Gusserane gain final spot
Just six teams remained in the running for Greenstar Under-21 football Roinn 1 championship honours by the time Gusserane and Taghmon-Camross clashed under the fine new floodlights in Tom Somers Park in the townsland of Ballygarvan on Saturday.
Gusserane 3-7 Taghmon-Camross 2-6
And although the rival squads were light on numbers, it's fair to suggest that both would have harboured genuine ambitions of going all the way if they could just manage to get over this difficult opening hurdle.
After all, Gusserane started with six of their Senior title-winning crew in netminder Micheál Ryan, central defenders Mark O'Neill and Jack Burford, midfielder John Roche, and chief attackers Mark Rossiter and Seán Ryan.
And for their part, Taghmon-Camross paraded no fewer than seven players who had featured in their Intermediate final victory against Bannow-Ballymitty: David O'Keeffe, Darren Hayden, Darren Carty, Stephen O'Gorman, Ian Carty, Luke Sinnott and Stephen Stafford.
There was plenty of quality on show therefore, many of them either current or past pupils of Good Counsel (New Ross), and ultimately it was Gusserane who put a scoreless spell lasting over 32 minutes behind them to advance to a District final clash with Rathgarogue-Cushinstown.
The home side looked lively in the early stages as they raced into a 1-3 to nil lead before the end of the first quarter.
Team captain Seán 'Mini' Ryan picked off a solo point inside two minutes before Sam Wall - one of seven Minors from their 16 players used - doubled the lead.
Mark Rossiter knocked over the third from a free before Gusserane pounced for their opening goal in the 14th minute.
Martin Fitzharris played a lovely pass to midfielder John Roche who had ghosted into the left corner, and his piledriver was parried by Jack Dunne into the path of Seán Ryan who had no difficulty in guiding the rebound home from close range.
Taghmon-Camross had plenty of the ball but repeatedly took the wrong option, either hitting hopeful kicks short into the arms of a grateful Micheál 'Mouse' Ryan, or missing the target.
They had struck five of their eight first-half wides before Ian Carty finally opened their account with a 20th-minute point, and this led to a much-improved period leading up to the interval.
Indeed, they had the margin down to a manageable 1-3 to 0-3 by half-time after Luke Sinnott pointed following good work by Shane Lacey who dispossessed Micheál Ryan, before Sinnott was fouled and Ian Carty converted.
Taghmon-Camross could have been on level terms by the break but a goalbound Darren Carty shot was well saved in the 23rd minute, while Sinnott then had a kick blocked after receiving a Lacey pass.
The visitors resumed on a real high when team captain Darren Carty cut in from the right wing and unleashed a stinging low drive to the far corner of the net for the equaliser.
However, they couldn't build on that, with ten scoreless minutes following before Gusserane finally ended their drought. Taking additional time at the end of the first period into consideration, they had laboured for more than half an hour without adding to their tally before Mark Rossiter restored their lead from a free (1-4 to 1-3).
He quickly added another, but it was all to play for entering the last quarter and Ian Carty pulled one back from a free for Taghmon-Camross.
A swift but fruitful purple patch between the 50th and 53rd minutes ultimately won it for Gusserane. Seán O'Connor kicked a neat point with his left peg, and Seán Ryan set up Martin Fitzharris for another, before their second goal virtually came out of nothing.
Substitute Oisín Foran swung his boot at a loose ball just inside the 20-metre line and it flew into the bottom corner of Jack Dunne's net for a 2-7 to 1-4 lead.
Ian Carty registered from another free before Gusserane made the game safe in the 58th minute. Seán O'Connor had a chance for a goal but opted for the safer choice of a fisted point, but it came back off a post and the alert Seán Ryan was on hand again to show his opportunism for a second time.
Taghmon-Camross did manage to add 1-1 in the three additional minutes but it was too late. Darren Carty cannoned home his second goal, with the ball coming back into play off a staunchion, before David O'Keeffe came forward to kick the last point.
Gusserane won the toss for home venue for the final, so they will be back in Tom Somers Park next Saturday at 5.30 p.m. to take on Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, hoping to avenge their defeat at the hands of the same opponents in the corresponding hurling final in August.
The O'Rahilly's are the most recent county winners of this competition still left in contention for outright honours, having defeated Duffry Rovers to clinch the Under-21 Roinn 1 championship crown in 2013.
Gusserane: Micheál Ryan; Donal Kinsella, Mark O'Neill, Eoin Foran; Jason Sutton, Jack Burford, Chris Cullen; Ciarán Conway, John Roche; Seán O'Connor (0-1), Mark Rossiter (0-3 frees), Jack Culleton; Martin Fitzharris (0-1), Seán Ryan (capt., 2-1), Sam Wall (0-1). Sub. - Oisín Foran (1-0) for Culleton (44).
Taghmon-Camross: Jack Dunne; Stephen Stafford, Stephen O'Keeffe, Jim Carroll; Barry Og McGrath, David O'Keeffe (0-1), Shane Doyle; Stephen O'Gorman, Darren Hayden; Adam Winters, Ian Carty (0-4, 3 frees), Darren Carty (capt., 2-0); Shane Lacey, Luke Sinnott (0-1), Danny Winters. Sub. - Eoin McLoughlin for D. Winters (47).
Referee: Jack Stafford (Clongeen).