Despite a much improved second-half display that saw them outscore St Mary’s by six points to five, Knockbeg could not overcome an eight point half-time deficit as they exited the Leinster Championship at the quarter-final stage.
Played on a heavy and very grassy pitch in Carbury on Friday, St Mary’s used the wind behind them to the fullest advantage in the opening 30 minutes to build a 0-10 to 0-2 lead. Knockbeg were under constant pressure in the opening period with their only scores coming in the first and the 30th minutes.
Knockbeg were much improved in the second-half, tightening up through the middle while also making much better use of possession. Midway through the second 30 minutes, they had reduced the gap to a managable five and they would have been closer had they taken all the opportunities that came their way including a penalty that was saved in first-half injury-time. Ultimately however, St Mary’s were able to close out the game primarily due to the contribution of the outstanding Adam Mahon in midfield.
Playing with the wind in the first-half, St Mary’s dropped an extra player into midfield and used their numerical advantage around the centre of the field to great effect. When they won possession, they broke in numbers through the middle and were clinical with their passing to open up scoring opportunities.
Knockbeg opened the scoring with only a minute on the clock through James Redmond but for the remainder of the half it was virtually one way traffic with St Mary’s taking control of the game. They were in front after four minutes thanks to scores from Jack Robinson and Eoin Farrell as they ran at the heart of the Knockbeg defence.
From the ninth to the 25th minute, they scored seven unanswered points, all from play, as Knockbeg battled hard just to keep themselves on contention.
Just before the break, Knockbeg had a great chance to get back into the game when they were awarded a penalty after James Redmond was fouled as he went through on goal. Unfortunately for Knockbeg, Glen Pullen’s effort was saved by Wayne Cummins with the goalkeeper getting back to his feet quickly to save again from Pullen on rebound.
Darren Lunney did add a point for Knockbeg but that was cancelled out by Jack Robinson as St Mary’s went to the break with an eight point lead.
To their credit, Knockbeg came out with a renewed sense of purpose in the second-half kicking four of the first five points to substantially close the gap. Caomhan Brennan was very much to the fore with Daniel O’Reilly also exerting more of an influence on the game.
Mark Glynn and Adam Mahon exchanged early points before three points from frees for Knockbeg, two from Mark Glynn and one from distance from Danny Bolger, reduced the gap to just five points. The deficit could have been even less bu Knockbeg missed some good scoring chances including two frees.
With Knockbeg threatening a comeback, man of the match Adam Mahon stepped up to the mark for St Mary’s kicking two super points that took the sting out of the fightback.
In the closing minutes, the sides exchanged two points apiece, Darren Lunney and Glen Pullen for Knockbeg and Jamie Reilly and Stephen McGlynn for St Mary’s, as the Offaly school secured their place in the last four.