Arles-Killeen booked themselves a place in the SFC final against Portlaoise, after a hard fought victory over neighbours Graiguecullen on Sunday afternoon.
Arles-Killeen were first off the mark, Donal Kingston won the ball in midfield and, using the strong breeze to his advantage, sent it into Jason Enright who slotted it over the bar inside the opening 20 seconds.
Donal Brennan worked hard up front and his efforts were rewarded when he chipped a ball beautifully into the hands of Dermot Julian who popped the ball between the posts to give Arles a two point lead after five minutes.
The Graiguecullen defence made the Arles forwards work hard for everything they got; Mark Timmons in particular put the full forward line under immense pressure and the opening ten minutes was a very heated and physical affair. Scores from Donal Brennan and Enright extended Arles’ lead 0-4 to 0-0 with ten minutes on the clock.
Graiguecullen’s Ian Fleming split the solid Arles-Killeen defence with an impressive diagonal run and only for Michael Leigh producing a tremendous save would have registered Graiguecullen’s first score of the half. Arles responded to this goal effort with a Donal Kingston point from a free, increasing his sides lead.
Trevor Collins’ run up the pitch resulted in a free for his side which Mark Doogue sent between the posts, registering Graiguecullen’s first score of the half with sixteen minutes played.
Arles continued to use the strong wind to their advantage; Donal Kingston sent another point over the bar from a free while Jason Enright made a terrific run through the centre to register another point. Donal Brennan set Conor Keightley up for a score in the 23rd minute as Arles-Killeen began to pull away; Keightley’s point giving them a 0-8 to 0-1 lead. Graiguecullen had a great chance before half-time; good play by Shane O’ Neill and Ian Fleming saw Lee Timmons run in one-on-one with Arles’ Michael Leigh but he sent his shot to the left and wide.
Donal Brennan was on hand again to set Jason Enright up for a point their side before the half ended. Aaron Forbes added a point for Graigue, leaving them trailing 0-9 to 0-2 with it all to do in the second half.
Perhaps it was because they were playing against a strong breeze and their points fell short in the opening half, but Graiguecullen had numerous chances in front of goal that they should have put over the bar. Arles-Killeen ‘keeper Michael Leigh made tremendous saves to deny Graiguecullen the chance to slot one past him and undoubtedly Graiguecullen will rue these missed opportunities.
Graiguecullen had the strong breeze in their favour in the second half and Aaron Forbes didn’t hesitate to kick the opening score of the half to get the ball rolling for Graiguecullen. Donal Kingston and Ian Fleming exchanged frees and Graiguecullen began to command midfield as the half unfolded.
The weather took a turn for the worst in the second half, the heavy rain made conditions far from ideal and the strong wind made it difficult for both sides. Graiguecullen persevered however; Fleming found the target for Graiguecullen in the 41st minute, curling the ball over the bar from 55 yards out. Mark Doogue followed his example and put a well taken point between the posts and Ambrose Doran added to this a minute later, sending the ball sailing between the posts and closing the gap to four.
Graiguecullen suffered a blow in the 44th minute when Aaron Forbes was shown a black card. Forbes scored two pivotal points from play for Graiguecullen and his height in the full forward line was central to the Graiguecullen attack in the second half.
A fine individual score by Donal Kingston interrupted Graiguecullen’s scoring spree; Kingston ran through the Graiguecullen defence and tapped it over the bar to keep his side ahead with a comfortable five point lead. Mark Doogue added two points for Graiguecullen to close the gap to a goal as the game entered injury time.
Graiguecullen were awarded a fourteen yard free in the last minute but Arles-Killeen put every man behind the ball to ensure a goal wasn’t conceded. Donal Kingston came storming through the defence with the ball to cheers from the Arles-Killeen supporters as Eamonn Strong sounded his whistle and Arles-Killeen earned their spot in their second SFC in two years.