Bugler goals are crucial in plunkett's win
ST OLIVER PLUNKETT'S/ER..............2-8 NAOMH OLAF...............................1-10
A BRACE of second-half goals from Seán Bugler was the difference at Páirc Uí Bhriain on Sunday afternoon, when St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh held off a late charge from Naomh Olaf to secure a narrow victory in Division Two of the Minor Football League.
A Plunkett's triumph seemed inevitable when Bugler's three-pointer increased the Navan Road side's advantage to eight points (2-7 to 0-5) with just 11 minutes of normal time remaining, but a superb goal from full-forward Tom Keane dramatically reduced the Olaf's deficit to the bare minimum in the seventh-minute of stoppage-time.
Olaf's subsequently developed a final attack, but after surviving this late surge, Plunkett's recorded their fourth win from as many outings in this year's competition. The ferocious breeze in the southside venue made it difficult for both sets of players in the opening period, and every score proved to be a hard-earned one.
Plunkett's were on top of possession in the early moments, but it was the aforementioned Keane who opened the scoring with a fine score after five minutes of play.
This wasn't a major concern for Plunkett's, though, and a point each from midfielders Conor Bresnan and Brian McDonnell (free) helped them to move into the ascendancy before the ten-minute mark. Keane quickly restored parity with a well-struck effort off his left-foot, but after gathering possession close to goal, Bresnan split the posts in clinical style.
Plunkett's were certainly displaying a keen eye for goal, and Olaf's (who had one win under their belt prior to this game) needed to be wary of their attacking potential. Successive points from McDonnell and corner-forward Bugler helped to enhance the away team's superiority, before centre-fielder Aaron Walsh finally ended a 21-minute scoring drought for Olaf's with an injury-time contribution.
As a result, only two points separated the teams at the break (0-5 to 0-3), and with the wind becoming less of a factor upon the resumption, Olaf's were still very much in contention.
However, Plunkett's enjoyed a flying start to the second-half proceedings, and entered into a purple patch that created serious daylight between themselves and Olaf's. Bugler's 32nd minute effort was carried over the line by opposition netminder Adam O'Callaghan, who received lengthy treatment in the aftermath of this potentially game-changing major.
The confidence of Plunkett's (who include Cavan goalkeeper Alan O'Mara amongst their management team) was significantly boosted by this score, and courtesy of points by the impressive McDonnell and attacking wing-back Aaron Carey, they had left Olaf's with a mountain to climb.
The Sandyford men did eventually settle with unanswered points from Keane and industrious centre-forward Eoin Foley, but when Bugler found the net via terrific approach play by Fionn Boland and McDonnell on 49 minutes, the tie appeared to be beyond their grasp.
There was admirable determination from Olaf's in the final-quarter, however, and following half-back Rory Gallagher's excellent point, the raiding Walsh found a gap through the heart of the Plunkett's rearguard.
He was denied by a goal-line clearance on this occasion, although Foley did ensure that they got some return from this move by finding the target with a right-footed attempt. Further scores would arrive through Seán McDaid and Keane, which offered Olaf's a glimmer hope ahead of a lengthy spell of additional time.
The Plunkett's nerves were eased by a point from the outstanding Bugler, only for a placed-ball score by the equally-influential Keane to leave Olaf's just four points in arrears. Indeed, the most unlikely of comebacks was becoming a distinct possibility when Keane unleashed an unstoppable 67th minute shot beyond the reach of Daire Bartley, but they ultimately weren't able to level matters for a third time.
Scorers - St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh: S Bugler 2-2, B McDonnell 0-3 (2f), C Bresnan 0-2, A Carey 0-1. Naomh Olaf: T Keane 1-5 (0-3f), E Foley 0-2 (1f), R Gallagher, S McDaid, A Walsh 0-1 each.
ST OLIVER PLUNKETT'S/EOGHAN RUADH: D Bartley; J Ralph, B Cullen, D Carroll; P Maher, S Ashton, A Carey; B McDonnell, C Bresnan; E Walsh, D O'Reilly, F Boland; T Hynes, R Carrick, S Bugler.
Subs: C Barrett for Ralph (h-t), K Dixon for Hynes (38), L Stone for O'Reilly (43), A Moran for Carrick (49), C Gibbons for Walsh (55).
NAOMH OLAF: A O'Callaghan; D Coleman, C Kirwan, T McGurk; F O'Sullivan, L Doran, R Gallagher; S McDaid, A Walsh; L O'Malley, E Foley, B Thornton; N Byrne, T Keane, O Bracken.
Subs: J Byrne for Thornton (46), L Boyle for Byrne (54).
MENTORS - ST OLIVER PLUNKETT'S/EOGHAN RUADH: S Kearney, M O'Neill, A O'Mara.
NAOMH OLAF: C Soraghan, D Egan, A Boyle.
REFEREE: J Trimble (Ranelagh Gaels).
WIDES - St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh: 5 (3+2). Naomh Olaf: 4 (2+2).
CONDITIONS: Extremely windy, but dry for the most part.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Seán Bugler (St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh).