Counsel no match for Kieran's
St. Kieran's 3-12 Good Counsel 3-4
Thomastown has hosted many memorable clashes between Good Counsel and Kilkenny teams down through the years, but the latest instalment on Thursday won't fall into that category as St. Kieran's coasted to a commanding victory in this disappointing Top Oil Leinster Schools Junior hurling 'A' championship final.
The Grennan venue was in fine condition and the weather was lovely given the time of year, but the action never really got off the ground as the Noresiders exercised control after grabbing their first goal in the ninth minute.
Prior to that, respective free-takers Eoin Guilfoyle (Kieran's) and A.J. Redmond (Counsel) had picked off points, but the beginning of the end came when wing-forward Darragh Maher won Stephen Keoghan's puck-out after the latter score and soloed in from the right before planting the ball in Kyle Martin's net.
St. Kieran's were never headed thereafter, with their lead extended to 1-7 to 0-3 by half-time.
Counsel faced the breeze in that opening period and conceded another brace of points to the skilful Conor Kelly before the end of the first quarter.
And their best player, netminder Martin, was kept busy as he advanced smartly to bat the ball clear when Jack Doyle threatened, before making a stunning save to deny Kelly who had moved to full-forward from the '40.
Counsel decided to add manpower to their defence, bringing full-forward Donal Porter to right half-back and utilising Pádraig Dempsey as a sweeper.
However, that was never going to create the platform for getting the scores they needed, with a paltry one goal amassed from open play by their starting attackers.
The tactical decision left David Fogarty free to mop up everything in the Kieran's defence, while their full-back and captain, Harry Walsh, was dominant under the high ball. Jamie Harkin was another stand-out performer in the winners' rearguard, and they added second quarter points from Darragh Maher and an Eoin Guilfoyle trio (two from frees).
Counsel's only point from play came from midfielder Jason Byrne in the 24th minute after a good block and pass by A.J. Redmond who went on to add his second pointed free.
However, Kieran's continued to threaten up to half-time, with Kyle Martin darting off his line once more after Guilfoyle tried to put Stephen Barron through.
It was strange to see Counsel sticking to the five forwards and seven backs ploy on the re-start given that they were chasing the game and in dire need of scores.
And after Guilfoyle converted another quick placed ball, over nine barren minutes elapsed before a long free broke slightly to the right of the New Ross team's goal and Stephen Barron drove it first-time to the net.
At 2-8 to 0-3 it was very much game over, with Darragh Maher widening the gap to twelve before the first of Counsel's consolation goals arrived.
Cian Byrne had looked the most threatening of their forwards on a limited supply, and he got his rewards after pouncing on possibly the only error made by Kieran's full-back Harry Walsh. The Dunnamaggin defender lost possession as he tried to drive out with the ball, and Byrne latched on to it before beating Stephen Keoghan with a composed finish.
Unfortunately, though, it wasn't the start of a comeback, far from it in actual fact. It only served to annoy the leaders as they responded three minutes later.
Their third goal arose from two defensive errors, as a Counsel player soloed into trouble before one of his colleagues was out in front for the subsequent delivery by Stephen Barron but missed his pick-up.
Conor Kelly was lurking behind him and didn't need any encouragement to plant the ball in the net (3-9 to 1-3).
A.J. Redmond sent over a pointed free before he hit a head-high placed ball from 45 metres that went all the way to the Kieran's net in the 53rd minute.
It was still only of consolation value, with Peter McDonald marking his appearance on home soil with a long-range point before Kieran's substitute Jack Sheridan struck the post with a pull.
Counsel did continue to try hard even though they never really stood a chance, and one of their brightest moments arrived in the 58th minute when captain Jack Kehoe embarked on a strong solo run from the right flank, bearing down on goal before flicking home their third major.
There was still time for Oisín Egan to flash a low shot wide, and for Conor Kelly to add another brace of points, before this one-sided contest concluded.
Good Counsel: Kyle Martin (Rathnure); Dylan Whelan (Fethard), Simon Kennedy (Tullogher-Rosbercon), Owen Lennon (Rathnure); Pádraig Dempsey (Rathnure), Emmet Cullen (Mullinavat), Jamie Sheehan (Gusserane); Jack Kehoe (Horeswood, capt., 1-0), Jason Byrne (Graiguenamanagh, 0-1); A.J. Redmond (Rathnure, 1-3 frees), Robin Davis (Mullinavat), Colman O'Sullivan (Tullogher-Rosbercon); Cian Byrne (Fethard, 1-0), Donal Porter (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Conor Kehoe (St. Mullins). Subs. - Luke Byrne-Doyle (Mullinavat) for O'Sullivan (39), Jack Elliot (Glenmore) for Sheehan (41), Darragh Roche (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown) for Davis (47), Paddy Whitty (Cloughbawn) for J. Byrne (52), also Neil Ennis (Horeswood), Ian Mansfield (Mullinavat), Anthony O'Connor (Tullogher-Rosbercon), Joe O'Sullivan (Horeswood), Brian Walsh (Tullogher-Rosbercon).
St. Kieran's: Stephen Keoghan; Andy Hickey, Harry Walsh (capt.), Jim Ryan; David Fogarty, Pádraic Moylan, Jamie Harkin; Killian Rudkins, Peter McDonald (0-1); Darragh Maher (1-2), Conor Kelly (1-4), Stephen Barron (1-0); Jack Doyle, Peter Donohoe, Eoin Guilfoyle (0-5, 4 frees). Subs. - Pádraic Foley for Doyle (42), Jack Sheridan for Barron (50), Alex Moore for Donohoe (57).
Referee: Pat Moran (Laois).