Counsel undone by three costly defensive lapses
Good Counsel somehow slipped to a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of a fortunate Marist in the Leinster Post Primary Schools Senior 'A' football championship semi-final at Athy on Saturday.
Marist (Athlone) 3-1 Good Counsel 0-8
If ever a side's name was on a cup it must be that of the Athlone school.
They needed a favourable set of refereeing decisions to get past St. Peter's in round two, and now secured passage to the decider with a trio of uncharacteristic defensive blunders by Good Counsel.
It has to be said, apart from three mistakes that were all punished to the highest degree, the New Ross defence was absolutely sensational, limiting Marist to just one point from a contentious free in first-half added time.
They were so good that Marist had run out of ideas early in the second quarter. Any semblance of the gameplan they started with had evaporated and they were left thumping aimless balls in the direction of the Good Counsel goal. The problem is, aimless balls still have to be dealt with properly too.
The first-half was a struggle for both attacks. Counsel led by 0-2 to 0-1 at the break and were the better team in possession. Ian Carty, roving up the field constantly despite his starting spot, opened the scoring and Mikie Dwyer doubled the advantage in the 21st minute.
Marist finally broke their duck with the last kick of the first-half through Brian Derwin, although there should probably have been a free-out for a push in the back in the build-up to the dead ball being given the other way.
Nonetheless, points early in the second-half from Dwyer and Jamie Myler made it 0-4 to 0-1 and Good Counsel looked comfortable. Then came the first mistake and the opening goal.
One of those aimless balls, drifting away from goal, was punched back into the danger area by a Counsel defender and Emmet Nally, up from the back in desperation more than hope, was the only Marist player in the vicinity and he poked the ball past Darragh O'Connor.
Still, the New Ross school continued to dominate the game and regained the lead through Carty.
However, a 45th-minute Counsel clearance ricocheted off two defenders and fell perfectly for Derwin darting through the centre alone. He was slide-tackled from behind for a penalty that Ryan Gaffey converted.
Again the defending champions responded and pulled within one when Myler pointed a free. But once again things went wrong as two defenders jumped for the one ball; it slid through their hands, leaving Derwin away again, and he fed Gaffey who netted for the second time in six minutes.
Back came Good Counsel and pulled within two after points from Dwyer and Mark Rossiter.
They had one last chance to make the final when Fethard's Dwyer drove through the centre in added time and off-loaded to Luke Sinnott, but the substitute's shot was brilliantly smothered by Marist stopper Conor Devaney to end Counsel hopes.
Now Counsel will turn their attention to hurling and Saturday's quarter-final against Kilkenny C.B.S.
Marist: Conor Devaney; Darren Carroll, Emmet Nally (1-0), Shane Furey; Fionn Dowd, Jimmy Curley, Eoin Mulvihill; Corey Reid, Daniel Reid; Seán Dowd, Conor McCormack, Cathal Mannion; Ryan Gaffey (2-0, 1 pen.), Brian Derwin (0-1 free), Kieran Rigney. Subs. - Mark Egan for Rigney (41), Rigney for McCormack (60).
Good Counsel: Darragh O'Connor; Eoin Porter, Mark O'Neill, Ian Carty (0-2, 1 free); Tadhg Cody, Richie Waters, Joe Sutton; John Roche, Darragh Lyons; Adam Mansfield, Mikie Dwyer (0-3), Mark Rossiter (0-1 free); Jamie Myler (0-2, 1 free), Sam Wall, Martin Fitzharris. Subs. - Liam Stafford for Lyons, inj. (23), Andrew Walsh for Sutton, black card (46), Luke Sinnott for Fitzharris (56), also Richard Walsh, Ciarán O'Connor, Clem Rossiter, Billy Wickham, Martin Doyle, Seán Nolan, Gavin Sheehan, Barry Og McGrath, James O'Shea, Daire Bolger, Aaron Ryan, Micheál Ryan, James Dillon, Emmet Coakley, Shane Doyle, Donal Kiely.
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).