Drawing on the experience gained from defeat in last season’s thrilling semi-final against Na Piarsaigh, Emmetts produced a confident and composed display to deservedly claim honours in a match that produced largely substandard fare. Knockainey, appearing in only their second ever semi-final, were the surprise package at having reached this juncture. They were hugely competitive in the opening quarter but once Emmetts accelerated clear before the interval to lead 0-10 to 0-5 at the midway mark, they were in control of this encounter.
Knockainey did mount a powerful surge in the third quarter and were only 0-12 to 0-9 adrift by the 43rd minute. That was still the state of affairs on the scoreboard with just 10 minutes to go and Knockainey were able to envisage thoughts of springing an upset. However Knockainey could not bridge that three-point gap as they failed to chalk up any more scores and Emmetts closed out the match in a convincing fashion.
Midfielder James Kelleher registered a crucial point in the 50th minute to help relieve the pressure on the divisional outfit and their leading attacker on the day, Paul Neenan, split the posts soon after. The question of where the spoils were headed was put to rest soon after when Emmetts pounced for the only goal of the game. Donie Reale made a surging run and after the ball spilled loose, the alert Damian Moloney fired a low shot past Kieran Madden. Eoin O’Leary and Paudie Leahy added the finishing touches to Emmett’s victory with late scores.
The Emmetts defence were resilient throughout as they laid the foundation for success. Right corner-back Stephen Walsh, full-back Richie McCarthy and left half-back David Moloney spearheaded their play as they ensured Knockainey were deprived of opportunities to plunder the goals needed to ignite their challenge. At midfield Nicky Quaid and James Kelleher helped Emmetts enjoy the upper hand. In attack, Paul Neenan was lethal from placed balls and Aidan McAuliffe sparkled in open play.
Knockainey played with spirit and determination, epitomised by defenders Tom Moloney and Nigel Finch, but suffered in attack from over-reliance on Patrick Kirby to provide the inspiration. Kirby popped up with points from play and frees as he showed excellent leadership but elsewhere the Knockainey forwards found themselves tied up by the tight marking of the Emmetts rearguard.
The opening quarter of the game was evenly contested as the teams traded points to be locked together at 0-4 apiece by the 18th minute. Padraic Barron and Mark Cleary were on target for Knockainey while Kirby notched a brace, with a trio of points from Neenan and a long-range free from Walsh replying for Emmetts. However the match turned before the interval as Emmetts started to stamp their authority, commanding the action in the middle third and funnelling plenty ball towards their attack. Castletown-Ballyagran forward McAuliffe came to the fore with three points and that helped Emmetts move into a 0-10 to 0-5 half-time lead.
Emmetts drew first blood in the second half with a fine point by Damian Moloney but after that Knockainey threatened to make a game of it. Kirby’s outstanding attacking play was at the core of their revival as he reeled off four points with a Neenan free the solitary reply from Emmetts. But the divisional team they produced an impressive response in the last 17 minutes striking 1-4 themselves to seal an emphatic win.
Scorers for Emmetts: P Neenan 0-6 (four frees); Damian Moloney 1-1; A McAuliffe 0-3; J Kelleher 0-2; S Walsh (1f), N Quaid, P Leahy, E O’Leary 0-1 each.
Scorers for Knockainey: P Kirby 0-7 (3f, 1 65); M Cleary, P Barron 0-1 each.
EMMETTS: T Quaid (Effin); S Walsh (Glenroe), R McCarthy (Blackrock), G O’Leary (Dromin/Athlacca); B Moloney (Blackrock), B Kelleher (Dromin/Athlacca), David Moloney (Blackrock); N Quaid (Effin), J Kelleher (Dromin/Athlacca); P Neenan (Dromin/Athlacca), E O’Leary (Dromin/Athlacca), M O’Brien (Glenroe); D Reale (Hospital/Herbertstown), Damian Moloney (Effin), A McAuliffe (Castletown/Ballyagran).
Subs: M Keane (Staker Wallace) for N Quaid (56), P Leahy (Staker Wallace) for Moloney (56).
KNOCKAINEY: K Madden; T Moloney, P McNamara, G O’Shea; B Cleary, N Finch, S Walsh; D Walsh, D Madden; L O’Shea, P Kirby, B O’Shea; D O’Brien, M Cleary, P Barron.
Subs: M Ryan for Madden (inj) (15).
Referee: Jason O’Mahony (Kildimo)