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Balto power through after mighty struggle with An Tóchar

Super showing from both sides in cracking semi-final

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The Baltinglass under-19 team who defeated An Tóchar in the 'A' championship semi-final in Roundwood on Sunday morning. They now face Tomnafinnogue in the final.

The Baltinglass under-19 team who defeated An Tóchar in the 'A' championship semi-final in Roundwood on Sunday morning. They now face Tomnafinnogue in the final.

The An Tóchar under-19 footballers ahead of their semi-final clash with Baltinglass.

The An Tóchar under-19 footballers ahead of their semi-final clash with Baltinglass.

An Tóchar's Matt Nolan faces Adam Keogh of Baltinglass in front of a packed stand in Roundwood.

An Tóchar's Matt Nolan faces Adam Keogh of Baltinglass in front of a packed stand in Roundwood.

Tommy Keogh of Baltinglass fires this rocket of a shot to the back of the An Tóchar net early in the second half of the under-19 'A' football championship semi-final.

Tommy Keogh of Baltinglass fires this rocket of a shot to the back of the An Tóchar net early in the second half of the under-19 'A' football championship semi-final.

An Tóchar supporters Dan Sheehan, Eamonn Timmons, Kevin Byrne and Ollie Byrne ahead of the under-19 'A' football championship semi-final against Baltinglass in Rondwood on Sunday morning.

An Tóchar supporters Dan Sheehan, Eamonn Timmons, Kevin Byrne and Ollie Byrne ahead of the under-19 'A' football championship semi-final against Baltinglass in Rondwood on Sunday morning.

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The Baltinglass under-19 team who defeated An Tóchar in the 'A' championship semi-final in Roundwood on Sunday morning. They now face Tomnafinnogue in the final.

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Baltinglass 1-14

An Tóchar 1-12

If you wanted a game in early January to fill footballing hearts with hope for the coming season and beyond then you got it in style in Roundwood on Sunday morning as the Baltinglass and An Tóchar under-19 teams produced an absolute belter.

As always, a warm welcome and superb facilities awaited the large crowd who made their way to this ‘A’ championship semi-final, and they were treated to a wonderful display of quality football between two very good teams.

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When referee Diarmuid Haughian sounded his final whistle after a breathtaking 60-odd minutes it was the Baltinglass players and supporters who were rejoicing, although, to be fair, as the old saying goes, football was the real winner here.

All over the field you had cracking battles between some really strong footballers. Baltinglass full-back Hugh O’Toole’s joust with An Tóchar full-forward Niall Sheehan was tremendous, with Sheehan edging the first half perhaps but O’Toole commanding in the second.

Arun Daly Danne’s battle with the ghost-like JP Nolan was very special, the excellent Darragh Fee and Tommy Keogh enjoyed a ding-dong on the An Tóchar 45, and Jordan Brady came up against the powerful Jack Hanlon inside.

And in the middle of the field, you had Jack Kirwan and Jason Kenny for Baltinglass against Piaras Morris and Matt Nolan for An Tóchar.

Throw in the performances of James Fleming, William Brien, Jamie Furlong and Robert McHugh for Baltinglass and the showings of the excellent Conor Fee, Dale Brady and Jack Wolohan for An Tóchar and for football supporters this game was akin to walking into the sitting room on Christmas morning when you were a child. Magical!

Baltinglass started like a train, Jamie Furlong taking the game by the scruff of the neck and wrenching open a 0-3 to 0-0 lead in a matter of minutes, two frees and a peach off his left.

Early pressure on the An Tóchar kick-out earned dividends for Baltinglass but they would hit the post twice before Jack Kirwan would collect from Tommy Keogh and make it 0-4 to 0-0.

Pressure from Hugh O’Toole on Matt Nolan saw him fire wide for An Tóchar after five while Niall Sheehan called Robert Brien into action with an early shot but An Tóchar had yet to find their feet.

Conor Fee soon gave them a major boost in that regard when he exchanged with Sheehan before dropping over a beauty off his left.

Overcarrying by Baltinglass gifted JP Nolan a chance from a free and he obliged but Tommy Keogh drifted over a free he won himself at the dressing room end to make it 0-5 to 0-2 after 11.

The movement from both sets of forwards was a joy to watch. The effort of the players in the engine room around the middle was excellent. The speed of thought, the urgency in attack and the quality of the foot passing really impressed the supporters from both sides.

