Jimmies win again
GAA Senior Football Championship Group A, second round: St James 2-7 Kilanerin 1-9
St. James' held off a late Kilanerin fightback in Bellefield on Friday to put themselves in prime position for a place in the Senior football championship quarter-finals heading into the mid-season break.
The Jimmies looked on course for a relatively comfortable Group A success when Kevin O'Grady struck home a 42nd-minute penalty and Brian Molloy added a quick point to send them seven points clear.
However, Kilanerin weren't county finalists by chance and they fought all the way back to within a point in added-time.
It was almost exactly four minutes after referee Justin Heffernan announced there was four minutes remaining when Bobby Hughes narrowed the gap to one point in added-time, but St. James' still had to survive another 90 seconds.
The key to their survival was the two clean takes they managed from their two kick-outs in that time. Both catches immediately put Kilanerin on the back foot and they were never able to get themselves into a position to snatch an equalising point.
There has been some turnover for Kilanerin this season and their young players will need time to find their feet at this level. They will need to be patient but it's difficult when you find yourself staring down the barrel of a relegation battle after two games.
The beauty of this championship structure is that they still hold their knockout destiny in their own hands, but it is going to be a huge challenge to achieve that goal. On the contrary, St. James' will probably need just one more win to advance.
They have hit the ground running these last two weeks and they are a gritty outfit capable of beating anyone on their day. There was no secret to this win, as it came from unrelenting hard work and an impressive ability to take the big chances when they came.
The first of those came when they already held a 0-2 to nil lead after early Kevin O'Grady and Donal Barron points.
Liam Murphy and Graeme Molloy inter-changed, cutting in on the right side of goal before the latter flashed past Tom Hughes.
In horrid conditions, St. James' kept their noses in front. Bobby Hughes did grab his side's first point in the 16th minute, but scores from O'Grady and Brian Molloy left the Ramsgrange side 1-4 to 0-1 ahead.
However, Conor Devitt nabbed two points in the last few minutes before the interval, and it would have been better again for Kilanerin had John Ryan not made a solid stop with his feet from Michael Molloy's low shot.
Despite a Dean O'Toole shot that clattered the crossbar, there was still three points between the sides (1-5 to 0-5) after 40 minutes.
O'Grady's penalty after Matthew O'Hanlon was fouled and Molloy's point looked to leave Kilanerin on the back-foot.
Goals change games and the momentum switched completely when Michael Molloy netted shortly after St. James' went seven up. They were within two when Bobby Hughes knocked over a free in the 50th minute, but O'Grady responded.
Devitt and Hughes scored quickfire points in added-time but there was no equaliser and St. James' clung on to be a perfect two wins from two.
With St. Martin's and Castletown up after the break for Kilanerin, things won't get much easier for the Gorey District side.
St. James': John Ryan; Paul Barron (capt.), Jason Barron, Daniel Keating; Darragh Lyons, Shane Murphy, Brian Molloy (0-2); Matthew O'Hanlon (0-1), Robbie Barron; Liam Murphy, Kevin O'Grady (1-3, 1-0 pen., 0-2 frees), Donal Barron (0-1); Brendan Doyle, Graeme Molloy (1-0), Tomás Walsh. Subs. - David Doyle for Murphy (41), Mark Molloy for B. Doyle (54), Alan Walsh for T. Walsh (60).
Kilanerin: Tom Hughes; Rhys Owley, Aidan Jones, Ben Morris; Ben O'Connor, Páraic Hughes, Colm Kavanagh; Niall Breen, Niall Hughes; Mark Boland, Peter Hughes (capt., 0-1), Dean O'Toole; Conor Devitt (0-3), Bobby Hughes (0-4, 3 frees), Michael Molloy (1-1). Sub. - Conor Hughes for Boland (31).
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Blackwater).
New Ross Standard