Gallery: Craigavon Cowboys @ Tullamore Phoenix

Tullamore Phoenix suffered a heart-wrenching loss to Craigavon Cowboys last weekend in a game that, in truth, neither team deserved to lose. 

The Phoenix defence stop Craigavon's Chris Bondi

Though not quite the tropical conditions experienced earlier in the week, last Sunday’s IAFL clash between Craigavon Cowboys and Tullamore Phoenix was played in near perfect footballing conditions. However, neither team could take advantage of the balmy weather early on with penalties constantly interrupting the flow of the game for both.

It was Phoenix who put points on the board first, capping a long drive with a 25 yard David Maloney field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, a well placed kicked from Maloney pinned the Cowboys’ inside their own five yard line and one play later the Phoenix defence sacked Craigavon’s QB to take the score to 5-0.

On their next drive, Phoenix once again marched their way towards the Cowboys’ endzone thanks to a mixture of accurate passing from Erin Kelly and decisive running from Daire O’Beirne and Darren Byrne in the backfield.

However, on 3rd down, five yards from the Cowboys’ endzone, an interception cost Phoenix the opportunity to build an 11 point lead. Instead, four plays later, Cowboys found the endzone themselves. While they were unsuccessful with their two-point conversion, they still found themselves with a 6-5 lead against the run of play.

Once more, the Phoenix offence put together an efficient drive with David Maloney booting a 40+ yard field goal on the half-time whistle to give Phoenix an 8-6 lead.

Phoenix HC John Judge celebrates David Maloney's long range effort

The lead was short lived though as the Cowboys’ came out a much more effective offence in the second half, turning a two point deficit into a ten point lead before the end of the third quarter, thanks in large part to a blocked field goal that gave the Cowboys’ great field position.

It was, in truth, a frustrating second half for both teams as poor officiating threatened to ruin a monumental tussle between two evenly matched teams. Tullamore’s frustration was compounded by season-ending injuries to key defensive duo Rory O’Keeffe and Mark Brolly.

This wasn’t a Phoenix outfit that was ready to roll over and die though and, with seven minutes to go in the game, the home side reduced the deficit to just four points when Erin Kelly found David Maloney, on for the injured Jordan Reid, on a 25 yard crossing route.

However, any hopes of a Phoenix comeback were dashed as Craigavon showed all their experience to wind down the clock before extending their lead to 12 in the closing seconds of the game.

For Craigavon, it was a much needed win to kickstart their season but it was also a heartbreaking loss for a Tullamore team whose monumental effort in this game did not deserve to go unrewarded.

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