Match report and photos coutresy of grassroots gaa.ie

Things either go for you or they don’t. In the circumstances, O’Tooles found themselves on the side of where the law of averages are normally stacked against you. Two minutes before half-time, in this SHC game at Parnell Park on Wednesday night, O’Tooles were reduced to fourteen men. They would play with a stiff breeze when action would resume after a pep talk and a few jaffa cakes.

Whatever was said or consumed at the break it worked a treat for the men from Blunden Drive. They put in a sterling display with the elements in their favour and left us in awe – that a team with a man down could control the game so effectively. It defied logic.

First off: back to the beginning. O’Tooles started well. Conor Carton, who was playing at centre-field sent over an early free while Peadar Carton broke a ball down for Christopher Mulligan to convert. Peadar Carton also chipped in with a minor on seven minutes.

Faughs found the going tough playing into the breeze. Kevin Ryan, Richie Walker and Michael Carton held reins on their attack.

John Kelly pointed after a great run. Ciaran Brennan saw his menacing run on goal cut off by Kevin Ryan, the O’Tooles full back. A goal at that stage would have ignited the contest.

Emmett McKenna and John Kelly (free) pointed from long range; but O’Tooles remained in front courtesy of a Conor Carton (free) and Michael Cunningham; who saw his effort skim over off the upright and post. (0-5 to 0-3) to O’Tooles after the opening quarter.

Peader Carton was the linkman in the O’Tooles attack. Time and again he found himself in space taking and distributing passes like transfer votes between Fine Gael and Labour.

He laboured well to place Andy Morris who extended the lead on 16 minutes. Conor Carton landed another free while Richie Walker burst forward from his corner back berth to send over an inspirational score after forging up the field by himself. It typified O’Tooles’ challenge on the night.

Faughs hit a purple patch which saw Ciaran Brennan, Richie Neville, Emmett McKenna and John Kelly convert for the wearers of the sash.

When O’Tooles were reduced to fourteen men on 27 minutes with the dismissal of Paul Bradshaw, things looked ominous. 

Prior to the short whistle, Conor Carton (free) and Christopher Mulligan landed minors to give O’Tooles a 0-10 to 0-7 lead at the change of ends.

Faughs opened the scoring after the break when Brian Dillon’s delivery wasn’t dealt with by the O’Tooles defence; Ciaran Brennan punished them when he fired over. O’Tooles replied in style; Conor Carton, Derek Farrelly and Cunningham (2) defied mathematics by sending the fourteen men into a six point lead inside seven minutes of the restart.

Playing with a stiff breeze, one expected a monumental onslaught from Faughs in the early exchanges of the second half. It failed to transpire, mainly due to the exploits of Daithi Concarr, who was introduced as a second-half substitute at wing back for the men from Blunden Drive. He controlled the stem of traffic advancing up his wing and got great assistance from Kevin Ryan, Adam King, Ger O’Meara and Andy Morris who were sweeping up all the breaks around the centre of the pitch.

It took Faughs nine minutes to get on the board again when Carl O’Mahony placed Ronan Hennessy for a minor. Hennessy’s midfield partner, John Kelly, pointed a free from 50 yards soon after.

O’Tooles began to carve open the Faughs defence in search of a goal. Daithi Concarr and Derek Farrelly did the spadework for Liam Ryan to test Trevor Donohoe; Donohoe saved and despite falling, managed to reach up to gather the sliotar into his hand and clear.

A minute later Peader Carton sent Farrelly on a menacing run; he picked his spot but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Shane O’Dea came to Faughs’ rescue with a hook. Conor Carton landed the resultant 65.

Conor Carton landed another minor from a placed ball before Daithi Concarr sent over from the centre of the field. Ger O’Meara nullified a Faughs attack and set off for goal; he surged down the pastures of Parnell Park, finishing his run with a neat score. O’Tooles were in cruise control.

Michael Cunningham then placed Andy Morris for a neat score inches from the sideline on the terrace side. Conor Carton landed another free to take the Northsiders nine points clear. All Faughs could muster was a John Kelly free on 46 minutes.

As the game headed for lost time, O’Tooles must have been thinking about their splendid second half display; which saw the fourteen men outscore their opponents who had a full complement by ten points to four.

Suddenly the game took on a life of its own; which will make the last group games very interesting. I doubt there were any Crystal Palace fans among the Faughs line out; they went in search of a late hat-trick like “The Eagles” on Monday night.

On 60 minutes, Faughs were awarded what appeared to be a soft penalty. Trevor Donohoe came up from his goal to convert. It would make the scoreboard read a lot closer that it should have looked at the death.

Seconds later, Cunningham had his shot smothered in the O’Tooles defence; John Kelly latched onto the ball, picked and stroked it across his body to the far post…goal. All of a sudden O’Tooles were on the back foot.

Conor Carton eased the pressure when he pointed a late free giving the Blunden Drive side a four point cushion. The final whistle came seconds later. O’Tooles will be delighted at the manner of their display with fourteen men; they will be praying to their gods that the lapse in the last two minutes doesn’t come back to haunt them in the final group game should score difference come into play.