Niall Sheehan’s showdown with Hugh O’Toole was really heating up at this stage and when the An Tóchar forward got out in front of the Baltinglass defender, won the ball and swung over a gorgeous score you knew we had a tasty clash on our hands.

And then An Tóchar got a massive boost. A surging run from JP Nolan while being pursued by William Brien ended with the sharpshooter firing low past Brien in the Baltinglass goal to make it 1-3 to 0-5 with 13 gone and that’s how it stayed until the first water break.

An early wide from An Tóchar was followed by good work by both full-backs, O’Toole robbing Sheehan and Jordan Brady catching a long Baltinglass ball.

Quality play starting with Tommy Keogh on the sideline stand side ended with Jamie Furlong splitting the posts with a stunning shot off his left to level affairs and then Robert McHugh got in on the scoring act to push the visitors ahead with 23 gone.

An outstanding Conor Fee score was followed by a JP Nolan free, but Baltinglass hit back powerfully through McHugh and two from Furlong (one free) to leave them two clear with half-time almost upon us.

However, given the nip-and-tuck nature of this encounter it came as no surprise to see An Tóchar rally and draw level through two Conor Fee scores, one free, and one from play after a wicked ball in from JP Nolan.

An early score from Matt Nolan edged An Tóchar ahead after the restart but Tommy Keogh would deliver a damaging blow to the home side’s hope when he received the ball in behind the home side’s defence and lashed home to the top corner to make it 1-10 to 1-8. Jordan Brady had committed to a dangerous ball, but Baltinglass won possession and Keogh made hay in the space behind.

The same man added a free to put three between the teams while An Tóchar went through a mini barren spell that included two wides and Hugh O’Toole disrupting a ball to Sheehan before JP Nolan stopped the rot with a converted free after a foul on Conor Fee.

An Tóchar had a goal chance soon after but Robert Brien was strong in goals for Baltinglass. Savage play from Jack Kirwan helped Tommy Keogh add a sublime point from distance after 12 but Darragh Fee charged forward and bombed over from way out at the other end thanks to good play from Luke Kenny beforehand. 1-12 to 1-10. Some game of football.

Things started to go against An Tóchar. JP Nolan dropped a free short to William Brien while a 45 dropped short and was handled on the ground by the home side but they would take the first water break just a single point behind after Niall Sheehan scored a sizzler following superb work from Darragh Fee, Dale Brady and Matt Nolan.

Robert Brien would be called into action not long after the restart when he collected an effort from JP Nolan that fell short, but we were all square after 23 when Nolan floated through a now packed Baltinglass defence before punching over.

Baltinglass were choking up the channels that An Tóchar had used to supply lovely ball to their inside men at this stage and more often than not their seeking passes were cut out by either William Brien, Adam Byrne, the excellent Jack Bookle or the now sweeping Robert McHugh.

Jack Kirwan won a free, Tommy Keogh pointed, 24 gone. An Tóchar came looking but William Brien intercepted, and the ball was worked to Keogh. Same result.

An Tóchar tried a few long balls to Sheehan but they were overcooked and when they came looking in the dying seconds it was Robert McHugh who intercepted and the shrill blasts of Diarmuid Haughian’s whistle sounded.

This was an excellent game of football. Baltinglass go on to face Tomnafinnoge and they will have surely benefited immensely from this battle.

Baltinglass: Robert Brien; Conor Flood, Hugh O’Toole, James Fleming; William Brien, Arun Daly Danne, Adam Keogh; Jack Kirwan, Jason Kenny; Jack Kenny, Tommy Keogh (1-5, 3f), Jack Bookle; Jamie Furlong (0-6, 3f), Jack Hanlon (0-1), Robert McHugh (0-2). Subs: Evan Frahill for Jack Kenny (38), Jack Kenny for C Floor.

An Tóchar: Aaron Smith; Luke Kenny, Jordan Brady, Jack Wolohan; Lorcan Smith, Darragh Fee (0-1), Enda Murphy; Piaras Morris, Matt Nolan (0-1); Dale Brady, JP Nolan (1-4, 3f), Enda Byrne; Conor Fee (0-4, 1f), Niall Sheehan (0-2), Ciaran Murphy. Subs: Darragh Wolohan for E Byrne (48).

Referee: Diarmuid Haughian (Lacken-Kilbride)


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