Connemara Gaels juniors advanced to the semi-finals of the championship with a hard fought victory over a Shannon Blues side that battled hard throughout. It was to and fro for the 60 minutes as neither side could gain a decisive edge. The Gaels opened a 5 point lead late in the game and it proved to be just enough as the Blues got it back to a point in injury time.
A goal got the game off to a great start for the Gaels, Conor McNamara netted with a fine strike. From then on the Gaels struggled to deal with the Blues tenacity, especially in the middle of the field. The Blues held an advantage in this area with Vinny Cadden and John Walsh making life very difficult for their counterparts. The sides traded points with scores coming from Kevin Owens, McNamara, and Emmet McLaughlin on the Gaels side, and Walsh, Maurice Young, and Shane Kavanagh for the Blues.
A goal for the Blues changed the tone of the contest. Walsh made a run through the Gaels defence and his shot found the back of the net. After the Gaels answered in kind from Ciaran Lee to restore the one goal advantage, the Blues restored parity. Maurice Young was a very effective asset for the Blues and although he looked to playing in some discomfort caused no end of problems in the Gaels defence. Four unanswered points drew the sides level before Kevin Owens gave the Gaels a slight edge going into the break with a point.
The decisive score came about mid way through the second half. Having turned the half time deficit into a one point lead the Blues looked increasingly likely to earn the victory. Brian Joyce, however, upped his game in the middle of the field and a goal came from a Joyce possession that was helped on with an expertly delivered Pat McNicholas pass to Emmett McConnell who had the path to goal open in front of him. The center forward finished well. The goal provided the Gaels with a lift. Chris Devlin put back to back points over the bar, both superb scores, to put the Gaels 5 to the good.
The Blues were not about to concede defeat. With Shane Kavanagh and Tommy Hernon doing sterling work for the cause, and Cadden having moved to a full forward position, a penalty was earned after a foul on Cadden in the box. Kavanagh’s low effort skinned the outside of the post, inches between success and failure. With the game entering the late stages both teams looked tired. The toils on the large field taking its toll. The Gaels tried to see out the win, but the Blues continued their assault on the Gaels goal and made it close right until the end. A pointed Kavanagh free was followed by a goal from Francie O’Neill late in injury time. The Blues had one last chance but once Coleman Conroy intercepted possession that was it. The Gaels survive to make the semi-finals next week.
Gaels: J.O’Donnell, S. Murray, E. Maher, P. McNicholas, C. Devlin, C. Conroy, C. McNamara, B. Joyce, C. Lee, E. McDonnell, AJ Maguire, K. Owens, K. Lowe. Blues: A. Hernon, D. O’Brien, M. Keegan, C. Moriarty, F. O’Neill, V. Cadden, J. Walsh, B. Fannon, S. Kavanagh, J. Young, T. Hernon, M. Young.
Aidan McAnespies took advantage of an injury time reprieve to force extra time and advance to the junior A football semi-final. Wolfe Tones will regret a plethora of missed chances when they held an edge on the balance of play in normal time, while McAnespies took full advantage. An early goal and three points at start the added period put the game away.
McAnespies got off to the better start. Aaron McKenna and Paul Daly put a point over each. The Tones had their early opportunities, but on two or three occasions the finishing effort was wayward. McKenna and McAlinden added to the lead as the Tones frustration with their inability to tally a score grew.
In terms of possession it was quite even. Both sets of backs absorbed pressure well, the McAnespies defenders probably had a little bit more to do, and they did it well. Eventually Sean Kelly and Lee Clarke converted for the Tones, but the shooting continued to let them down. McKenna and Shane Lynn cancelled out the inroads that the Tones had made on the scoreboard. At the break it was a six points to three lead for McAnespies.
The first four scores of the second half came from the Tones. One was a beautiful curling effort from Joyce-Power. Things appeared to be shifting in favour of the Tones with Jonathan Carroll and Pa Collins getting a foothold in midfield while Darren and Sean McGuire attacked from the half back line. Each time the Tones edged ahead, however, McAnespies managed to pull level. There were goal chances at either end. Lee Clarke skidded a shot wide of the far post at one end and at the other, substitute Jimmy Flynn hot the outside of the post.
Gavin Walsh edged the Tones ahead with a well taken score, but the Southie boys missed a couple of chances to open a gap. A free for McAnespies leveled the scores with a minute left, but Walsh provided the Tones with that one point edge following the kickout. Four minutes into injury time Ryan McCrystal took advantage of a last chance and sent the game into extra time.
Extra time belonged to McAnespies. McKenna fisted a deflected shot into the net and set the tone for the remaining 20 minutes. After a Paul Daly run McAlinden pointed, and the score was followed by McKenna and Hamill points. The work was done in the first 5 minutes. McAnespies controlled the game from then on as the Tones had no choice but to go for goal. A late goal by Ger Molloy proved too late and McAnespies advance.
Macs: N. Duffy, B. Smith, A. Kellet, R. McCrystal, M. Bogue, P. Daly, S. Lynn, N. Donaghy, O. McNulty, O. McCusker, E. Hamill, G. McAlinden, A. McKenna. Tones: P. Miskell, K. Gill, M. McNamara, K. Goram, D. McGuire, S. McGuire, J. Carroll, P. Collins, E. Carr, W. Milner, L. Clarke, C. Joyce-Power, S. Kelly.