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Abbey Rangers Under 17s Claim Hard Fought Championship Title

posted 11 Nov 2018, 11:00 by Kildangan PRO   [ updated 13 Nov 2018, 14:41 ]
Since the Abbey Rangers amalgamation was formed in 2015, county titles have been won every year at various age groups, with multiple victories in some of those years. While there was plenty of progress and development in 2017, up until today, the cupboard laid bare. But all that changed under the Hawkfield lights on Saturday, 10th November when the Abbey Rangers under 17 footballers defeated Milltown in the D Championship final by a single point.

When the same two teams met just seven days previously in Kildangan in the last of the round robin games, Milltown gave the boys in red a serious hiding, but with Abbey Rangers missing a number of key players on the day, neither team took much heed of the result. Tonight was a different story, with both teams fully loaded and ready to fire.

Conor Corrigan and Cian Murtagh hit two early points for us before Milltown's Ben Heuston replied one of his own. Sean Murphy gave the Millers the advantage with a goal to go two in front. Daniel Gilbert steadied the ship with two pointed frees before Milltown's Brandon Fitzsimons hit the back of the
net, along with a point from an Aaron Walker free, to knock us back on our heels again. A further Milltown goal was prevented by a combination of Thomas Browne and Dara Perry and it took some tremendous defending from the Rangers contingent over the next few minutes as they fought to hang onto the game.

With Joey O’Sullivan and Daniel Gilbert getting a grip at midfield, and Mikey Delahunty beginning to roam out the field, Abbey Rangers took control and kicked six unanswered points. With half time approaching, Milltown struck for their third goal when a clearance following a Sean Fitzgerald save was intercepted and the resulting looping shot made its way into the top corner from Sean Murphy's boot. Although the Ballykelly-Kildangan merger had outscored Milltown by 10 scores to 5, we went in at half time a point down with the scoreboard reading 3-2 to 0-10 in favour of Milltown.

Milltown got the perfect start to the second half with a fourth goal, this time from Oran O'Brien, in the first minute and a Conor Corrigan free was quickly cancelled out by a similar Milltown score from Robbie Gibbons. But the next twenty minutes were all about the Barrowsiders. The interchanging, movement, fielding, score taking and pure will to win was great to watch as Abbey Rangers dominated in every area of the field. There wasn’t a single Abbey Rangers player who lost the battle with his direct opponent during this period and we scored an unanswered 1-5 to go four points ahead at 1-16 to 4-3. The goal came mid-way through that scoring burst when Conor Corrigan tucked a penalty neatly into the bottom corner of the net.

But the young men of Allen, to their credit, came at Rangers once again and reduced the gap to two points via Ben Heuston and Aaron Walker before Eoin O’Fearghaill replied with two superb scores to restore Abbey Rangers' four point lead. It was the third minute of injury time when a long ball over the top found the Milltown full forward Fitzsimons, but his shot was saved brilliantly by Sean Fitzgerald, only for the rebound to be finished to the net by corner forward Peter Hamilton. The referee called 30 seconds to play as we hung on by a single point. Joey O’Sullivan won the kick out and sent Russell Grattan off on a solo run down into the Milltown full back line but we lost possession and Milltown drove forward in search of an equalising score. Sean McDonald broke down the Milltown attack and as we entered the sixth minute of injury time the referee finally sounded the whistle on a 1-18 to 5-5 win for Abbey Rangers.

It was a great end to a long year for these lads, many of whom will be eligible to compete at this level again next year. Great credit is due to the team's mentors, Ballykelly's Tommy Curran and Fergal Gilbert of Kildangan for their efforts this year and every year, and continued success for these young players in the coming years as they head towards adult football with Ballykelly and Kildangan. Milltown can also take consolation in the determination they displayed to keep the game going right until the final whistle.

Abbey Rangers: Sean Fitzgerald, Russell Grattan, Dara Perry, Thomas Browne, Orren Grattan, Sean McDonald, Adam Gordon, Daniel Gilbert (0-5), Joey O’Sullivan, Oisin Hyland, Mikey Delahunty (0-3), Conor Corrigan (1-7), Cian Murtagh (0-1), Jack Curran, Dara Byrne.
Subtitutes: Eoin O’Fearghaill (0-2) for Oisin Hyland, Aaron O’Connor for Orren Grattan, John Kelly for Adam Gordon, Cathal McKernan for Jack Curran, Jamie Robinson for Cian Murtagh, Rory McGrath, Cormac Finnegan, Ciaran Byrne

Milltown: Luke Redmond; Andrew Buckley, Jonathan Dunne, Shane Daly; Robbie Gibbons (0-1), James Byrne, Neil Tiernan; Sean Murphy (2-0), Aaron Walker (0-2, 1f); Aodan Dempsey, Tom Hamilton, Ben Heuston (0-2); Oran O'Brien (1-0), Brandon Fitzsimons (1-0), Peter Hamilton (1-0)
Substitutes: Kyle Busuttil, Jamie Powell, Karl Downey, Hugh Hamilton, Josh Hewitt

Milltown team sheet courtesy of Milltown PRO Roisín Malone