Erin go Bragh 3-6
St Brendan's 1-8
With three games left to play Erin go Bragh have put themselves in the box seat for an immediate return to Division One in Warwickshire as they continued their unbeaten campaign with a four point victory over St Brendan's at Pairc na hÉireann.
Two first-half goals from corner-forward Martyn Fleming left Brendan's chasing the game in the second-half. Brendan's reduced the margin to three with as many minutes remaining, but ultimately fell short as Sam Frankum fired over the insurance score.
It’s a result which leaves the Erdington club four points ahead of nearest rivals Four Masters, having played a game more than their Coventry rivals. Sunday’s clash also provided a glimpse of things to come later in the year with Brendan's and Erin go Bragh set to face one another in a Championship opener, and there was plenty of optimism for both panels in what was an expansive game of football.
With Darren McGovern giving Brendan's the lead from an early free, the visitors fought back to take a grip on the first-half proceedings. Andrew McAlinden and Frank Niblock tucked over a couple of frees before corner-forward McAlinden reacted quickest after seeing a shot saved by Mick McGowan to lob the rebound over the bar.
Go Bragh were doing well to pin their opponents inside their own '45 creating chances on the turnover ball and almost grabbing a goal, but for a brave Dermot Doherty block keeping McAlinden at bay. At the other end Robbie Jeffcott fired a long range effort high over the bar, but the visiting defence, marshalled by Michael Lambe and ably assisted by a prominent Jordan Langthorne, did a diligent job in locking down the Brendan's attack.
In the closing minutes of the first-half, Erin go Bragh took an even tighter grip on the game with a brace of goals from corner-forward Fleming. The first goal came after he wriggled his clear to sneak a fifteen-metre strike beyond McGowan. The poacher struck again when a Kieran Boxwell-initiated counter-attack resulted in Frankum releasing Fleming who calmly slotted home from close range.
All of which meant Brendan's had to take the game to their opponents in the closing half hour. They were nearly undone though at the start of the half when Jack Quinn’s low poke needed an alert McGowan save at his near post, but after a smart team move enabled Jack Jeffcott to curl over the first of four second-half scores they were caught out by a sweeping move from left to right as substitute Doug Sweeney lashed home a third goal off the crossbar.
Nonetheless, just as they had in the reverse fixture at Holly Lane last month, Brendan's fought back late on by upping their tempo to reduce a nine-point deficit to just three. A patient move across the forty-five eventually afforded Ciaran Deehan the time and space to slot a low shot into the back of the net beyond Sean Mulroy.
Both Jeffcotts became more prominent, Robbie in kick-starting matters in midfield and Jack landing the scores – two frees from the half-forward kept the momentum going and then with the game moving into the closing few minutes he stepped forward from close to the touchline to launch a fine effort over the bar.
That free set the scene for a frantic finale and again it was Erin go Bragh who showed their mettle to calm things down and create an insurance point with Sweeney supplying an assist for Frankum, who slotted his second point of the game.
Man of the match:
Jordan Langthorne (Erin go Bragh) A pivotal performer in defence - making timely interventions as well as penetrating runs from deep.
Score of the match:
A neat three-pass move between the Brendan's forwards released Jack Jeffcott to launch a fine score over the bar from 35 metres out.
Martyn Fleming’s two-goal haul before the interval meant Brendan's had to chase the game in the second-half.
Wides: Erin go Bragh (5) 9, St Brendans (1) 5.
Frees: Erin go Bragh (5) 5, St Brendans (6) 13.
Yellow Cards: Erin go Bragh 0, St Brendans 0.
Erin go Bragh: M Fleming (2-0), D Sweeney (1-0), A McAlinden (0-2, 1f), S Frankum (0-2), F Niblock (0-1, 1f), L Boxwell (0-1).
St Brendan's: J Jeffcott (0-4, 3fs), C Deehan (1-0), D McGovern (0-3, 2fs), R Jeffcott (0-1).
Erin go Bragh: S Mulroy; K Gibbons, M Lambe, J Langthorne; A Ruffinato, C Boyle, J Boxwell; K Boxwell, P Boxwell; N Quinn, S Frankum, J Quinn; A McAlinden, F Niblock, M Fleming. Subs: D Sweeney for Quinn (34), L Boxwell for McAlinden (45).
St Brendan's: M McGowan; D Doherty, P Davenport, A Cataldo; F Hartnett, T Healy, J Doyle; R Jeffcott, A Taheny; M Hartnett, J Jeffcott, J Spellacy; C Deehan, D McGovern, F Geraghty.
Referee: P Hoey.