Shillelagh/Coolboy set up battle with Ashford
SHILL/COOLBOY 2-16 BLESSINGTON 1-11
AN impressive 11 points from the in-form Wayne Kinsella and a sublime lobbed goal late on off the boot of the talented Brendan Behan helped Shillelagh/Coolboy to guaranteed promotion from Division 3 and sent them on a collision course with Ashford this weekend for the league crown.
Nine wins out of 10 games is the impressive stats for John Smith’s side so far this season and the recently merged outfit seem to be improving with each passing week and should present a major challenge to what will be an ultra-competitive Junior ‘A’ football championship in a few weeks’ time.
Blessington were seriously depleted for this game with as many as nine bodies missing from the fray in the Fairgreen but the west side still presented a very difficult challenge to the home side on a very pleasant evening for football.
It was to Kevin John Rogers, Eddie Boylan and Adam Boland that the Blues would look to for leadership and all three along with the majority of their comrades performed very well and possibly should have taken more from this game had things worked out differently at key stages.
Shillelagh/Coolboy’s tendency to fade out of games for spells will be a big concern for their management team.
Once engaged in the battle they are a serious force, but they seem to allow their opponents a pathway back into the game by lapses in concentration, and this will need to be cut out as the big games keep rolling.
A bright start for the home side saw them cruise out to a 0-2 to 0-0 lead with points from Wayne Kinsella and the stylish PJ Mulhall at centre half forward.
Kinsella would strike again after 10 minutes but either side of points from Adam Boland and Stephen Carroll from a free to leave Shillelagh/Coolboy leading by a point at 0-3 to 0-2.
John Smith’s men enjoyed one of those Fairgreen purple patches then with heavy pressure providing the outstaning Wayne Kinsella with two chances from frees and the dual player obliged to push Shillelagh/Coolboy out to a 0-5 to 0-2 cushion after 16.
But Blessington were always threatening once they broke out of their own half and they enjoyed a very healthy period of dominance with Eddie Boylan proving to be a serious target man.
Fionnan Leahy began the recovery before Boylan struck with two beauties before Adam Murphy replied to a PJ Mulhall effort at the other end to leave the game nicely poised at 0-6 apiece after 24 minutes.
Shillelagh/Coolboy possessed a goal threat and it looks to be at its most potent when Brendan Behan is on the ball and when he gathered a long PJ O’Keeffe ball with only Cian Geraghty to beat in the Blessington goal you fancied his chances but Geraghty stood up well and Behan was forced to turn and selflessly hand off to the onrushing PJ Mulhall who finished to the back of the Blessington net for the game’s opening goal.
The home side took a 1-7 to 0-7 lead into the break; Eddie Boylan plucking a sweet ball from the sky before splitting the posts for Blessington before Brendan Behan finally got himself on the scoreboard after savage work from Wayne Kinsella.
Things looked all the sweeter for Shillelagh/Coolboy not long after the restart when they won a penalty but Wayne Kinsella got under the ball and drove over for a point and the lead was pushed out to a 1-10 to 0-7 lead thanks to two more points from Kinsella (one free).
But Blessington were never gone away, and points from Glen Farrell, Fionnan Leahy and a converted free from Eddie Boylan after 14 left just the major between the sides with John Smith’s men losing Jonathon Smyth to a black card in what was another boost for the visitors.
Superb play from PJ Mulhall set Wayne Kinsella up and the big full-forward split the posts with a fine score but a tame Blessington ball from Stephen Carroll caused the Shillelagh/Coolboy defence plenty of headaches and centre half forward Michael Nugent dispatched the ball to the back of Laurie Cullen’s net to pull his side to within one of the home team.
The sides were level moments later when Stephen Carroll fired over a sweet 45 but the lead didn’t last for long as Wayne Kinsella cut inside on the dressing room side to launch over an absolute bomb of a point after good work from
This was the key phase of the game. Brendan Behan finally shook free of the shackles of the Blessington defence and walloped over on 20 minutes.
Blessington had chances but could only register a wide from Nugent while Boylan was blocked down by the hard-working Aaron Kinsella.
And then Brendan Behan did something that few can manage at this level.
A stray kick-out was gathered by the Shillelagh/Coolboy attacker and he instinctively struck a dream ball that sailed in over the head of the retreating Cian Geraghty for a superb lob that effectively killed the game as a contest.
It was all Shilellagh/Coolboy in the closing stages with points from Wayne Kinsella (two, one free) and a fisted point from Brendan Behan as the home side ran out comfortable winners at the end of a very entertaining battle by 2-16 to 1-11 to set up a winner-takes-all battle with Ashford this weekend.
Scorers - Shillelagh/Coolboy: Wayne Kinsella 0-11 (4f), Brendan Behan 1-3, PJ Mulhall 1-2.
Blessington: Eddie Boylan 0-4, Michael Nugent 1-0, Fionnan Leahy 0-2 (1f), Stephen Carroll 0-2, Adam Boland 0-1, Sean Byrne 0-1, Glen Farrell 0-1
SHILLELAGH/COOLBOY: Laurie Cullen; Garrett Gregan, Sean Carroll, Enda Foley; Aaron Kinsella, Daire Foley, Jonathon Smyth; Dan Nolan, Ray Murphy; PJ O’Keeffe, PJ Mulhall, Cathal Murphy; Brendan Behan, Wayne Kinsella, Daniel Behan. Subs: Patrick Hennessy for J Smyth (B/C), James Gregan for G Gregan BLESSINGTON: Cian Geraghty; Bradley Foster, Eoin Howlin, Stephen Byrne; Peter O’Connell, KJ Rogers, Glen Farrell; Adam Boland, Sean Byrne; Stephen Carroll, Michael Nugent, Fionnan Leahy; Eddie Boylan; Kieran McGovern, Adam Murphy. Subs: Paddy Reilly, Ruairi Finan, David Phibbs. REFEREE: Stephen Fagan (Baltinglass)
Shillelagh/Coolboy’s Dan Nolan battles with Blessington’s Adam Boland during the Division 3 clash at the Fairgreen.