Two goals from Callum Cronin sends The Sem into Munster final showdown against St. Francis College from Rochestown
MUNSTER SCHOOLS SFC ‘A (Corn Uí Mhuirí) SEMI-FINAL
St. Brendan’s Killarney 2-16
Mercy Mounthawk Tralee 0-13
There was understandable excitement in the run-up to this Corn Uí Mhuirí semi-final in the Fitzgerald Stadium on Saturday afternoon as the two Kerry teams in the competition vied for a place in the Munster final, with last year's Frewen winner – Mercy Mounthawk – facing last year's Hogan Cup finalists, St Brendan’s College, Killarney.
Both these team had been very impressive in their Corn Uí Mhuirí quarter-final challenges, while St Brendan’s had beaten Mercy Mounthawk in the O'Sullivan Cup by a comfortable margin. They had just about triumphed in a much closer game in the group stage of this competition, which all fed into huge anticipation ahead of this game.
St Brendan’s were bidding for a shot at a 25th Corn Uí Mhuirí title, but were obviously concerned that a tough quarter-final against Hamilton HS of Bandon just the Wednesday before might have taken a big toll on young players. Mercy Mounthawk were bidding for their first title, and had an array of talents capable of doing it, but that was also true for The Sem.
Luke Crowley, who always St Brendan’s main target man on the square, opened the scoring after good work by Timmy Moynihan. Mounthawk replied instantly when Odhrán Ferris found Rob Monahan for a well-executed mark.
Mounthawk were exerting great pressure on The Sem’s kick-out, and it almost paid big dividends straight away when Ferris put Paddy Lane through, but Shay O’Meara made a great save to deny him. Two more scoring chances tailed off wide before Lane made a great turnover and set up Monahan for his second score.
Mounthawk were well on top at this stage, with Lane making it 0-3 to 0-1 after a deft jink, but they were leaving good chances behind them. The Sem were relying on long ball into Crowley, but Mounthawk were aware of that danger and allowed him very little space to operate. He did slot a free after Callum Cronin was fouled, and Cronin also found Timmy Moynihan for a point to level matters.
Darragh O'Connor nudged Mounthawk back in front, but Alex Hennigan replied after Luke Crowley picked him out with a quick free. Niall Collins slotted over for Mounthawk but again St Brendan’s had a quick reply, a fine point by Seán Fitzgerald.
Mounthawk lost wing-back Bobby Byrne temporarily to a black card, and it helped The Sem to gain some momentum. A foul on Timmy Moynihan saw Crowley put the Killarney students ahead for the first time since the game's opening score, but Niall Collins won a free for Monahan to square matters once more.
Then came a very unfortunate turning point for Mercy Mounthawk, when a short free back to the goalkeeper was superbly intercepted by Callum Cronin, who rounded the hapless Michael Tansley and neatly slotted home. It was a timely boost, and they followed it up with a brilliantly worked score from the excellent Jamie Moynihan. They could be much the happier team going in at the break with a four point advantage that wasn't deserved on the balance of play, Mounthawk had played more of the football in that period.
The half-time score was St. Brendans 1-7 Mercy Mounthawk 0-6.
Mounthawk came flying out fast and strong on the restart. A foul on Seán Corkery gave the outstanding Rob Monahan another chance to show his free-kicking ability from long range. Cillian Courtney did very well to reply while off balance, but Mounthawk were gaining the upper hand.
Odhrán Ferris kicked a good point. Darragh O'Connor was unlucky to see a shot off the post, but Monahan coolly pointed the rebound. He moved out to midfield at that stage, but kicked another beauty to leave just a point between the teams, 1-8 to 0-10.
Mounthawk were facing a vastly improved St Brendan’s team now though, with the Killarney players much more confident in passing and playing through the lines, and it very quickly began to tell. Cillian Courtney took the gap to two. John Kelliher, who had been a colossus in their semi-final just three days previously, had been relatively quiet by his own high standards, but he began to really impose himself on the game and kicked a fine point into the bargain.
Luke Crowley, moving out more to revel in space, picked off two points, the second after Jamie Moynihan turned over the kick-out. Callum Cronin notched a free after John Kelliher was fouled before he landed a second knock-out blow. It was an absolutely perfectly weighted pass by Luke Crowley, and Cronin coolly waited for the goalkeeper to commit before cleverly flicking it past him. At 2-13 to 0-10 and just nine minutes left, the final result was never really in doubt after that.
Luke Crowley and Rob Monahan, the two best players on the pitch, traded scores, as did Crowley and Tomás Kennedy. Aodhán O'Neill pointed to close The Sem's account, while the brilliant Rob Monahan, defiant to the very last, had one last point for a brave and slightly unlucky Mercy Mounthawk to close out a memorable campaign for them.
For St Brendan’s it is another step forward. They will face St. Francis College, Rochestown in the final on Saturday, February 11, after the Cork school saw off the challenge of Coláiste an Spioraid Naomh, Bishopstown, by 1-10 to 0-7. The Cork city students were quietly impressive in their semi-final win, but so too were St Brendans in theirs. It has the makings of a great Munster final.
ST BRENDAN’S, KILLARNEY: Shay O’Meara, Maidhcí Lynch, Cian Lynch, James Williams, Jamie Moynihan (0-1), Keelan O’Shea, Seán Fitzgerald (0-1), John Kelliher (0-1), Darren Ryan, Timmy Moynihan (0-1), Aodhán O’Neill (0-1), Alex Hennigan (0-1), Callum Cronin 2-1 (0-1f), Luke Crowley 0-7 (2f), Cillian Courtney (0-2). Subs: Pádraic Moynihan (for Cillian Courtney (53 mins), Eoghan Kelly for Callum Cronin (59 mins), Luke Daly for James Williams (59 mins), Neil O’Carroll for Darren Ryan (63 mins)
MERCY MOUNTHAWK, TRALEE: Michael Tansley, Gary O’Riordan, Jack Murphy, Seán Rice, Seán Corkery, Cillian Litchfield, Bobby Byrne, Tomás Kennedy (0-1), Donal O’Sullivan, Niall Collins (0-1), Odhrán Ferris (0-1), Daniel Kirby, Darragh O’Connor (0-1), Rob Monahan 0-8 (3f, 1m), Paddy Lane (0-1). Subs: Noah Townsend for Donal O’Sullivan (52 mins), Pádraig O’Halloran for Bobby Byrne (63 mins)
Referee: Jonathan Griffin (Glenbeigh/Glencar)