Good fortune favours Counsel
Good Counsel 3-7 Naas C.B.S.1-13
Naas C.B.S. will have made the return journey to Kildare on Wednesday wondering how on earth they didn't seal the deal in the Good Counsel grounds when the new-look Top Oil Leinster Schools Senior football 'A' championship began with an unlikely share of the spoils.
This Group D clash looked to be out of the home side's reach when they trailed by seven points with just over five minutes of normal time left (1-12 to 1-5).
However, the blue and whites are renowned for their battling qualities, and somehow they managed to salvage a point from a game that had been dominated by the wasteful visitors for such a large period.
Super-sub Richard Foley had made an instant impression after replacing the injured Kevin O'Donohoe in the 42nd minute, lashing home the rebound with his first touch after Counsel's most influential player, Seán Nolan, had a shot saved.
That goal brought the sides level (1-5 to 0-8), but it was followed by a sustained outbreak of accuracy from a Naas side which had squandered chance after chance beforehand.
Free-taker Luke Griffin restored their lead before big full-forward Darragh Kirwan embarked on a one-man scoring spree, getting on the end of a succession of flowing passing moves.
He kicked a point that was hotly disputed by Counsel co-manager Kevin Kehoe before Barry Kehoe won the subsequent kick-out and fed him for a coolly-finished goal that pushed Naas clear by 1-10 to 1-5 with eight minutes left.
All seemed lost for the hosts when Kirwan and Griffin (free) extended the gap to seven, but there was one big kick left in the Counsel crew who knew that defeat would plant a dagger in their qualification hopes.
Everything good created by the Barrowsiders involved Seán Nolan in some shape or form, with his handpass setting up Richard Foley for a second goal that revived hopes in the 57th minute (1-12 to 2-5).
Another new arrival, Robert Cogley, followed that good example by blasting another Nolan off-load to the net with just over 90 seconds of normal time left, and then the Horeswood playmaker kicked the levelling point himself from a Pádraig Bailey pass (3-6 to 1-12).
Naas were stunned, but an Ian Blackburne mark from the kick-out ended with the last of Darragh Kirwan's five points to restore their lead.
Counsel didn't want that revival to be in vain, though, and Seán Nolan finished a blinding solo run with another superb equaliser just under 80 seconds into added time.
And he came close to snatching a win that would have been nothing short of daylight robbery, kicking his side's fifth wide in the third extra minute before referee Pat Moran brought proceedings to a conclusion.
It was hard to credit that Naas only led by 0-5 to 0-4 at the interval, as they had laid siege to the home side's posts. Killian Thompson, Barry Kehoe and Thompson again had them three points clear before Counsel managed their first shot - a Diarmuid Kehoe wide - in the tenth minute.
And although Oisín Knox opened the hosts' account from a Seán Nolan pass, they didn't fare a great deal better in the second quarter.
Nolan and Luke Griffin exchanged points from frees before the former set up Kevin O'Donohoe to make it a one-point game in the 25th minute.
And that's how it stayed at half-time after Killian Thompson's third drew a late response from Seán Nolan with a brilliant kick off his right when the opposition expected him to favour his left.
Apart from topping the wides count 7-2 by that stage, Naas also saw three point attempts strike the post while a couple of frees were dropped short.
And though Colm Joyce quickly put them two clear on the re-start, their squandermania continued as Luke Griffin blazed a penalty to the left and wide in the 34th minute after a foul on Joyce.
Darragh Kirwan started to come into his own then with a handpassed point followed by a neat left-footed effort, but Seán Nolan pulled back a point before Richard Foley finished the rebound from his goalbound effort to the net.
Naas looked to have done enough with that unanswered response of 1-4, but Counsel's strong finish ensures they have everything to play for when they travel to Edenderry this Wednesday to take on the highly-rated local St. Mary's side in their last round robin game.
With just one team to advance from the group, and Naas still to play the Offaly team, it means that the New Ross reps. must win this game or they will make an early exit.
An interesting inclusion on their starting 15 last Wednesday was Westmeath's Ciarán O'Brien, nephew of team mentor and former Wexford Senior manager Aidan O'Brien, who is repeating his Leaving Certificate in Good Counsel.
Good Counsel: Kyle Martin (Rathnure); Eamonn O'Sullivan (Horeswood), Tommy Ryan (Gusserane), Eoin Ryan (Gusserane); Darragh Hartley (Glenmore), Jack Kehoe (Horeswood), Diarmuid Kehoe (Geraldine O'Hanrahans); Michael Cleere (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane, capt.); Kevin O'Donohoe (Gusserane, 0-1), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-5, 1 free), Ciarán O'Brien (Ballinagore, Westmeath); Seán Holden (Graiguenamanagh), Oisín Knox (Mullinavat, 0-1), Cathal Doyle (Taghmon-Camross). Subs. - Pádraig Bailey (Geraldine O'Hanrahans) for O'Brien (32), Michael Galavan (The Rower-Inistioge) for Hartley (32), Richard Foley (Graiguenamanagh, 2-0) for O'Donohoe, inj. (42), Mark Kehoe (Gusserane) for Cleere (56), Robert Cogley (Bannow-Ballymitty, 1-0) for Holden (56).
Naas C.B.S.: David Morrissey; Cathal Daly, Conall O Gallachobhair, Jack Hamill; Jack Sargent, Liam Broderick, Stephen Davis; Ian Blackburne, Rian Boran; Killian Thompson (0-3), Tony O'Connor, Barry Kehoe (0-1); Luke Griffin (0-3 frees), Darragh Kirwan (1-5), Colm Joyce (0-1). Subs. - Eoghan Prizeman for Davis (50), Murray O'Byrne for Kirwan, inj. (60+1).
Referee: Pat Moran (Laois).