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Monday 16 September 2019

Good Counsel survive

GAA: Leinster Colleges SFC 'A' Replay

The Good Counsel (New Ross) squad which simply cannot be separated from Scoil Dara (Kilcock)
The Good Counsel (New Ross) squad which simply cannot be separated from Scoil Dara (Kilcock)

Alan Aherne in Baconstown

Whatever else happens in this campaign, one thing simply cannot be disputed: the current crop of Senior footballers from Good Counsel are proudly upholding the best traditions of the school at the highest level which have been honed over 20 years.

Good Counsel 1-11 Scoil Dara 0-14 (AET)

One of the best traits of all teams wearing the blue and white colours since the breakthrough was made in 1993 is their utter refusal to accept defeat, not to mention an unwavering belief in their own ability.

And those qualities were clearly evident once more in Baconstown, Co. Meath, on Thursday when the Counsel versus Scoil Dara (Kilcock) saga continued with another draw. On this occasion the Kildare school kicked the levelling points at the end of both normal and extra-time, just six days after their Ross rivals had done likewise in the teams' first encounter.

As a result, a third meeting will be required to determine the quarter-final opponents for Coláiste Mhuire (Mullingar), and it really is impossible to predict the likely outcome.

Counsel didn't have the best of preparations for this replay which was played in the Na Fianna club grounds on a perfect December afternoon for football.

An accident in Sallins which blocked the road forced their bus to take a messy detour, and their late arrival was the last thing they needed.

Referee Pat Moran was also affected on his journey though which was a blessing in disguise for Counsel, as it enabled them to do a decent warm-up before the action started 20 minutes behind schedule.

They were without two first-choice defenders in Gavin Sheehan and Jimmy Sutton through injury, with Eamonn O'Sullivan and Eric Cummins starting after being introduced during the drawn game.

It was noticeable from the throw-in that Kilcock had assigned specific defenders for man-marking roles, with full-back Daniel Devine moving into the corner to keep tabs on Luke Sinnott, while Lee Loughnane was tasked with following Jamie Myler.

It's easy enough to explain why Counsel didn't advance this time around, as they had 17 wides compared to a mere nine from their rivals.

They were particularly wayward in the early stages, with seven of their ten first-half misses coming before Seán Nolan finally got them off the mark in the 15th minute.

Scoil Dara had registered three times beforehand, courtesy of Meath Minor Ethan Devine (free), Conor Frayne, and Dean Hosey who hadn't featured in the drawn game.

Richard Hennessy moved back immediately from the Counsel attack to aid their defence, with Kilcock captain Conor Harnan left free to sweep for a short while before Diarmuid Kehoe moved up on him.

The visitors had ample possession but had left their shooting boots on the bus, with Luke Sinnott also striking the post with a point-scoring effort and dropping another kick short amid that plethora of wides.

Fortunately, Scoil Dara landed three attempts into the grateful arms of Fionn Slattery in the first-half alone, and the sides ended up on level terms by the interval (0-4 each).

Seán Nolan's opener for Counsel came in a move featuring midfielders Darragh Lyons and Andy Walsh plus Diarmuid Kehoe, and they narrowed the gap to one in the 18th minute when Eric Cummins was fouled as he kicked, but referee Moran played a good advantage and allowed the score to stand when the ball went over the bar.

Kilcock threatened a goal in the 23rd minute when a lovely overhead flick by Dean Hosey gave Luke Kelly a clear run at goal, but the full-forward's shot was blocked by a defender.

Conor Frayne did manage to push them 4-2 clear seconds later, but Counsel doubled their tally in a fruitful spell near half-time.

Kilcock goalkeeper Fionn Talbot carelessly kicked a free to Diarmuid Kehoe who set up Luke Sinnott to split the posts, and the visitors were motoring again when Eamonn O'Sullivan won the kick-out and fed his Horeswood colleague, Seán Nolan.

Team captain Darragh Lyons delivered the final pass to Jamie Myler whose thumping drive was aimed at goal but was turned over the bar in acrobatic fashion by netminder Talbot.

Kilcock had been facing into a low sun in the opening half, but it faded before the second period started on an afternoon when every score was hard-earned.

Counsel edged ahead for the first time in the 36th minute when Eoin Porter expertly converted a free off the ground after a foul on Luke Sinnott.

