Opportunist O’Sullivan goal crucial for Counsel
Good Counsel 1-15 St. Brendan's 0-14
Colman O'Sullivan was in the right place at the right time in the MW Hire Kilkenny Training Centre in Dunmore on Thursday when his opportunist goal saw Good Counsel (New Ross) make the most of their second chance in the Top Oil Leinster Post-Primary Schools Senior hurling 'A' championship with a hard-earned dismissal of St. Brendan's (Birr).
The game's key score arrived in the 47th minute, and it served as a timely reminder that following the flight of the ball at all times can lead to rich rewards.
Good work initially in defence by Pádraig Bailey gave the outstanding forward on view, Cathal Doyle, a chance to add to his tally, but his attempt at a point rebounded off the left post.
However, O'Sullivan was alert to the break, and his deft flick to the net from close range couldn't have arrived at a better time as far as Counsel were concerned.
This was one of the better-prepared Birr teams of recent years, and they appeared to be building a head of steam after Rory Carty - their ace marksman with strong Wexford links - pointed a couple of frees to narrow the New Ross school's lead to 0-13 to 0-11.
That goal really hurt them, though, and while it remained tight to the finish, Counsel registered the last two points from Cathal Doyle and A.J. Redmond to make it safely into the quarter-final stage.
This was the last-chance saloon for both teams after losses before Christmas to St. Kieran's and Dublin North respectively.
Counsel carried the stronger threat in attack from the off, and this was reflected in the first four points inside eight minutes from Seán O'Connor, A.J. Redmond (two '65s), and the lively Cathal Doyle.
O'Connor also set up a goal chance for Doyle midway through the opening quarter, but Birr netminder Seán Thompson produced an excellent save which inspired his colleagues.
The Offaly side had reduced arrears to 0-9 to 0-6 by the interval, with all bar one point of that tally coming from frees by centre-forward Rory Carty, whose father, Tom, is a Wexford native and former player with the Taghmon-Camross club.
Indeed, Counsel only conceded five frees in that opening half, but Carty's one hundred per cent strike rate punished them every time.
Midfielders Emmet Cullen and Jack Kehoe had chipped in to Counsel's points tally, with wing-forward Conor Kehoe also on target along with free-takers Redmond and Doyle.
The latter took over the placed ball duties after the former sent a couple of difficult efforts from midfield wide, and the gap was widened to five on the re-start with both centrally involved.
Redmond pointed from play after a lovely flick over an oncoming defender's head, and another Doyle free then made it 11-6.
A cross-shot by Doyle came back into play off the woodwork, but Birr gradually improved after the introduction of substitute Joe Ryan who added steel to their side at left half-back.
With Rory Carty continuing to hit the target, Counsel knew they were in a major battle, although Cathal Doyle kept their noses in front with a pointed free plus a neat effort from play after a crossfield A.J. Redmond pass.
And while luck played a part in their all-important goal, full credit must go to alert wing-back Pádraig Bailey whose timely hook on Tom Dooley ensured Birr didn't make an instant reply.
The midlanders refused to lie down, and Counsel were set for a nervy last five minutes after three points without reply from Rory Carty, D.J. McLoughlin and Carty again, all from play, made it 1-13 to 0-14.
Cathal Doyle's low centre of gravity and desire to take on his direct opponent at every opportunity made him a nightmare for the Birr defence to deal with, and he picked off a priceless point after moving out from the left corner in order to make a better angle for his shot.
A.J. Redmond then latched on to a stray clearance and added the insurance point from midfield, with wing-back Niall O'Shea making a good block to deny Mark O'Brien before man of the match Doyle rounded Pádraic Watkins in added time but drove his shot off the crossbar.
Good Counsel: Kyle Martin (Rathnure); Micheál O'Connor (Rathnure), Seán Phelan (Glenmore, capt.), Richie Aylward (Tullogher-Rosbercon); Pádraig Bailey (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), Pádraig Dempsey (Mullinavat), Niall O'Shea (Tullogher-Rosbercon); Emmet Cullen (Gusserane, 0-1), Jack Kehoe (Horeswood, 0-1); A.J. Redmond (Rathnure, 0-5, 2 '65s, 1 free), Colman O'Sullivan (Tullogher-Rosbercon, 1-0), Conor Kehoe (St. Mullins, 0-1); Bill Dempsey (Mullinavat), Seán O'Connor (Rathnure, 0-1), Cathal Doyle (Taghmon-Camross, 0-6, 3 frees). Subs. - Dylan Morrissey (Tullogher-Rosbercon) for C. Kehoe (47), Seánie O'Neill (Adamstown) for B. Dempsey (60+1).
St. Brendan's: Seán Thompson; Pádraic Watkins, Michael Fitzgerald, Tom Connors; Kieran Connors, Gearóid McCormack, James Tooher; Daniel O'Donoghue (capt.), Ciarán Teehan (0-1); D.J. McLoughlin (0-2), Rory Carty (0-10, 7 frees, 1 '65), Tom Dooley; T.J. Loonam, Mark O'Brien (0-1), Conor Dooley. Sub. - Joe Ryan for Loonam (38).
Referee: Pat Moran (Laois).
New Ross Standard