HE great cheer that arose from the Kilaveney players and
supporters on referee Garreth Whelans final whistle at the end of the under-20 A
football final showed exactly what this victory over a gallant Eire Og
Greystones side meant to the panel of players from Tinahely, Coolkenno,
Shillelagh/ Coolboy and Annacurra.
A championship that was at times interesting, sometimes
competitive, too often horribly one-sided and regularly and fiercely debated
online has ended with the most talked about team claiming the honours and that
cheer suggested that this was an extra sweet crown for a very talented group of
A bad start for Eire Og saw them playing catch-up over the
course of this game but what a superb effort they made to rein in the
high-flying Kilaveney men with substitute Eoin ONeill flicking home a wonderful
early goal in the second half to pull the Greystones side back to within two
with eight gone.
Eire Og needed goals. ONeills was their second, their first arriving from a long ball from Shaun Cranley that appears to have made its way unhindered to the back of Alan Lillis net after 26 minutes of the first half. Alas, they would score no more majors and they were effectively shut down by a well populated and hungry Tinahely defence with man of the match Rory Stokes shining brightest in terms of work rate and self sacrifice.
Shortly after Eire Og, who had dispatched AGB in their semi-final, came within those two points of Kilaveney, Podge Murphy and John Blakes men seemed to grow in stature and focus the attention on ridding themselves of their brave opponents.
The Greystones men came within those two points thanks in no
small part to their captain and goalkeeper Conor Browne who made two
magnificent saves in the first half and another not long after Eoin ONeill had
flicked home with the boot from a Conor Fulham ball.
The ease at which Kilaveney were able to unlock a
hard-working defence was worrying and a foul on Eoin Darcy resulted in a
penalty for the side in red and a yellow card for Rory Lucy. It also presented
Conor Browne with a seismic challenge of saving a spot kick from one of the
finest young footballers in the county in the shape of Matthew Ging. And that
task proved beyond the Greystones netminder as Ging fired low and hard to the
back of the net and all of a sudden Kilaveney were five clear with 20 to go.
Eire Og werent done yet. Points from the excellent Fintan OShea and the very impressive Shaun Cranley pulled the northerners back to within three at the end of the third quarter but that would be as good as it got for them.
A rapid three unanswered points (Ging from a free, Cillian
McDonald and Ging from play) left Eire Og with a monster task with nine to go
and those goals that they needed just weren’t going to come for a number of
reasons, the most important being that the right ball just wasn’t being dropped
in on top of Eoin ONeill.
Shaun Cranley made it 2-10 to 2-5 after 23 but a stunning run and point from the electric Eoin Darcy who certainly didn’t have it all his own way over the course of the hour returned the gap to six.
Midfielder Kieran Sheehy dropped over a beauty with four to go but points from Ging and the determined Cillian McDonald put paid to the Eire Og challenge and secured a deserved and warranted under 20 A crown for a team littered with young men who will wear the senior Wicklow jersey for years to come.
Kilaveneys strong start certainly stood to them. Annacurras
Gearoid Murphy fired over after bombing through the middle and Pauric Murray’s
two frees opened up a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after 11 with Conor Browne saving from the
boot of Ging after eight.
Browne was the hero of the day again after 12, and again
from the relentless Ging, and points from Eoin Darcy and three from Ging (one
free) were followed by a stunning goal from Rory Stokes and things were looking
very dire for the Eire Og men.
But Cranleys speculative ball ending up in the net was a
major fillip for the Greystones men and going in 1-7 to 1-1 down (the point
from a free by Cranley) left them in a relatively healthy position ahead of the
However, Kilaveney lived up to their favourites tag and
proved far too strong for Eire Og, and they claimed a title in a championship
that is growing in popularity and standard.