Division 1: NUIG 3 Colemanstown 2

THE students mantained their serious challenge for promotion from the Western Hygiene Supplies First Division as a Micky Creane hat trick paved the way for this success over Colmanstown at Dangan on Saturday. However it was an unconvincing victory, achieved against a side who surprisingly find themselves in the lower half of the table. Indeed it was only after they went three in arrears after half an hour that Colmanstown started to play. For the remainder of the contest, they were by far the better side and second half goals by Kevin Barrett and Colin O’Grady certainly made it competitive in the closing minutes.

Indeed if Kerrill Hardiman’s last minute drive was just a fraction lower they would have secured a deserved equaliser but, as it is, they now lie just above the relegation area and require a win or two to get them away from the danger zone. In contrast, NUI Galway are on a good run in the league. They made a terrific start and were 1-0 ahead after just two minutes with a rather fortuitous goal when Creane’s shot took a deflection off Andy Concannon and left keeper Joe Flannery helpless. On eight minutes, Dave Cunningham was just off target with a far post header following a John Hynes cross and the majority of the opening quarter was spent in the visitors half as the students dominated possession.

Eoin McCormack and Terry O’Doherty were on top in midfield, while the front two of Derek Flaherty and Micky Creane were a constant threat and they were rewarded when they made it 2-0 after 13 minutes from the penalty spot. The set piece was awarded after Flaherty gathered a neat pass from O’Doherty and broke into the area, but the challenge of keeper Flannery on the striker looked more like obstruction than a deliberate foul. However after the custodian was yellow carded, the spot kick was awarded and Sligo native Creane sent Flannery the wrong way with a low effort to the bottom left.

Buoyed by a geat spirit, Colmanstown began to find their feet and while they created little from open play, set pieces did present them with opportunities. An Andy Concannon free kick was headed just wide by the excellent Darren Finn and later Sean Hardiman drove a set piece into the defensive wall from outside the area. Then, after literally doing nothing in attack since their previous goal 17 minutes earlier, the students made it 3-0 with a superb counter attacking goal. Vinny Corrigan won possession well inside his own half and after a 70 yard run cut a delivery back from the byline that was met by the splendid Creane and from just inside the area, the Science student sidefooted home for John Burke, who had relocated from goalkeeper to the front line at half time, showed some neat footwork to see off a few token challenges in the area on 66 minutes, but after doing all the hard work he inexplicably pushed his effort beyond the far post when he had just Flannery to beat.

With Concannon and Parker pushing forward from the back and Finn, Barrett and the Hardimans all enjoying a good spell, the visitors continued to press. On 68 minutes, Colin O’Grady rounded O’Kelly but his pull back saw Richie Lally’s effort blocked by Dave Cunningham, while moments later Sean Hardiman took a touch too much as O’Kelly gathered at his feet. Barrett, who enjoys such a good touch,wasn’t seeing a lot of ball on the left, but had a cracking shot blocked by the midriff of Lowe. Colmanstown, however, were eventually rewarded for their dominance on 86 minutes. Kerrill Hardiman delivered from the right and Colin O’Grady eventually got a reward for all his unselfish work as he pushed the cross past O’Kelly to reduce the margin. NUIG then threatened for a spell as Flaherty saw a free kick saved by Flannery, while Burke had a shot blocked and Corrigan was off target with a late effort.

Then on 88 minutes, Kerrill Hardiman almost saved the day for Colmanstown, but after cutting in from the right his effort trimmed the crossbar and the students had survived to move into second spot behind leaders Oranmore. Not only are they challenging for promotion but Collingwood is also just around the corner at the end of the month. While this might not have been their strongest eleven, they will certainly have to up the level of performance if they are to have any expectations in a competition that they are going to host. While they have some able players, there seemed to be a distinct lack of urgency and leadership about them on the park and on a day they started off well, they should not have allowed Colmanstown be so close at the finish.

Colmanstown: Flannery, Duane, Killarney, Lally, Parker, A Concannon, K Hardiman, Finn, C. O’Grady, S Hardiman, Barrett. Reserves: D Concannon for S. Hardiman (75mins), G. O’Grady for K. Duane (83mins). NUIG: Burke, Hynes, Laide, Cunningham, Lowe, McCormack, Corrigan, Creane, O’Doherty, Flaherty, Geoghegan. Reserves: O’Kelly and Byrne for Geoghegan and McCormack (45mins). 

Mike Rafferty, Connacht Tribune