Monday, August 14, 2017

Junior A Football Semi-Final: Cork v Connemara Gaels

Cork 3-22 Connemara Gaels 5-8 (AET)

The Gaels seemed to have the game in the bag, but Cork pulled off a second half comeback to force extra time.  The rebels then had more in reserve for the additional 20 minutes and in the end came out comfortable victors.  Cathail Arnold was the center of all things good for the Corkmen, and when the Down man had the ball in his hands it was almost always going to result in a score. An injury time penalty that Arnold dispatched tied it the game up.  In the extra time it was Cork who secured the win and a place in next week’s final versus the Shannon Blues.

Ian Heanue looks for a route past Jack Lynch.
It was a ding dong first half as each side vied for control of the game.  Cork defended well for the most of the 30 minutes with Colm Caffrey and Seamus Loftus doing well in the half back line.  At the other end of the field, Paudi O’Shea and Cathail Arnold were doing most of the damage.  Arnold tallied four of Cork’s first half total, two points were well taken frees off the ground.  Mark Dalton popped over a well worked point and Paudi O’Shea another, as Cork looked good in the early going.  It took the Gaels a while to get into the swing of things, but once they did the goals came. 

Noel Graham had netted early, and the goal kept the Gaels in it as Cork outscored the westerners four points to one.  With half time approaching the Gaels started to motor, with Noel Graham, Ian Heanue and Coleman Mulkerrins combining well.  Twice the Gaels opened up the Cork defence and Graham netted twice, the finishes almost identical, left footed into the corner. Niall Collins was involved in a point that Mulkerrins converted, Heanue put a rousing one over with a burst forward from center back, and AJ Maguire also got on the scoreboard to send the Gaels into the break up by 8, 3-5 to 0-6 – and looking good for the win.

Cork picked off the points and whittled away at the Gaels lead in the second half.  O’Shea, Arnold, Caffrey, and James Long were in target as the gap between the sides closed.  The Gaels struggled to move the ball out of their own half, and almost like the junior B final the evening before, Cork had all routes to goal closed off and inched closer.  With the lead narrowed down to a goal.  Cork almost leveled the scores following a turnover as the Gaels tried to play the ball out of defence, however, the ball was scrambled off the line.

Jack Lynch on the ball for Cork.
The Gaels rallied to goal, this time it was AJ Maguire who was played through running on to the far post, and the youth league product bundled the ball over the line to apparently ease Gaels worries.  Cork did not stop, however.  Arnold, who had moved into a more advanced position, pointed three times.  Playing at corner forward the ball was delivered early and often and Arnold capitalized each time.  With the 30 minutes played the goal still stood between the teams, and Cork then got their chance to level it.  Paidi O’Shea was bundled over just inside the box and who else but Arnold buried the spot kick.  Each side had a chance to win it in the last minute, Arnold shot wide, and Gaels turned it over when in range.  Extra time ensued.

Cork were the side with the legs to carry them through the extra period.  Cork moved the ball well to point through James Long and Dalton, and after the Gaels snatched a goal through Noel Graham with a rare attack, Cork got it right back.  Arnold set it up, and O’Shea was the finisher.  Cian Clifford belted another chance into the back of the net just before the turnaround and it looked good for the rebels.  After Cork pointed again to open up a 2 goal lead, the red shirts defended in numbers to keep the goal safe.  No repeat of last year’s final appearance for the Gaels, and for Cork it is their first appearance since 2014.

Cork:  Ollie Murphy, Ian Crowley, Darren O’Donovan, Seamus Loftus, Colm Caffrey, Sean Flynn, Jack Lynch, James Long, Simon Kennedy, Cathail Arnold, Leigh Cunningham, Mark Dalton, Paidi O’Shea.  Subs: Sean Lordan, Cian Clifford.

Gaels:  James O’Donnell, Chris Lafferty, Tom Dignan, Damien Doolan, Ian Heanue, Pat McNicholas, Niall Collins, Liam McDonagh, Tommy McDonagh, Coleman Mulkerrins, AJ Maguire, Paddy McGee, PJ Conneeley.  Subs: Kevin Walsh, Gavin MCrystal, Donal Reeney, Stephen Murray.
By Rory O'Donnell

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