Counsel see red
Naas C.B.S. 3-9 Good Counsel 0-8
Sarcams was deployed to telling effect in Páirc Uí Bhríain, Carlow, on Tuesday after a controversial decision had a huge bearing on the outcome of the Top Oil South Leinster Schools Junior football 'A' championship final.
Referee David Hickey was walking past a section of the Good Counsel support after the game when they broke into a spontaneous round of applause, and it most definitely wasn't in praise of his performance.
The big talking point arose within ten feet of where I was standing after nine minutes when Paddy McDermott of Naas C.B.S. hurtled down the left sideline on a solo run.
Counsel captain Donal Porter, considerably taller than his opponent, raced across to make a tackle which he mistimed, catching his opponent around the neck.
It was a typical incident seen so often in football matches, where the difference in height between two players moving at pace lends itself to inadvertent high challenges.
More often than not, they are punished by yellow cards, but referee Hickey didn't see it that way despite there being no intent on the part of the Counsel midfielder.
He didn't deal with the incident immediately, instead spending two minutes checking on the well-being of the Naas player with their mentors close at hand.
And when he finally conversed with Porter, the straight red card dished out was harsh in the extreme. The young player was distraught, understandably so, and ultimately it cost Counsel dearly as the Kildare side made their extra player count.
The sides were level (0-2 each) at the time of the dismissal, after points from Jamie Sheehan and a Cian Byrne free drew quick responses from Drew Costello and Sam Morrissey (free) respectively.
And in fairness to Counsel, they were outstanding in an eleven-minute period after the sending-off, kicking three points on the bounce from Joe O'Sullivan, Emmet Cullen and A.J. Redmond as they channelled their anger in a positive manner.
The Naas contingent were growing restless on the sideline, but they finally managed to break out of their own half approaching the interval, creating a couple of inevitable overlaps that led to goals and changed the complexion of the game.
Paddy McDermott, showing no after-effects from that Donal Porter challenge, played a one-two with full-forward Eoin Valentine before cracking home a fine equalising goal in the 28th minute (1-2 to 0-5).
And added time brought a further boost to the pre-match hot favourites as they hit the front for the first time, with Sam Morrissey popping a pass to Drew Costello who rattled the net.
Adam Sinnott had an immediate chance to hit back after catching a long ball from Jack Kehoe and turning past his marker, but his shot was well saved by David Morrissey.
At least there was the small consolation of a late pointed free from A.J. Redmond, leaving Counsel trailing by 2-2 to 0-6 at the interval.
The opening twelve minutes of the new half provided more worrying times for Naas as they were very wasteful in front of goal, kicking five wides including two scoreable frees and also seeing an attempt on goal from Eoin Valentine saved by Kyle Martin.
They only managed one point in that spell, from Michael McGovern, and with Joe O'Sullivan responding - from a Rory O'Connor handpass after a strong run by Emmet Cullen - there was still hope for Counsel with just two points still between them.
That started to fade midway through the half as Naas finally got into a decent scoring rhythm and McGovern (free), Kevin Quinn and McGovern from play nailed three points on the trot (2-6 to 0-7).
Eoin Valentine fluffed a goal chance before Paddy McDermott widened the gap to six, and there was no way back for Counsel.
Another successful McGovern free was followed by the clinching third goal in the 56th minute, with the same player supplying the finish after Valentine had initially claimed a mark from the kick-out.
Simon Murphy made it 3-9 to 0-7 before an incident borne out of total frustration led to Counsel being reduced further to 13 players.
Wing-forward Cian Byrne had been fouled repeatedly throughout, with the two markers deployed on him at different stages both picking up yellow cards.
And when he had a shot blocked after a pass from Owen Lennon in search of a consolation goal, an out of character act resulted in referee Hickey flashing another red card.
Two Counsel players queried the decision and were promptly shown yellows, and there was still time for the official from Fenagh to annoy the losers' contingent even more in added time.
Owen Lennon lobbed the ball in and, although he was clearly held, Emmet Cullen knocked it down to Pádraig Dempsey who fired a shot to the net.
The referee was oblivious to the clear advantage unfortunately, having blown his whistle and awarding a free that Cullen took and was parried over the bar.
Cullen, Jack Kehoe - who also had a late goal attempt saved - and A.J. Redmond in particular gave everything they had for Counsel, but the odds were simply stacked against them after that harsh early decision.
Good Counsel: Kyle Martin (Rathnure); Owen Lennon (Rathnure), Pádraig Dempsey (Mullinavat), Killian Griffin (Glenmore); Dylan Whelan (Fethard), Jack Kehoe (Horeswood), Luke Byrne-Doyle (Mullinavat); Donal Porter (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, capt.), Emmet Cullen (Gusserane, 0-2, 1 free); Cian Byrne (Fethard, 0-1 free), Colman O'Sullivan (Tullogher-Rosbercon), Jamie Sheehan (Gusserane, 0-1); Joe O'Sullivan (Horeswood, 0-2), A.J. Redmond (Rathnure, 0-2, 1 free), Adam Sinnott (Taghmon-Camross). Subs. - Rory O'Connor (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown) for Whelan (HT), John Harpur (Bannow-Ballymitty) for C. O'Sullivan (46), Cathal Cummins (Bannow-Ballymitty) for Sheehan (51), Jason Byrne (Graiguenamanagh) for J. O'Sullivan (55), Jack Elliott (Glenmore) for Redmond, inj. (59), also Anthony O'Connor (Tullogher-Rosbercon), Rúairí O'Brien (Adamstown), Darragh Roche (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Matthew Foley (Horeswood), Jason Murphy (Horeswood), James Rossiter (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Ian Stafford (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), Daniel Nash (Taghmon-Camross), Liam Og Doyle (St. James'), Sam Wallace (St. James'), Liam Ryan (Gusserane).
Naas C.B.S.: David Morrissey; Ben Noone, Will Purcell, Mark Maguire; Paul Dockery, Eamon Dunne, Simon Murphy (0-1); Alex Beirne (capt.), Drew Costello (1-1); Sam Morrissey (0-1 free), Paddy McDermott (1-1), Kevin Quinn (0-1); Jamie Osbourne, Eoin Valentine, Michael McGovern (1-4, 0-2 frees). Subs. - Joe Murphy for Osbourne (53), Paul Harney for Dockery (58), Eoghan Maguire for Valentine (60+1).
Referee: David Hickey (Carlow).