The 2019 season got off to flying start in Stradbally on Sunday morning as St Joseph’s survived a battling comeback from Ballyroan Abbey to emerge three point victors and book their place in the final next weekend.
With the 2018 competition running through to early 2019, the final between St Joseph’s and Portarlington is now due to be concluded next weekend, this semi-final had everything on display - two penalties, five goals, a late revival and ultimately a red card.
Ballyroan Abbey started the better of the two sides as a brace of Diarmuid Whelan frees edged them into the lead, followed by a sweet outside-of-the-boot effort from Enda McWey and another Whelan free as they led by 0-4 to 0-1 after the opening quarter with Peter Kealy slotting St Joseph’s sole point.
St Joseph’s settled into the proceedings and their first goal arrived shortly after when Brian Daly and Josh Lacey combined to see the latter blast the ball into the top-corner of the Ballyroan Abbey net and level the sides.
St Joseph’s then had an opportunity to go three points clear as Peter Kealy was fouled in the square leaving referee Maurice Deegan to award a penalty, only for Brian Daly’s effort from the spot to graze the outside of the left post and trail wide.
St Joseph’s didn’t have to wait long for their second goal to arrive as a brilliantly-worked move between Bernard Wheatley and Peter Kealy allowed Dylan Doyle to beat Tom McCann the second time of asking. Conor Kealy and Whelan exchanged points before the break to leave the scoreline at 2-2 to 0-5 at half-time.
St Joseph’s were on a mission after the restart as Dylan Doyle rattled off his second goal almost directly from the throw-in, and points followed from Conor and Peter Kealy to extend the St Joseph’s lead to eight within three minutes of the resumption.
Ballyroan Abbey kept in touch with a Whelan free and a second of the day for Enda McWey to cut the the gap to six points, but St Joseph’s pushed on with Peter Kealy, Dean Brophy and Daly all splitting the posts to go nine points clear with just under fifteen minutes to play.
Ballyroan Abbey refused to lay down and a well-taken point from substitute Charlie Whelan set the comeback underway. A penalty followed for the Ballyroan men, with Whelan’s initial effort blasting off the crossbar before he calmly slotted the rebound. Colm Walshe added a point to close the gap further, but points from Seamus Farrelly and Dylan Doyle steadied the St Joseph’s ship.
But there was still time for late drama as Ballyroan Abbey added a second goal late-on through Enda McWey to cut the gap to three points - with a row breaking out in the direct aftermath resulting in Dylan Doyle receiving his marching orders, meaning he will miss the final - but St Joseph’s held strong in the final minutes to book a final showdown against Portarlington.
Scorers: Dylan Doyle 2-1, Peter Kealy 0-3, Josh Lacey 1-0, Conor Kealy 0-2, Brian Daly, Dean Brophy and Seamus Farrelly 0-1 each.
Team: Adam Nichol-Waugh; Robbie Langton, James Kelly, Dylan O’Brien; Jack Lacey, Niall Brennan, Dean Brophy; Brian Daly, Bernard Wheatley; Josh Lacey, Dylan Doyle, Mikie Dempsey; Ciaran Ramsbottom, Conor Kealy, Peter Kealy. SUBS: Seamus Farrelly for Ramsbottom (50 mins), Mikey Meaney for Peter Kealy (58 mins).
BALLYROAN ABBEY GAELS
Scorers: Diarmuid Whelan 1-5 (0-3 frees), Enda McWey 1-2, Charlie Whelan and Colm Walsh 0-1 each.
Team: Tom McCann; Cian Moffitt, Barry Walsh, JJ Murphy; Ciaran Byrne, Eoghan Whelan, Aaron McEvoy; Cathal Doyle, John Rogers; Colm Walsh, Diarmuid Whelan, Stephen Thompson; Enda McWey, Paudie McDonald, Adam Brennan. SUBS: Ciaran Carroll for Brennan (HT), Colin Kinsella for Murphy (40 mins), Charlie Whelan for McDonald (40 mins), Dylan Cuddy for Thompson (50 mins).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally)