Super Blues unstoppable
Barrowsiders one step from retaining Junior 'A' crown
Good Counsel's golden run on the Post-Primary Schools scene continued in the welcome sunshine at Duggan Park, Ballinasloe on Saturday when the reigning All-Ireland Junior 'A' football champions qualified for a second successive final with a commanding win over Rice College (Westport).
Good Counsel 4-9 Rice College 0-7
It took the super blues a full 20 minutes to really get into their stride, but once they did they were far superior to the Connacht side which relied on a couple of individuals to drive its challenge.
In contrast, the better-balanced Counsel had key figures all over the field and ended up cruising home, although they can expect a far stiffer test in the decider judging by the 5-25 to 0-4 hammering which St. Brendan's of Killarney dished out to St. Mary's (Clady) in the other semi-final in Kildare town on Saturday.
Both sides utilised an extra defender from the throw-in, with Sam Wall dropping back to his customary sweeping role for Counsel while Eoin Conway did likewise for Westport.
And although Luke Sinnott got Counsel off the mark inside two minutes when his high kick split the posts, they weren't their normal selves in the area of finishing for a long spell. Indeed, seven wides were registered in the first 19 minutes, with Sinnott and midfielder Andrew Walsh both missing chances for green flags with efforts that flew harmlessly across goal.
Westport couldn't capitalise though as, apart from attackers Paul Lambert and Stephen O'Malley, they didn't pose much of a threat. Still, they were on level terms twice, at 0-1 each and 0-3 apiece, with the second and third Counsel points coming from Darragh Lyons and a sweetly-struck Thomas O'Connor '45.
The Barrowsiders did put some daylight between the sides in the ten minutes before half-time, with O'Connor centrally involved. He set up Jamie Myler for the lead point before tapping over a free after a foul on the same player. And when O'Connor was pushed in the right corner, he expertly curled over the placed ball which followed for the best score of the game thus far.
They say that there's no better time to score a goal than just before the interval, and Counsel certainly won't argue with that after rattling the net with the second-last kick of the half. Rory Higgins soloed into some open space before parting to Luke Sinnott who was grounded by a tackle but still managed to palm the ball across the square to Gavin Sheehan who calmly side-footed it to the net.
The goal left Counsel with a 1-6 to 0-3 lead and they never looked back, with impressive midfielder Andrew Walsh continuing to exercise full dominance while Eoin Porter sprayed passes around beautifully from his centre-back berth.
Although scores were scarce in the third quarter, Counsel looked comfortable at all times. Andrew Walsh had an early point cancelled out by Stephen O'Malley while a Thomas O'Connor free drew a reply from Paul Lambert, but the arrival of goal number two made it game, set and match.
Luke Sinnott and Colm Moran had missed chances at either end before Thomas O'Connor floated in a teasing delivery to the edge of the square from the right in the 46th minute, and Seán Nolan rose highest to palm it to the net (2-8 to 0-5).
Although Paul Lambert pulled back a Westport point, they were a beaten docket. Another Counsel move in the 50th minute deserved a goal purely for the quality of the pass as Luke Sinnott didn't even look before instinctively hooking the ball over his right shoulder into the path of the flying Jamie Myler who unfortunately shot straight at netminder Fintan McManamon.
However, one minute later the third goal did arrive after a move which started at the other end when netminder Darragh O'Connor did well to grab a Paul Lambert point attempt at crossbar height. Andrew Walsh supplied the final pass for Luke Sinnott to rattle the net, leaving no way back for Westport whose last point arrived 40 seconds later from Stephen O'Malley.
Nine minutes remained to play, with Thomas O'Connor atoning for a rare miss from a scoreable free from the hands by converting a more difficult kick off the ground from 45 metres. Seán Nolan nearly added a second goal with a fisted effort, but there was still time for O'Connor to add some icing to the cake when he soloed through the heart of the defence and fired a low shot to the corner of the net with seconds remaining.
Good Counsel: Darragh O'Connor (Cloughbawn); James O'Shea (Adamstown), Mark O'Neill (Gusserane), Richard Gill (Tullogher-Rosbercon); Jimmy Sutton (Fethard), Eoin Porter (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane, 1-0); Andrew Walsh (St. James', 0-1), Darragh Lyons (St. James', joint capt., 0-1); Rory Higgins (Rathnure), Thomas O'Connor (Tullogher-Rosbercon, 1-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 '45), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 1-0); Jamie Myler (St. James', 0-1), Luke Sinnott (Taghmon-Camross, joint capt., 1-1), Sam Wall (Gusserane). Subs. - Eamon O'Sullivan (Horeswood) for Gill (57), Philip Foley (St. Fintan's) for Higgins (59), Richard Hennessy (Glenmore) for Nolan (59), Diarmuid Kehoe (Geraldine O'Hanrahans) for Sinnott (60 + 1).
Rice College: Fintan McManamon; John Ryan, Alan McHale, Ben Doyle; Keith Joyce, Pádraig O'Haire, Eoin Rowley; Robbie Harper, Oisín McLaughlin; Paul Lambert (0-2), Stephen O'Malley (0-4, 1 free), Pat Lambert; Alan Kennedy (0-1 free), Colm Moran (capt.), Eoin Conway. Subs. - Darragh McNulty for Rowley (HT), Jordan Donnellan for Conway (HT).
Referee: Barry Kelly (Clare).