FOR much of this Harty Cup quarter-final replay at LIT yesterday it looked like we were going to have to come back for yet another day, as two very skilful and evenly matched sides again locked horns to see who would go on to meet St Caimin’s of Shannon in the semi-final.
Ultimately, and cruelly for the storied Ennis school, it was the Limerick city college which advanced but only after Árd Scoil Rís had first survived two late goal scares, and then managed to work an injury-time free from Kevin Downes, dead straight in front of the posts on the 20m line.
Flannan’s began well and led by 0-3 to 0-1 after ten minutes courtesy of points from David O’Halloran, Niall Arthur and wing-forward Conor O’Donnell, Downes with the Árd Scoil Rís score.
Over the next 15 minutes, however, it was all one-way traffic as Rís, with midfielder and captain Conor Ryan to the fore, ran off five points without reply. Ryan had three of those points, with centre-back Declan Hannon adding a superb individual point, Downes notching the fifth, and it was beginning to look as though Árd Scoil Rís were finally going to justify the huge local expectations.
Two points from Niall Arthur – the first from his first free, the second after a quick-thinking short free by centre-back Brian Hehir — allowed Flannan’s reduce the deficit back to the minimum at the break, 0-6 to 0-5.
The second half opened poorly for Flannan’s, three bad wides in a row from good opportunities, followed by double insult, two points from the unerring Downes from two shots for Árd Scoil Rís, opening up another three-point gap, 0-8 to 0-5.
By now, however, midfielders Alan Leamy and Fergus Ryan were beginning to make their presence felt for Flannan’s, and with Paul Flanagan, Brian Hehir and Stephen O’Halloran having upped the ante in the half-back line, team captain Cillian Ryan absolutely superb at full-back, given good support by Ray McNamara and Gearoid O’Connell, the Ennis kingpins wrestled back control.
Three points, one each from Arthur, Aaron Considine and O’Halloran, had the sides on level terms in the 39th minute, 0-8 apiece, before we had the only real fallow period of the match. Thirteen minutes without a score as the tension began to take its toll.
Eventually, however, the deadlock was broken, a well-taken over-the- shoulder point by Flannan’s corner-forward O’Halloran; it could have been so much better for them, of course, had the same man not had a point-blank shot bravely saved by Rís keeper PJ Hall, or had a rocket of a sideline ball from Leamy not shot across the goalmouth, beaten everyone including Hall, but ended up shaving the outside of the post.
From those let-offs Árd Scoil Rís went back up field, and with James O’Brien now showing improved form, Ryan again entering the picture, wing-backs Alan Dempsey and Cathal McInerney driving on from the back, they pressed forward for the equaliser. Niall Kennedy did the honours, and the game entered injury-time.
Just as it looked like heading for extra-time, however, down went a Flannan’s defender on a ball inside his own 20m line, and under pressure from a host of Rís attackers, in full view of referee Noel Cosgrove, picked the ball off the ground.
Downes’ point was the last word in another thoroughly entertaining and top-class Harty Cup clash.
Scorers for Árd Scoil Rís: K Downes 0-5 (0-3f); C Ryan 0-3; N Kennedy, D Hannon, 0-1 each
St Flannan’s: N Arthur 0-4 (0-2f); D O’Halloran 0-3; C O’Donnell, A Considine, 0-1 each
ÁRD SCOIL RÍS: PJ Hall; K Hurley, T Nolan, E Mulvihill; A Dempsey, D Hannon, C McInerney; N Kennedy, C Ryan (capt); J O’Brien, S Dowling, K Downes; R Henehan, B O’Connor, K Keane.
Subs: J Shanahan for Henehan, 46; S Moloney for Keane, 55.
ST FLANNAN’S: N Woods; R McNamara, C Ryan (capt), G O’Connell; P Flanagan, B Hehir, S O’Halloran; F Ryan, A Leamy; C O’Donnell, A Considine, E Malone; S O’Connor, N Arthur, D O’Halloran.
Sub: T Kelly for O’Connor 46.
Referee: N Cosgrove (Tipperary).