Final spot secured
Kilanerin 0-13 St. Mary's 2-4
Despite an horrific start against St. Mary's of Rochfortbridge, Kilanerin bossed their way into the AIB Leinster Club Intermediate football championship final in Páirc Uí Shíocháin, Gorey, on Saturday.
The Wexford champs got caught cold by two goals in the opening nine minutes and, in truth, could have been even further behind, but they stuck to their gameplan, played with great intensity in difficult conditions, and eventually got what they deserved.
As opposed to the poor, broken fare on offer seven days earlier against Raheens, both sides looked to play football in this game and it definitely suited the hosts. They moved the ball with purpose, completely comfortable with what they wanted to achieve.
That's all well and good but, at this stage of the season, you'd better have plenty in the tank. Kilanerin might not be as youthful as some sides - they have a smattering of all ages, a good mix - but they are clearly well prepared and they soldiered on relentlessly like a group of Minors.
Initial signs were good, as Dean O'Toole lofted one high and handsome strike just over the crossbar inside 40 seconds, but their opponents had clearly shaken off the cobwebs from their long trip south in the warm-up.
Just moments later they attacked through Ian Keelan. He looked to go long to Paul Carey and was successful. The Rochfortbridge attacker was tumbled over with a nudge in the back and the visitors had a penalty.
Eoin Gorman took on the responsibility but dragged his left-footed strike a little. It wasn't clean and, even had it went the right side of the post, Tom Hughes, who was down early and going the correct way, probably would have made the save.
Still, they didn't dwell on that miss. Dwayne Leavy robbed possession high up the field and was away. He found Gorman, and the attacker's point attempted clattered the metalwork before falling kindly to Keelan who found the net at the second attempt.
Buoyed by the loud travelling support, St. Mary's sensed blood. Colin Gavin's long diagonal was all too easily taken by Ned Cully, who cut across goal and fired past Hughes, who was probably going to be penalised for a footblock had he made the save.
Down by 2-0 to 0-1, Kilanerin got lucky again in the ninth minute when Paul Carey just failed to get a fist on Keelan's hopeful ball from the edge of the square. From a position of complete dominance, St. Mary's rarely threatened again in the half.
Instead, Matty Forde took over. His first point in the twelfth minute was followed by another one minute later after the excellent Niall Hughes was fouled. On the loop, he added his third in the 23rd minute after a good, crisp feed by Niall Breen.
An over-carrying infringement saw Forde claim point number four, and he fired his side level (0-6 to 2-0) in the 25th minute after being found by Mark Boland.
Now bossing the game, great work by Mark Gethings gave Forde his sixth, and another in added time, after Emmet O'Toole was halted illegally, made it 0-8 to 2-0 at the break.
Any hopes that the half-time interval, and a couple of changes, might have lit a fire in the visitors proved to be false. Conor Devitt flighted over after Forde's ball fell short before the former All Star added his eighth after he was fouled in the 35th minute.
Snapping 36 minutes of uninspired football without a score, St. Mary's finally broke their point duck when Keelan hit the target. They ended the third quarter with a Niall Cully free to leave just two between the sides (0-10 to 2-2).
Starting to gain a foothold, the last thing St. Mary's needed was to lose Luke Gallagher to a straight red card for a strike on Matty Forde on the ground. Much like they reacted to their own dismissal seven days earlier, Kilanerin responded positively to the change in circumstances.
Forde hit the target for the ninth time after Bobby Hughes was fouled and then the influential substitute was on target himself with a fine finish. That put the Gorey District side 0-12 to 2-2 up, with one foot in the final.
Their spot would have been secured were it not for a stunning Fran Heavey save from Dean O'Toole in the 52nd minute, but Niall Hughes did convert the resulting '45 to put five points between the sides.
Francis Duffy and Keelan added late points for Rochfortbridge but Kilanerin were as comfortable as a team could be in injury time with a three-point lead. The victors will be in provincial final action on November 25 against the winners of the other semi-final between Ballyboughal (Dublin) and Curraha (Meath).
Kilanerin: Tom Hughes; Denis Jones, Brendan Hobbs, Aidan Jones; Gavin O'Toole, Colm Kavanagh (capt.), Richard Hughes; Niall Breen, Niall Hughes (0-1 '45); Mark Boland, Matty Forde (0-9, 7 frees), Mark Gethings; Emmet O'Toole, Peter Hughes, Dean O'Toole (0-1). Subs. - Conor Devitt (0-1) for P. Hughes (24), Bobby Hughes (0-1) for Gethings (42), Tommy Boland for E. O'Toole (45), Rhys Owley for Devitt (60).
St. Mary's: Fran Heavey; Eoin Fallon, Luke Gallagher, Adam Kavanagh; Eddie Alford, Peter Lalor, Enda Cully; Ned Cully (1-0), Seán Lyster; Colin Gavin, Niall Cully (capt., 0-1 free), Dwayne Leavy; Eoin Gorman, Paul Carey, Ian Keelan (1-2, 0-1 free). Subs. - Francis Duffy (0-1) for Gorman (31), Dermot Judge for Fallon (31), Jake Byrne for Carey (40), Joe Bradley for Gavin (40), Siya Nxumalo for E. Cully, inj. (57).
Referee: Noel McKenna (Kildare).