The play ebbed from end to end, with both sides having chances to win it. First, Kieran Breslin hit the top of the post after Boyle and McNelis had rushed efforts that went well wide of the target.
Then, up the other end, Masters looked like they were going to put matters beyond all doubt as they countered in numbers with Oisin McGinty eventually finding himself through on goal. The only decision for the Masters man was would he square possession to a team-mate bearing down on goal or take the sensible option of a point.
He went for option number two but his fisted effort amazingly rebounded off the post and was cleared by a grateful Ardara rearguard. And to compound that disappointment they rallied back up the other direction where Breslin took on the responsibility to drill over what transpired to be the winner.
Masters were still afforded time to grab something from the embers, but some resolute and dogged defending saw Oisin O’Donnell turn over possession inside his own final third to ease all fears along the wire. His intervention signalled the end as Ian Molloy finally blew for time – much to the delight of the home crowd.
Speaking afterwards, Gareth Concarr, who finished the evening with a personal tally of seven points, praised his side’s “never-say-die” attitude and the way they responded to being five points down at the start of both halves.
“We gave them two big head-starts, in both halves, five points I think the manager said, and that’s something we’ll look at. But when Michael Doherty is in that kind of mood, it sometimes can’t be helped.
“He was firing them over from all angles and it’s almost impossible to guard against that. What was good from our point of view was the way we responded. We battled back into contention on a number of occasions and it was great to see ‘Bressie’ boot over the winner there near the end.”
Ardara: Declan Gallagher; Neil Campbell, Kenneth Doherty, Kevin Breslin; Oisin O’Donnell, Declan Gavigan, Nicholas Maguire (0-1); Stephen Boyle (0-1), Kevin Byrne; Michael Maloney, Conor Classon, Kieran Breslin (0-1); Peter McNelis (0-1), Gareth Concarr (0-7, 5f)), Peter McHugh. Subs: Damian Diver for McHugh (30 mins), Jimmy O’Connell for Boyle (58 mins).
Four Masters: Paul Durcan; Darren Walsh, Barry Monaghan, Danny McGarrigle; Barry Dunnion (0-1), Conor Rooney, Josh Lacey; Karl Lacey, Frank McMullen; Don Monaghan, Luke Keeney, Sean O’Kennedy (0-1); Conor McMonagle (0-1), Michael Doherty (0-7, 4f), Stephen Keaney. Subs: Benny Byrne for K Lacey (21 mins), Shane Carr for O’Kennedy (52 mins), Jamie McCrea for J Lacey (56 mins) and Oisin McGinty for McMullen (59 mins).
Referee: Ian Molloy (Naomh Conaill)