Border side will face Clonaslee in the final
Coláiste Eoin 0-13
Gaelcholáiste Ceatharlach 1-6
Last Friday morning saw these two sides cross swords in the South Leinster Schools Senior ‘D’ Football semi-final in what was an exciting and at times tense affair in Hacketstown.
With the weather conditions almost perfect it was the Wicklow border team who hit the ground running with corner-forward James Whelan drawing first blood with a classy point from open play.
The Coláiste Eoin midfield pairing of Kiltegan’s Ciaran Harmon alongside Knockananna’s Cathal Sheehan were clearly dominant in the early exchanges with Harmon in particular deadly under a high ball.
It was Clonmore’s James Whelan who split the posts again both in the fourth and sixth minute for the Border boys, one of them a joy to behold as he gathered a long ball, beat his man on the turn and struck the ball off his left from the ‘45 metre line into the Town end much to delight of the home crowd.
Gaelcholáiste found it increasingly difficult to get out of their own half and with Coláiste Eoin’s high press on their kickouts this forced them to go long much to the advantage of the home side.
At the first water break the score read four points to Colaiste Eoin with the Carlow Town outfit yet to register a score. The big question was could the home side continue this intensity up for another 45 minutes? Time would tell.
It was more of the same in the second quarter with the Wicklow border side dominant in possession but with some handling errors and turnovers the visitors gained a foothold in the game with points from their centre forward, the industrious Josh Egan after a surging run from wing back Evan Gorry.
Gaelcholáiste were making inroads and cut the deficit to a single point on the 20-minute mark and they could have inflicted more damage but for the excellent Marty Walsh and Caolin Goetelen in the Hacketstown defence.
Kiltegan’s Ciaran Harmon steadied the ship again with two frees in the 23rd and 24th minute to put some daylight between the sides. In fact, the Hacketstown side should have been further ahead with two scuppered goal chances on the 25th and 26th minute.
Ciaran Harmon pointed again on 27 minutes after some good spadework by Ballymanus man Sean Harmon operating formidably at centre forward. Adam Byrne was used rather effectively as a third midfielder and Coláiste Eoin continued to have the upper hand in terms of possession with powerful incisive runs in particular from Cathal Sheehan and Jack O’Toole.
However, Gaelcholáiste’s defence held firm leaving four between the sides at the break.
On the resumption it was the Carlow town side who raised a white flag on the 33rd minute. With possession now critical it was a frantic quarter with some ferocious tackling from both sides.
Carlow’s Evan Gorry received a yellow card from referee Darragh Byrne for a high tackle on O’Toole in the 38th minute. Jack O’Toole, Conor Byrne and Sean Harmon all put in a massive shift on the half-forward line with constant running and tackling resulting in Whelan being rewarded as his fifth score sailed over the bar on the 41st minute along with a ‘45 from Ciaran Harmon to extend the lead to five.
In fairness Gaelcholáiste never gave up and just before the final water break were rewarded with a goal when a high ball caused some confusion in the Hacketstown defence. They followed this up with another point to cut the margin to one as the teams went in for the last water break.
The momentum seemed to be shifting towards Gaelcholáiste’s favour with Coláiste Eoin making matters very difficult on themselves by coughing up possession too easily in the middle third and thus giving their opponents a platform to counterattack.
The final quarter was a tense affair with the game hanging in the balance. However, it was the home side who were the more determined with Knockananna’s Cathal Sheehan pointing in the 50th minute.
Aaron Kelly on the edge of the square was having a titanic battle with his opponent, Conor Byrne and Jack O’Toole were a constant thorn in the Gaelcholáiste’s defense and the Kinsella brothers Adam and Mark along with James Boland were resolute in the half-back line.
An outstanding solo run from Mark Kinsella at wing back resulted in the young Knockananna man winning a free on the 21-metre line to the delight of the home crowd.
Harmon nailed the free giving his side a three-point cushion. Kiltegan’s James Boland won possession in his own half-back line and following a surging run was fouled inside the large parallelogram.
There followed a moment of controversy as Adam Kinsella appeared to have struck the resultant penalty into the side netting in off the post only for the ball to continue out through the net. The umpire signaled it had gone wide much to the bemusement of Kinsella and the Coláiste Eoin players who were convinced it had gone in!
Anyhow it mattered not and with Ciaran Harmon pointing in the 58th minute the home side looked safe.
There was both elation and relief at the final whistle from the Colaiste Eoin players with Darragh Kelly and Alan Costello’s side emerging victorious from a tough and tense encounter. They know they still have some work to do as Coláiste Eoin squandered some goal chances early on which would have put the game beyond the visitors.
However, that being said, the home said displayed great resilience and fighting spirit, especially in the final quarter and when the questions were asked, they duly answered.
They face Clonaslee College of Laois in the South Leinster final on Tuesday, January 25 after the Laois outfit defeated Avondale CC in the second semi-final, 4-11 to 4-10.
Coláiste Eoin: Aaron Corless (Clonmore); Ciarán Mooney (Knockananna), Caolin Goetelen (M. Dwyers), Marty Walsh (Clonmore), Adam Kinsella (Knockananna), James Boland (M. Dwyers), Mark Kinsella (Knockananna), Ciaran Harmon (0-7, 0-4f) (Kiltegan), Cathal Sheehan (0-1) (Knockananna), Jack O’Toole (M. Dwyers), Sean Harmon (Ballymanus), Conor Byrne (Ballymanus), Adam Byrne (Ballymanus), Aaron Kelly (Clonmore), James Whelan (0-5) (Clonmore).
Referee: Darragh Byrne (Ballymanus)