Counsel stretched to limit
Full-back forces replay with equaliser after extra-time
Good Counsel will make the long journey to north Kildare for this week's replay with a justifiable degree of trepidation after extra-time couldn't separate them from an impressive Scoil Dara (Kilcock) side in this Top Oil Leinster Colleges Senior football 'A' championship second round tie at the New Ross school's home ground on Friday.
Good Counsel 1-12 Scoil Dara 0-15 (AET)
An opportunist goal from substitute Emmett Coakley proved of crucial importance as a visiting team backboned by numerous Meath Minors gave the Barrowsiders the toughest test imaginable in a lively contest that ended with the light fading fast.
And although one side of the field was lined with Counsel supporters, they weren't as vocal as usual and that was due in no small measure to the performance of Kilcock who had the advantage of a big first round over St. Fintan's (Sutton) under their belts.
Counsel, who had a bye and were therefore making their debut, nearly drew first blood inside two minutes when Diarmuid Kehoe played a one-two with Luke Sinnott and raced through, but goalkeeper Fionn Talbot denied him with a fine save.
There was the consolation of seeing Eoin Porter stroking the '45 which arose over the bar, and a left-footed effort from Seán Nolan doubled their tally in the fourth minute.
Nolan and Jamie Myler carried the main firepower up front for Counsel in the first-half in particular, and they were threatening every time they had the ball.
However, Luke Sinnott got no change out of a superb full-back in Daniel Devine, while Kilcock captain Conor Harnan, who has a proud pedigree as part of a respected Meath football family, was outstanding on the right flank.
Counsel's rivals didn't manage a shot on goal until the eighth minute when Ethan Devine, another Meath Minor who scored 2-5 in the first round, dropped an effort short.
The home team had been doing fine up to that point, and they stretched their lead to three points when Jamie Myler converted a free after Luke Sinnott did well to keep a Sam Wall pass in play.
Ethan Devine opened the Kilcock account from a free before Myler had a clear run on goal after Andy Walsh's delivery went over the head of centre-back Cormac Divilly, but he didn't connect properly with his shot and it was easily saved.
Luke Kelly narrowed the gap to one before Seán Nolan supplied the last pass as Myler left Counsel with a 0-4 to 0-2 lead in the 18th minute.
Kilcock replied in an instant, with Ethan Devine's high kick given as a point by the one neutral umpire at the school end goal after the student on the other post had signalled a wide.
I was directly behind the flight of the ball on the sideline and it looked like a point in my opinion.
Counsel continued to keep their noses in front, with the lively Seán Nolan availing of a Darragh Lyons pass to slot over his second point before teeing up Jamie Myler for his third.
That made it 6-3 after 27 minutes, but Kilcock hit back as an Ethan Devine kick was partially blocked by Darragh O'Connor and ended up going over the bar.
Devine won the subsequent kick-out and located Seán Martin who added another point, but a very good kick from the in-form Jamie Myler left Counsel with a 0-7 to 0-5 interval lead.
Interval substitute Cillian Thornton picked off a Kilcock point inside three minutes of the re-start, and there was never more than one point between them for the rest of an absorbing half.
Counsel lost Gavin Sheehan to injury, moving Jimmy Sutton to corner-back and bringing Diarmuid Kehoe back to the right flank of the defence as Eric Cummins came on.
Ethan Devine drew Kilcock level from a free but they let their rivals off the hook during a spell of supremacy as Seán Martin shot tamely with a goal on the cards while Shane Walsh was unfortunate to see a point attempt come back off the crossbar.
Seán Nolan, who normally favours his left, utilised his right boot to edge Counsel back in front in the 42nd minute, but a strong solo run by Adam Murphy who had moved to wing-forward create the space for Martin to equalise.
Luke Sinnott swung a shot on goal wide after good work by Richard Hennessy and Nolan, while Eric Cummins had an effort saved less than a minute later by netminder Fionn Talbot.
