Youthful Gorey gave favourites a stiff test after the ideal start
GAA Top Oil South Leinster Schools Final: S. Dara (Kilcock) 3-14 Gorey C.S. 3-9
For a team essentially in bonus territory, Gorey Community School certainly gave Scoil Dara from Kilcock plenty to think about in Páirc Uí Bhríain, Carlow, on Wednesday before succumbing to the Kildare/Meath border outfit by five points in the Top Oil South Leinster Schools Junior football 'B' championship final.
The Wexford lads were very impressive provincial Juvenile 'B' victors last year and, with 16 of the current group eligible for this higher level again in 2020, they had done very well to make it this far in the first place.
Kilcock had a keen edge in size and strength, but that didn't stop Gorey from making them earn their title which augurs well for the losers in the next campaign at this grade.
The underdogs had the perfect start, as the direct running of corner-forward Seán O'Brien-Murphy ended with Kevin Budeanu grabbing a morale-boosting goal with a high shot past Stephen Cussen after a mere 41 seconds.
It wasn't the start a Scoil Dara side aided by the breeze expected, but they recovered to lead by 1-4 to 1-0 after ten minutes, with the goal a close-range finish from overlapping wing-back Diarmuid Smyth after powerfully-built midfielder Shane Farrell caught a Gorey kick-out.
J.J. Twamley and free-taker Joe Curtis pulled back points, while the latter registered again in between a brace of Kilcock scores from Eoghan Frayne, the second one after Rory Tubritt had made a fine save to deny Darragh Sloane (1-6 to 1-3).
However, the game took an unexpected twist deep into the second quarter when two unanswered goals from Gorey gave them an unlikely lead.
The first arrived in the 26th minute after superb use of the advantage rule by referee Pat Kehoe, allowing Kevin Budeanu to keep going after he was clearly fouled racing in from the left wing.
The centre-forward off-loaded to Joe Curtis who finished with aplomb, bringing the sides level before the same duo were involved once more just two minutes later.
Budeanu passed to Kyle Kenny who picked out Curtis in turn, and the top-scoring attacker made it 3-3 to 1-6 with a brilliant finish.
It would have been a huge boost for Gorey to go in at half-time with a lead, but sadly it wasn't to be. Shane Farrell struck a point from a '45, and that was the prelude to a magical goal from his fellow joint captain Darragh Sloane that was good enough to grace any stage.
Brian McNally popped a pass in his direction in added time and, although he lost his other boot while breaking away from a defender, he kicked beautifully across netminder Rory Tubritt and into the far top corner of the net (2-7 to 3-3).
Seán O'Neill and Joe Curtis (free) swapped points on the re-start, but Gorey then lost their way and conceded 1-5 without reply in a nine-minute spell.
That left them with too much ground to make up, with the decisive goal cleverly palmed over the advancing Tubritt by corner-forward Brian McNally after a long delivery bounced invitingly into his path off the surface of the Eire Og club's main pitch.
Gorey tried their best to rally, with J.J. Twamley, the hard-running Jack Higgins and Joe Curtis (free) picking off points, but Kilcock remained threatening and Darragh Sloane was only denied another goal by a super Tubritt save.
Substitute Eoin Bright hit the winners' last point, with Gorey holding them scoreless over the last ten minutes when Seán O'Brien-Murphy and Curtis (free) reduced the final margin to five.
With a lot of positives to be taken from this game despite the outcome, hopes remain high that 2020 will be the time to shine for these promising north Wexford lads.
Gorey Community School: Rory Tubritt (Naomh Eanna); Marcus Myles Sheridan (Naomh Eanna), Conor Jones (Ballynastragh Gaels), Seán O'Hagan (Castletown); Brian Cushe (Naomh Eanna, capt.), Rian Fitzpatrick (Naomh Eanna), Shane Gibson (Naomh Eanna); Ryan Connolly (Naomh Eanna), Jack Higgins (Castletown, 0-1); Conor Kinsella (Ballynastragh Gaels), Kevin Budeanu (Naomh Eanna, 1-0), Kyle Kenny (Naomh Eanna); J.J. Twamley (Naomh Eanna, 0-2), Joe Curtis (Ballynastragh Gaels, 2-5, 0-5 frees), Seán O'Brien-Murphy (Naomh Eanna, 0-1). Subs. - Cian Hughes (Ballynastragh Gaels) for Kenny (40), Cormac Doyle (Naomh Eanna) for Jones (47), Luke Greene (Naomh Eanna) for Kinsella (52), Conor Kelly (Naomh Eanna) for Connolly (57), also Euan Stephens (Réalt na Mara), Killian Byrne (Ballynastragh Gaels), Saul McGirr (Castletown), Shane Flood (Naomh Eanna), Darragh Fitzpatrick (Naomh Eanna), Thomas Wheatley (Naomh Eanna), Simon Campbell-Carty (Ballynastragh Gaels), Cathal Murphy (Réalt na Mara), Gavin McNulty (Castletown), Daniel Reeves (Castletown), Thomas Mythen (Naomh Eanna), David Smith (Castletown), Ben Fitzpatrick (Naomh Eanna), Eoin Coleman (Castletown), Seamie O'Hagan (Buffers Alley), James McGraynor (Naomh Eanna), Ultan O'Donovan (Ballynastragh Gaels), Seán Miller (Naomh Eanna), Luke Darley (Naomh Eanna), David Neville (Ballynastragh Gaels).
Scoil Dara (Kilcock): Stephen Cussen; Oisín Bright, Darren Chapman, Ben Moran; Diarmuid Smyth (1-1), Adam McDonald, Brendan Gibbons; Shane Farrell (joint capt., 0-2, 1 free), Oisín Farrell; Mark Gibbons (0-2), Eoghan Frayne (0-4, 2 frees), Seán O'Neill (0-1); Michael Brady, Darragh Sloane (joint capt., 1-3), Brian McNally (1-0). Subs. - Eoin Bright (0-1) for Brady (40), Stephen Maher for O'Neill (48), Jack Mulligan for Frayne (56), Seán Daly for McNally (56).
Referee: Pat Kehoe (Carlow).