A Danny Butler-inspired Nenagh made an impressive start to LDL Premier Division life by taking all three points from their season opener against Geraldines in Garryowen.
Having lost three of their starting back four in the close-season, the ‘Dines new-look back-line will be hoping that Nenagh’s 3rd-minute penalty-kick is not a portent of calamities to come. Conor McNamara began what was a difficult evening for the teenage left-back by chopping down Alex Gardis just inside the area; luckily for him, James McGrath slotted wide of Keith McCarthy’s left-hand post from 12 yards.
McNamara soon afforded onlookers a glimpse of his attacking attributes when he curled in a tempting deep cross that evaded the back post leap of Nenagh left-back John Mitchell. James Cleary’s resultant diving header failed to hit the target.
That foray into Nenagh territory aside, McNamara spent the majority of the game being outfoxed in one-on-one encounters with the evasive Danny Butler. Cross-field balls to the right winger were always an option for the Tipperary side, and when Ryan Gilmartin spread the play to Butler in the 22nd minute, it led directly to the left winger’s opener.
Butler found the excellent Gardis in the box, who beat Thomas O’Grady easily and squared to the onrushing Gilmartin, whose deflected effort looped fortunately past McCarthy.
The hosts were soon level however, when Cleary reacted before a sleeping Mark McKenna to Eddie Lee’s long ball over the top of the Nenagh defence. With his right foot, the former Summerville Rovers hotshot slammed the ball past Aaron Savage at his near post. Cleary was freer to play on the shoulder and look for service in the channels this evening, and looked all the more dangerous for it.
Underlining the ‘Dines left-sided weakness, Nenagh almost retook the lead immediately from the restart, when Butler again got in behind and forced McCarthy to palm his powerful strike away.
Disappointingly, Geraldines continued to prevent McNamara from being exposed one-on-one against Butler in the second-half. Butler beat the left-back again in the opening minutes, after another Gilmartin cross-field pass, but found McCarthy equal to his near post effort once more.
Midway through the second stanza, it was McKenna’s turn to pick out Butler with a diagonal; this time the winger played in Gardis, who blazed the ball wide.
Finally, the hosts were punished for failing to offer adequate support to their young defender, when a Butler cross teed up Gardis to smash a fantastically powerful header past McCarthy.
This was no more than Nenagh deserved, but they could have forfeited two of their hard-earned three points in the final minute of normal time, when ‘Dines defender Greg Barrett contrived to head Christy O’Neill’s corner wide at the far post.
Barrett then capped an unfortunate minute of football by allowing a Dylan Walsh pass under his foot; Gilmartin stole in to capitalise on the error and complete his double.
It was therefore an unhappy start to life in the ‘Dines hotseat for Mike Considine and Keith Higgins, who will surely launch an inquest into the manner in which their inexperienced left-back was left to fend for himself against an in-form opponent.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding some hairy moments from the left-side of their defence, the Nenagh triumvirate of Dearan O’Gorman, Shane O’Gorman and David Rooney will be delighted with their night’s work, in which the band of three behind striker Thomas Sheppard – particularly the irrepressible Butler – shone very brightly indeed.
Cleary 31′; Gilmartin 22′, 90+2′, Gardis 73′
Man of the Match