Cummins did manage to kick a point from a Sinnott pass to push Counsel ahead again (0-9 to 0-8) in the 49th minute, but Ethan Devine replied for Kilcock just over 30 seconds later.
Darragh O'Connor caught a Devine free in his square and cleared as the clock ticked down, but the blue and whites simply couldn't shake off their persistent rivals despite a pointed Jamie Myler free in the 56th minute.
Indeed, they ended up having to rescue the game and force extra-time after a brace of points from Kilcock midfielder Shane Walsh, with the second score which gave them the lead from a brilliant kick from just inside the 45-metre line.
Ethan Devine had to stretch to swing his boot at a ball which fortunately for Counsel went across goal with nobody close enough to get a touch before being cleared.
It was a time for cool heads, and in that situation there's nobody better to do his stuff than centre-back Eoin Porter who came forward to kick the leveller from a Sam Wall pass, swivelling on to his left with precious little room to spare before finally giving the home support plenty to cheer about.
The full-time whistle sounded on the kick-out, after Wall was treated for an injury, and it was an impossible game to call at that stage.
Kilcock resumed best as Conor Harnan soloed upfield to fist over a point, but Counsel got the break they needed in the third minute of extra-time. A Scoil Dara defender was tackled as he came out with the ball, and Emmett Coakley saw an opening in front of him and powered towards goal before crashing it into the far corner of the net for a 1-11 to 0-12 lead.
Tired limbs were the order of the day as Counsel kicked four wides before the break while Kilcock landed three efforts short, although Ethan Devine did stroke over a late free to leave one between the sides.
Another Devine free levelled matters, and it took some desperate defending to deny Kilcock goals on two occasions.
Indeed, the visitors appealed for penalties twice but referee John Hickey was content to award a couple of '45s, with the second played short before being re-cycled to midfielder Shane Walsh who kicked his side into a 0-15 to 1-11 lead.
Counsel had shown character to draw level at the end of normal time, and they did it all over again.
This time full-back Darragh O'Connor was the saviour, surging forward to join the attack and getting on the end of a move featuring Rathgarogue-Cushinstown duo Eoin Porter and Eric Cummins to drive over the equaliser on the run.
It's going to be a tall order to head into the lion's den in Kilcock and try to come away with a victory, although at least Counsel now have the benefit of match practice. They've pulled off many famous wins over the past 20-plus years though, and to succeed in the replay would rank right up there with the best of them given the strength of this Kilcock side.
Good Counsel: Fionn Slattery (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown); Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane), Darragh O'Connor (Cloughbawn, 0-1), Cathal O'Connor (Rathnure); Jimmy Sutton (Fethard), Eoin Porter (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, 0-2, 1 '45), Jamie Wallace (St. James'); Andy Walsh (St. James'), Darragh Lyons (St. James', capt.); Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-3), Jamie Myler (St. James', 0-5, 2 frees), Diarmuid Kehoe (Geraldine O'Hanrahans); Sam Wall (Gusserane), Luke Sinnott (Taghmon-Camross), Richard Hennessy (Glenmore). Subs. - Eric Cummins (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, 0-1) for Sheehan, inj. (34), Emmett Coakley (Graiguenamanagh, 1-0) for Wallace (53), Richard Gill (Tullogher-Rosbercon) for Walsh (70), Eamonn O'Sullivan (Horeswood) for Sutton, inj. (76).
Scoil Dara: Fionn Talbot; Jack Bruton, Daniel Devine, Adam Murphy; Conor Harnan (capt., 0-1), Cormac Divilly, Tim McCarthy; Ciarán Smith, Shane Walsh (0-3); Ethan Devine (0-7, 4 frees), Seán Martin (0-2), Matthew Brennan; Conor Frayne, Luke Kelly (0-1), Lee Loughnane. Sub. - Cillian Thornton (0-1) for McCarthy (HT).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).