Counsel in control
Good Counsel's forward march towards another potential Leinster Senior football 'A' championship title continued in Bray on Thursday when they comfortably dismissed the combined Wicklow Schools at the quarter-final stage with 22 points to spare.
Good Counsel 3-16 Wicklow Schools 0-3
Corner-forward Martin Fitzharris had two points on the board inside three minutes with one off either foot. After that shaky start Wicklow got up to the speed of the game and came into the match.
They won plenty of the ball around the middle third and worked it well up the field, but once inside the Good Counsel 45-metre line the passing was poor.
The holders seemed to have more players on the pitch when they turned over the ball because they always had a man free for a pass. They turned defence into attack at pace and, with forwards in the mood for scoring, the Wicklow defenders were under pressure.
Wing-forward Mark Rossiter punished Wicklow with two frees before Mikie Dwyer scored two goals. He latched onto a rebound for an easy first but his second demonstrated Good Counsel's gameplan.
A long ball was won by full-forward Sam Wall who laid it off to the onrushing Dwyer to finish it well past Mark Jackson. They had many other opportunities trying a similar tactic though it didn't always work out.
When players sprint with the ball it is extremely difficult for defenders to stop them, and Good Counsel's forward movement was excellent. Mark Rossiter scored his first point from play and Counsel led by 2-5 to no score on 20 minutes.
Again, the score didn't reflect the match as a whole as Wicklow's good play was let down when near their rivals' goal. Mark Jackson came up from goal to register Wicklow's first point, from a long-range free, before the teams traded points in the last few minutes of the first-half. Good Counsel led by 2-6 to 0-2 at the break.
The second-half turned into a nightmare for the Wicklow team as Good Counsel continued to pull away. The game lost all intensity in the final 15 minutes. Seán Nolan came on for the Wexford side and scored three points to stake a claim for a starting spot in Good Counsel's semi-final.
Wicklow deserved a few scores in the second-half to leave the end result looking a little better but they shot a number of wides. Roan Lynch did drive towards goal but his space was suffocated by retreating defenders.
There was a gulf in class though; Good Counsel are a powerhouse in schools football and it will take a good team to beat them.
Good Counsel: Darragh O'Connor; Richie Waters, Mark O'Neill, Eoin Porter; Tadhg Cody, Ian Carty, Liam Stafford; John Roche, Darragh Lyons; Adam Mansfield (0-1), Mikie Dwyer (2-1), Mark Rossiter (0-6, 2 frees); Joe Sutton (1-1), Sam Wall (0-1), Martin Fitzharris (0-3). Subs. - Ciarán O'Connor for Lyons (48), Billy Wickham for Dwyer (48), Seán Nolan (0-3) for Sutton (48), Daire Bolger for Fitzharris (52), Clem Rossiter for Porter (55).
Wicklow Schools: Mark Jackson (0-1 free); Elliott Robinson, Shane Beevor, Liam Kinsella; Stephen Connor, Tom Maher, Thomas Kearns; Paddy Kelly, Cal Kelly; Mark Barrett, Conor Byrne (0-2), Darragh Fitzgerald; Chris Heaslip, Roan Lynch, Colin O'Toole. Subs. - Mark Keenan for O'Toole (35), Eoin McTague for Connor (38), Jack Bellamy for Heaslip (44), Justin House for Kearns (48).
Referee: Brendan Hickey (Kildare).