McNamara goal gives Jarlath’s the edge

IT was an All-Ireland Colleges semi-final to savour at the Claughaun Grounds, Limerick on Saturday with sweet, flowing football as St Jarlath’s of Tuam edged out battling Coláiste Chríost Rí to book a final date with holders St Colman’s, Newry.

No question Jarlath’s deserved their triumph and now bid for a 13th Hogan Cup success.

They rocked Críost Rí with an awesome start that propelled them into a five-point lead and hit the Munster champions with a Conor McNamara goal four minutes before the break which proved critical.

Críost Rí battled back with gusto in the second-half, but did not have the quality of a player like wing forward Shane Walsh, who kicked some mighty points, and the industry of Ian Burke and Adrian Varley, who continually swapped places in attack, causing Kevin Fulignati and his defence all sorts of problems.

“A tough semi-final, we really had to battle hard out there today, but I thought the lads showed great character,” said Jarlath’s boss Joe Burke.

“What pleased me most today was we learned how to defend. We knew Críost Rí would come at us, but we prepared for it and I think we deserved our win in the end.”

Certainly Jarlath’s were tough and uncompromising at times, particularly in the second-half when they were under strong pressure defending their lead and ended up with six yellow cards in total.

But for Críost Rí boss Aidan Moynihan, the shambles of a start left his side with a mountain to climb.

“We gave ourselves too much to do, they came out of the blocks real fast,” he said.

“We were better in the second-half but they were well groomed, seemed to know our strengths. Nothing seemed to go right for us.”

Jarlath’s, who were on the pitch nearly an hour before the throw-in, stormed into the action and were five points ahead after only nine minutes, despite playing against the strong breeze. Walsh delivered two from frees, Gearóid Armstrong, Aidian Varley and Adrian Nolan the others.

Jarlath’s looked real slick, especially up front, forcing Críost Rí to adjust their half-back line to stem the tide, switching wing backs Tom Lawrence and Enda Dennehy. Luke Connolly, who had a fine match, finally opened their account with a 10th minute free and when Paul Fitzgerald and Eoin McGreevey (twice) followed, the Cork college’s cause was looking a lot healthier, trailing now by just a point, 0-5 to 0-4, after the opening quarter.

But with Burke working his socks off and Paul Varley steely in defence, Jarlath’s were always buzzing.

Playing some exquisite football, they stretched their lead again with points from Liam Silke and another Walsh special. And worse was to follow for Críost Rí when Walsh and Burke set up McNamara for that crucial goal.

The Cork school were in big trouble now and although Kieran Dalton did respond with a point, it was going go be big ask to turn things around in the second-half when trailing 1-8 to 0-5 and a stiff wind to contend with.

To their credit, Críost Ri were terrific in the second-half and attacked Jarlath’s at will. Jordan Philpot reduced the gap with a point and the battling Connolly was just denied a goal, turned out for a fruitless 45. Kieran Dalton had strong claims for a penalty turned down in the 39th minute and, with Stephen Cronin now happier raiding down the left flank, further points followed from Philpott and Connolly.

Jarlath’s looked rattled, scoring just one point in the third quarter as their lead was cut to 1-9 to 0-10. Then a miss that was to kill Críost Rí’s charge, Alan Nolan putting a gilt-edged point chance wide. A score here could have changed the game and Jarlath’s made them pay when Michael McWalters pointed at the other end.

Then agony again for Críost Rí when the dangerous Connolly seemed to do everything right, but saw his shot come back off both uprights along the goal-line and cleared by full-back Conor Cunningham.

On another day Críost Rí might have had better luck. And Jarlath’s were quick to capitalise on their good fortune, Burke firing over two points, one very questionable.

But there was nothing questionable about the classy Walsh’s late effort, another scorcher this time from the right touchline to supplement his earlier gem from the left.

In the end that extra bit of class told, it got Jarlath’s through a tough hour. And how they celebrated.

Scorers for St Jarlath’s: S Walsh 0-6 (3f), I Burke 0-3, C McNamara 1-0, G Armstrong, A Varley, A Nolan, L Silke, M McWalters 0-1 each.

Scorers for Coláiste Chríost Rí: L Connolly 0-5 (3f), J Philpott 0-3 (2f), K Dalton, E McGreevey 0-2 each, P Fitzgerald, E Finn 0-1 each.

ST JARLATH’S: J Healy; C Mulryan, C Cunningham, D Collins; P Glynn, A Nolan, P Varley; G Armstrong, L Silke; S Walsh, I Burke, C McNamara; S Silke, A Varley, M McWalters.

Subs: C Langan for McNamara (53), M Faragher for Glynn (58), C Treacy for Mulryan (60).

COLÁISTE CHRÍOST RÍ: J Kerins; I Lynch, K Fulignati, M Lehane; E Dennehy, S Cronin, T Lawrence; S O’Keeffe, E Finn; A Nolan, E McGreevey, P Fitzgerald; L Connolly, K Dalton, J Philpott.

Sub: C Madden for Finn (53).

Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).

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