Despite posting 15 second-half wides, Thurles CBS held on to advance past Gaelcholáiste Mhuire and into the Dr Harty Cup semi-finals at Kilmallock yesterday. Leading 2-4 to 0-7 at half-time and with the wind to come, competition favourites Thurles appeared set to push on and book their last-four spot with ease.
A combination of poor shooting and a dogged Gaelcholáiste display made for a closer-than-expected second-half, but, ultimately, the Cork city school couldn’t get level..
Selector Martin Maher acknowledged afterwards the first-half goals from Jack Butler and Billy McCarthy, which helped them lead 2-4 to 0-7 at the break, were crucial.
“Conditions were difficult,” he said, “both sides had wides and the wind was swirling. We’re just delighted to get over the line. The goals really brought us into the game. They started well but we gained confidence from the first goal and then maybe we were lucky to get the second.
“There was nothing simple there. It was a quick turnaround coming back after Christmas but we have a few weeks now to prepare for the semi-final.”
Thurles were left standing as AG roared into life, scoring five points in the opening eight minutes, Donal Ó Conaing and Adam Ó Donnabháin impressing in attack and Eadbhard Ó Conaing on top at the back.
The Tipperary school served notice of their intentions as Butler was denied by a Darragh Ó Conaill save in the 12th minute and a minute later Thurles’ brightest attacker had the ball in the net, finishing well after Robbie Long’s delivery broke.
Butler followed that with a point and while Donal Ó Conaing responded with a free for the AG, Thurles then struck for a second goal. This time Butler was the provider for midfielder McCarthy, who fired past Ó Conaill. Further points from Ronan Teehan and Robbie Long – who also drew a fine save from Ó Conaill – meant three points separated the sides at half-time and Brendan Kelly’s brace at the start of the second-half suggested an inevitability about the outcome.
In the 36th minute, Gaelcholáiste Mhuire seized a lifeline, however. Somehow, energetic midfielder Dayne Ó Laoi – who will feature for Cork against UL in the Waterford Crystal Cup today – made his way through four challenges and, though he was only able to get in a one-handed shot, the ball nested in the net to leave it 2-6 to 1-7.
Thurles created enough chances to pull clear again but the target remained elusive and they had 10 second-half wides by the 45th minute.
The AG couldn’t take full advantage but Ó Laoi, with a great point on the run, did manage to bring them back to within a point. A Donal Ó Conaing free might have levelled but Thurles full-back Enda Heffernan did well to bring the ball down on the goal-line.
Eventually, Thurles’ drought was ended by Butler, though Donal Ó Conaing replied immediately and did so again after Niall Heffernan nailed a difficult free.
Deep into injury time, the AG were afforded one final chance when Evan Ó Síocháin found possession on the left but Dillon Quirke forced him wide and his low effort was saved by William Tierney. That was the last action, though an incident after the final whistle saw referee Richard Moloney red-card Thurles’ Ronan Heffernan, who may miss the semi-final against Castletroy College or Youghal’s Pobalscoil na Tríonóide.
Scorers for Thurles CBS: J Butler 1-2, B McCarthy 1-0, B Kelly, R Long 0-2 each, R Teehan, N Heffernan 0-1 (free) each.
Scorers for Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG: D Ó Laoi 1-3, D Ó Conaing 0-5 (four frees), A Ó Donnabháin 0-2.
THURLES CBS: W Tierney (Thurles Sarsfields); D Quirke (Clonoulty-Rossmore), J Derby (Thurles Sarsfields), E Heffernan (Clonoulty-Rossmore); J Skehan (Holycross-Ballycahill), C McCullagh (Moycarkey-Borris), R Heffernan (Clonoulty-Rossmore); B McCarthy (Thurles Sarsfields), C Moloney (Thurles Sarsfields); R Teehan (Gortnahoe-Glengoole), K Duggan (Galmoy), N Heffernan (Moycarkey-Borris); B Kelly (Rathdowney-Errill), R Long (Drom & Inch), J Butler (Upperchurch-Drombane).
Subs: M Connors (Drom & Inch) for Duggan (47), M Stakelum (Holycross-Ballycahill) for Kelly (54, injured), R Purcell (Thurles Sarsfields) for Teehan (60).
GAELCHOLÁISTE MHUIRE AG: D Ó Conaill (Na Piarsaigh); A Ó Súilleabháin (Glen Rovers), E Ó Conaing (Na Piarsaigh), R Ó Meara (Na Piarsaigh); A Breathnach (Na Piarsaigh), J Ó Muireasa (Na PIarsaigh), E Ó Caoimh (Na Piarsaigh); L Ó Cochláin (Glen Rovers), D Ó Laoi (Na Piarsaigh); C Ó hAinifín (Na Piarsaigh), E Ó Laoire (Na Piarsaigh), K Ó hEathairn (Na Piarsaigh); D Ó Conaing (Na Piarsaigh), A Ó Donnabháin (Glen Rovers), E Ó Síocháin (Na Piarsaigh).
Subs: B Ó Ceallacháin (Na Piarsaigh) for Breathnach (24, injured), P de Faoite (Glen Rovers) for Ó hEathairn (half-time).
Referee: R Moloney (Limerick).