Seán Martin levelled within 60 seconds, but Ethan Devine was denied a possible goal by a fine tackle and later missed a scoreable free.

In between Jamie Myler - now part of a two-man full-forward line with Sinnott - had earned and scored from a free, and Counsel opened up a gap of two for the first time in the 36th minute when Seán Nolan finished good work by midfielders Andy Walsh and Darragh Lyons (0-7 to 0-5).

Ethan Devine hit back from a Shane Walsh pass, with the two-point margin restored in the 54th minute when Jamie Myler's left peg did the needful.

Scoil Dara are proving doughty battlers in their first year in the top flight though, with their panel of 30 split evenly between Kildare players from Kilcock (twelve), Cappagh (two) and St. Kevin's (one), along with a Meath contingent from Na Fianna (six), Summerhill (six) and Moynalvey (three).

And two of their Royal county crew saved the day, with Ethan Devine knocking over a free before Conor Harnan wasn't spotted as he moved upfield to collect a line ball and force extra-time for the second week running.

The finish was frantic, with Darragh O'Connor blocking a point attempt by Conor Frayne at one end, and Seán Nolan denied in similar fashion with Counsel's best chance.

The blue and whites were probably happier to hear the final whistle after 70 seconds of added time, as Shane Walsh had kicked a Kilcock wide and Luke Kelly was on the ball in a threatening position as the home side looked to press home their advantage.

Tiring legs ensured that the scores came easier in the first added period, with Eric Cummins and Adam Murphy - now at corner-forward - swapping points before Kilcock gained an edge with further scores from substitute Cillian Thornton and Seán Martin (0-11 to 0-9).

However, that advantage was shortlived, as Thornton's attempted crossfield line ball to Conor Harnan was intercepted by Darragh Lyons who gave it to Eoin Porter before receiving the return.

The captain timed his second pass to the overlapping centre-back to perfection and, after evading a tackle, Porter slammed a low shot to the net.

Jamie Myler followed up with a point to leave Counsel 1-10 to 0-11 clear at the break, but they had shipped a heavy blow before those scores when influential midfielder Andy Walsh was helped off with an injury which is likely to keep him out of the third meeting.

Scoil Dara upped their game again in the last ten minutes, with Ethan Devine the key figure. He reduced the gap to one after the ball was re-cycled to him when his '45 hit the post, and added a free to draw level midway through the half.

Just as he had done when kicking the equaliser in the first tie, full-back Darragh O'Connor made a telling intervention, surging forward to accept a Darragh Lyons pass and in turn find Jamie Myler who was taken down by Daniel Devine.

Myler rose off the turf to tap over the lead point from the free, but it still wasn't enough.

Ethan Devine ensured a third meeting, with Ciarán Smith handpassing to him on the left before he moved into a central position and kicked the leveller which shaved the inside of the post.

Referee Moran opted to play just 40 seconds of added time even though Darragh Lyons had been down for a good deal longer with a back injury, but nobody complained too much as this fascinating saga now moves on to a third meeting.

Good Counsel: Fionn Slattery (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown); Cathal O'Connor (Rathnure), Darragh O'Connor (Cloughbawn), Eamonn O'Sullivan (Horeswood); Diarmuid Kehoe (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), Eoin Porter (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, 1-1, 0-1 free), Jamie Wallace (St. James'); Andy Walsh (St. James'), Darragh Lyons (St. James', capt.); Richard Hennessy (Glenmore), Jamie Myler (St. James', 0-5, 2 frees), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-2); Sam Wall (Gusserane), Eric Cummins (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, 0-2), Luke Sinnott (Taghmon-Camross, 0-1). Subs. - Emmett Coakley (Graiguenamanagh) for Wallace (50), Tommy Ryan (Gusserane) for Walsh, inj. (66).

Scoil Dara: Fionn Talbot; Daniel Devine, Jack Bruton, Adam Murphy (0-1); Conor Harnan (capt., 0-1), Lee Loughnane, Cormac Divilly; Ciarán Smith, Shane Walsh; Ethan Devine (0-6, 3 frees), Seán Martin (0-2), Matthew Brennan; Dean Hosey (0-1), Luke Kelly, Conor Frayne (0-2). Subs. - Cillian Thornton (0-1) for Hosey (ET), Oran Smullen for Brennan (70).

Referee: Pat Moran (Laois).

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