Ten-man Nenagh AFC’s Premier Division title hopes were severely dented by the club’s fourth consecutive defeat to Fairview Rangers.
After Sunday’s disappointing 2-2 draw with winless Geraldines, Fairview manager Paul O’Donnell’s hopes of a positive response were boosted by the returns of Brian Fitzgerald, Jeffrey Judge, Christy Doyle and AJ O’Connor. Regular left-back Jonathan Hannafin missed out due to injury however, forcing midfielder Craig Madigan to deputise.
Nenagh, for their part, welcomed back midfielder Roy Creagh, and right-back Jordan Lewis, into their side. Eoin Coffey, and the unavailable Nathan Kelly, therefore dropped out of the side that earned an impressive 3-1 home win over Ballynanty Rovers last weekend.
Elimination from the Munster Junior Cup at the hands of the same opposition, a fortnight ago, saw Nenagh’s defence given a torrid time by lone-frontman Doyle. And so it proved again here, as the former Newport Town and Janesboro striker outmuscled — and outpaced — Mark McKenna easily, before firing Fairview into an 11th-minute lead.
Determined to remain compact in defence of that lead, to prevent Nenagh from playing through, Fairview were helped by the visitors’ surprising decision to field two strikers.
With only two bodies in the middle of the park, it was difficult for David Rooney’s side to build from the back, resulting in many fruitless long balls over the top of the home defence.
Indeed, it was O’Donnell’s side who should have wrapped this one up before the half-time whistle. A Madigan underlap and cross found Doyle at the back-post, whose first attempt was blocked by Max Boghiu. Nenagh goalkeeper Aaron Savage then pulled off a wonderful point-blank reflex save to deny the striker’s second bite at the cherry.
Two half-time injury-enforced replacements did not help the cause of Nenagh’s defence either, with both Lewis and McKenna forced to depart. Lewis, the standout performer a fortnight ago, was replaced by forward Ryan Gilmartin in an attacking Rooney gambit, while Bryan McGee stepped in for McKenna in a straight-swap.
Savage stepped up again in the early reaches of the second-half to acrobatically stop a Darragh Rainsford free-kick at his near-post, and keep his side in the game. Nenagh then came agonisingly close to an equaliser, when two left-wing crosses, delivered by Ben Banaghan and Boghiu in quick succession, were not converted at the back-post.
And just seconds after that attacking flurry, the visitors’ deficit was doubled. Nenagh’s struggles at centre-back continued, as Cathal Coonan earned his way into the book for a poor challenge on first-half substitute David Hannon. From the resultant free-kick, Rainsford eventually converted a snapshot from the area’s edge.
Coonan’s day went from bad to worse in the 65th minute, when the defender’s hesitancy resulted in an eventual last-man tackle on Doyle just inside the Nenagh half.
A deserved second-yellow card duly followed from referee Donal Power, whose judgement was impeccable throughout. Coonan, however, will rightly point to the short pass misplaced by team-mate John Mitchell that forced him into such a doomed rescue mission.
Operating with a 3-4-2 shape for its remainder, Nenagh never really looked like getting back into this game. Instead, it was Fairview who doubled their advantage late on.
First, Doyle powered past McGee to the left-byline, before squaring through Savage’s hands for Hannon to tap-in. Then, right at the death, substitute Morgan Clancy squared from the right for George Daffy to convert from the edge of the Nenagh area.
Following Janesboro’s 2-1 victory away to Kilmallock, in the southside club’s final road game, Nenagh drop to second, trailing the leaders by one point, with a game more played.
Fourth-placed Fairview, meanwhile, can take solace in doing the double over the Premier Division newbies, with the Tipperary club’s Munster Junior and FAI Junior Cup scalps also under their belts to boot.
Doyle 11′, Rainsford 55′, Hannon 84′, Daffy 88′
Man of the Match