To say St. Brendan’s were terrific in this All Ireland Colleges S’A’FC semi-final victory over St. Jarlaths’s in Kilmallock on Saturday would be an understatement.
The way they overcame a very useful Tuam side was pure Kerry gold and they can now face an All-Ireland final date with St. Patrick’s, Dungannon in two weeks time full of confidence.
Coach Gary McGrath was beaming: “Yes, I have to be pleased. We battled well, created good chances, got excellent scores and I definitely felt we were the better team.
“Our game plan worked well in the first-half and it was unusual to find ourselves ahead at the break, I think it’s the first time this year. We really played excellently into that wind. I knew Jarlath’s would come back at us in the second-half, but we handled them well. We’ll be going all out now to bring the cup back to the Sem for the first time since Seamus Moynihan’s side in 1992.”
And they’re in with a big shout. They played some terrific free-flowing football in difficult conditions, the cold driving wind blowing into their faces in the opening half having little impact on their momentum as the Sem led 0-7 to 0-4 at the break.
James O’Donoghue gave them a quick lead with a pointed free, but St. Jarlath’s quickly showed why they are such a force in Connacht football, excellent raids producing four sweet points. David Shallow knocked over the first (a free) and when Conor Doherty, Shallow again and corner-back Enda Mullarkey followed — all inside the opening 10 minutes — Brendan’s had some thinking to do.
But how they responded. Jarlath’s failed to score again for another 27 minutes as the speed, craft and back-up play of the hungry Kerry youngsters left them for dead. Midfielder Jamie O’Sullivan was the key, a colossus, his fetching and probing passing instrumental in St. Brendan’s dominance. And the Kilcummin lad is minor again next year.
With wing forward Adrian Courtney sitting in behind his two midfielders, Brendan’s began to look real composed. Full-forward Cian Tobin, a handful for Colin Forde, should have goaled, Chris O’Leary also missed a goal chance, but with O’Donoghue teasing the Jarlath’s backline, points from the lively centre-forward and Tobin left just the minimum between the sides after the opening quarter, 0-4 to 0-3. With Fionn Fitzgerald and John O’Mahony rock solid in the Killarney full line, Jarlath’s created few chances. Tobin missed another goal chance, but points from Shane O’Neill, O’Donoghue, Philip O’Connor and O’Neill again earned St. Brendan’s that tasty 0-7 to 0-4 interval lead and such was the strength of the wind it was hard to see Jarlaths’s hitting back.
The Tuam side needed to break St. Brendans’ dominance in the middle of the park and Ronan Steed joined Luke O’Brien at midfield for the second-half. They did better, but a goal they so badly needed never materialised mainly due to some excellent goalkeeping by Brian Kelly and some majestic defensive play by centre-back Padraig O’Connor and O’Sullivan.
After Kelly made a great save to deny Danny Cummins, O’Donoghue doubled St Brendan’s lead with a point. But they found the going far tougher subsequently as Jarlath’s fought might and main to get back into the game. Tomás Fahy and Dohery were now far more influential. Cummins, now testing Fitzgerald in the left corner, pointed, followed by a Steed free and suddenly there were only two between the sides.
But this St Brendan’s side is made of stern stuff and super points from Chris O’Leary and Tobin restored their four point advantage, 0-10 to 0-6, entering the final quarter.
Jarlath’s really went for it now. Kelly was again brilliant in denying Fahy a goal and O’Connor was superb in blocking substitute Michael Boyle. But the goal was never to come, a frustrated Tuam side picking up three second-half yellow cards. Instead St Brendan’s showed them what finishing is all about when O’Neill pointed after great work by O’Sullivan and Tobin.
No wonder McGrath was happy.
St. Brendan’s: J. O’Donoghue 0-4 (0-1 free), S. O’Neill 0-3, C. Tobin 0-2, P. O’Connor, C. O’Leary 0-1 each. St. Jarlath’s: D. Shallow 0-2 (0-1 free), C. Doherty, E. Mullarkey, D. Cummins, R. Steed (free) 0-1 each.
B. Kelly; F. Fitzgerald, J. Lyne, J. O’Mahony; D. O’Sullivan, P. O’Connor, B. Russell; J. O’Sullivan, J. Coffey; A. Courtney, J. O’Donoghue, P. O’Connor; S. O’Neill, C. Tobin, C. O’Leary.
D. Twomey for Courtney (57).
D. Farragher; E. Mullarkey, C. Forde, K. Blake; M. O’Shaughnessy, T. Fahy, C. Freeman; L. O’Brien, C. Doherty; S. Boyle, R. Steed, B. Moran; D. Shallow, M. Kelly, D. Cummins.
D. Mannion for S. Boyle (39m), M. Boyle for Moran (42), C. Raftery for Kelly (57).
R. Hickey (Clare).