Brian Byrne's goal was crucial for Graiguecullen.
Despite not managing a single score in the second half, Graiguecullen stumbled past two in a row champions St Joseph’s, who missed two late frees to salvage a result from this semi-final.
Danny Bolger, who was pinpoint with his frees the last day out against O’Dempsey’s, continued his accuracy to point early on and put Graiguecullen on the board.
Daniel O’Reilly beautifully sliced over Graiguecullen’s second, but St Joseph’s fired back, with two Brian Daly free levelling this affair in Stradbally. St Joseph’s were playing against a stiff breeze in the first half, and it showed, as they wouldn’t score in the remaining quarter of the half.
Graiguecullen took full advantage, with a point from play by Dean Malone and two from Danny Bolger, one a free, the other from play. The Carlow border side were defending in numbers, and it was paying dividends, as they overturned St Joseph’s time and time again.
Graiguecullen got the only goal of the game through Brian Byrne. St Joseph’s were caught out at the back after some sloppy play, and Graiguecullen moved the ball quick through hands, with Byrne firing high into the net past Aaron Cooney.
Bolger pointed a further two frees before half-time, as Graiguellen went in to the dressing rooms with an eight point advantage.
St Joseph’s, despite trailing by eight, knew that they played against the wind in the first half, and the game was far from over. It took six minutes, but Brian Daly finally returned St Joseph’s to the scoreboard after a twenty-minute drought. Conor Kealy added another, as St Joseph’s started to turn the tide.
They were then handed another boost, as Graiguecullen midfielder Jamie Sheehan received his second yellow after deliberately stopping Daly in his tracks. Peter Kealy landed a beauty, and Conor Kealy followed suit, as St Joseph’s had halved the deficit.
Graiguecullen were finding it difficult to get out of their half at this stage. With the loss of midfielder Jamie Sheehan, St Joseph’s duo James Smith and Brian Daly were dominating the skies. Even when they did win the kick-out, they struggled to keep hold of possession.
Daly reduced the gap to a goal, and Dylan Doyle, who had been well marshalled by Trevor Collins, left just two in it.
Conor Kealy narrowed the gap to one, but St Joseph’s were hitting just as many wides as scores. James Kelly and Daly missed two frees at the end, as Graiguecullen hung on to advance to the final.
Scorers: Brian Daly 0-4 (frees), Conor Kealy 0-3, Peter Kealy and Dylan Doyle 0-1 each.
Team: Aaron Cooney; Jack Lacey, James Kelly, James Fitzgerald; Dean Brophy, Niall Brennan, Lir McDonald; Bernard Wheatley, James Smith; Mikey Dempsey, Dylan Doyle, Brian Daly; Conor Kealy, Peter Kealy, Ciarán Ramsbottom. Subs: Oran Maher for Bernard Wheatley (half-time).
Scorers: Danny Bolger 0-5 (0-4 frees), Brian Byrne 1-0, Daniel O’Reilly and Dean Malone 0-1 each.
Team: Ger Kiernan; Eoin Aylsbury, Tunde Ogunfowora, Sean Farrell; Martin Doyle, Trevor Collins, Kyle O’Brien; Daniel O’Reilly, Jamie Sheehan; Dean Malone, Brian Byrne, Paul Mulready; Ethan O’Neill, Danny Bolger, Thomas Brennan. Subs: Kian Carroll for Doyle (55 mins).
Referee: John Flynn (The Rock).
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