Brave Críost Rí revival just falls short

COLÁISTE Chríost Rí’s return to Dr Harty Cup action may not have got off to a successful start in Ballyagran yesterday, but they contributed greatly to an extraordinary Group B clash as their stunning second-half fightback almost produced an improbable victory.

At the interval, last year’s Kinnane Cup winners were facing a heavy beating. St Caimin’s, finalists two years ago and semi-finalists last season, maintained the high standards of recent campaigns in the opening 30 minutes. They harnessed the benefits of a strong wind to open up a commanding 3-12 to 1-3 advantage by half-time. The power and poise of St Caimin’s early play suggested it was impossible for Chríost Rí to bridge the yawning gap.

But the Cork school showcased tremendous battling qualities and, despite trailing by 15 points when the ball was thrown in for the second-half, had shaved the deficit to just two with five minutes left. St Caimin’s were clinging to a 3-14 to 4-9 advantage, but they pounced for a crucial goal when Alan Mulready’s sublime long-range pass was whipped to the net by substitute David Ryan. Then Aaron Cunningham popped over two frees in quick succession to bring his scoring return for the day to a dazzling 3-8. Despite Enda Dennehy knocking in a late goal for Chríost Rí, time ran out on their revival and wing-back Shane Kelleher arrowed over an injury-time point that crowned St Caimin’s success.

Fielding three members of the Clare minor set-up that contested the All-Ireland decider last month enhanced St Caimin’s prospects before throw-in, and that trio of Aaron Cunningham, Alan Mulready and Frank Melody were central to their victory.

Cunningham wreaked havoc in the Críost Rí defence from his full-forward berth in the first-half as he chalked up 3-5 in a brilliant showing.

Mulready supplied the bullets for Cunningham to fire from centre-forward and he also played a key role in stemming the flow of Críost Rí dominance when withdrawn to the middle of the pitch in the second-half.

Centre-back Frank Melody was immense in the first-half and there were also valuable contributions from Niall O’Connor and Shane Liddy.

Críost Rí had received an early boost when Kevin Coughlan finished well to the net in the fifth minute, but St Caimin’s swept downfield after the score to raise their first green flag through Cunningham. From there they dominated all the vital sectors with Cunningham finding the net again in the 14th and 15th minutes and they were full value for their half-time 3-12 to 1-3 lead.

But Críost Rí emerged a changed force in the second-half to produce a terrific performance. They had star performers in centre-back Eoin Finn and wing-forward Tomas Lawrence, while the deployment of Cork minor Shane O’Keeffe at full-forward paid dividends, as he combined well with Dennehy to cause difficulties for the St Caimin’s rearguard.

Críost Rí’s challenge was ignited when Dennehy struck a 34th minute goal and three minutes later Paul Fitzgerald slammed a 20-yard free to the roof of the net to leave them 3-12 to 3-4 adrift. The teams traded points after that but expert long-range freetaking by Finn and a fierce shot to the net by O’Keeffe in the 46th minute gave Críost Rí real hope. A Finn free in the 52nd minute trimmed St Caimin’s lead to 3-14 to 4-9 but it was the Clare school who finished stronger.

Scorers for St Caimin’s: A Cunningham 3-8 (0-4 frees); A Mulready, S Liddy 0-3 each; D Ryan 1-0; F Melody (0-1 free), S Lynch, S Kelleher 0-1 each.

Coláiste Chríost Rí: E Dennehy 2-1; P Fitzgerald 1-2 (1-2 frees); S O’Keeffe 1-1; K Coughlan 1-0; E Finn 0-3 (two frees, one ‘65); T Lawrence, G Joyce (0-1 free) 0-1 each.

ST CAIMINS: R McAuley; J Mulready, N O’Connor, B Carey; S Kelleher, F Melody, S O’Leary; C O’Brien, K McCafferty; S Liddy, A Mulready, S Lynch; S Gleeson, A Cunningham, D Collins.

Subs: D Ryan for O’Brien (48).

COLÁISTE CHRÍOST RÍ: P Delaney; C Horgan, S O’Brien, J Ryan; L Corry, E Finn, E Smith; A Nolan, P Fitzgerald; T Lawrence, S O’Keeffe, K Coughlan; G Joyce, C Crowe, E Dennehy.

Subs: I Lucey for Crowe (20).

Referee: D Enright (Dromin-Athlacca)

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