Senior Prelim Quarter-Final 2021

Kilconieron 2-19 Pádraig Pearses 0-18 (AET)
Report by Ivan Smyth, Connacht Tribune

KILCONIERON’S greater en- ergy told in extra time as they secured a place in the quarter finals against a gutsy Pádraig Pearses outfit in Athenry last Sunday.

Last year’s intermediate champions have already secured promotion to Senior A next year while they now face a quarter clash against a St Thomas’ team aiming for four county titles in a row. Although they will need to improve on this display to have any chance of causing a monumental upset, they should relish their status as rank underdogs.

Both sides struggled to maintain any sort of momentum throughout this game as Pearses fought hard and dug-in while Kilconieron were guilty of some very poor wides. They shot 12 in total during normal time with the sides level at 0-14 apiece when David Earls blew the full-time whistle. Pearses were able to use Fearghal Flannery’s puckouts to initiate at- tacks in the opening half as they frequently went short to either Mark Hennelly or Richie Lally.

However, Kilconieron pushed up in the second-half with the Ballymacward-Gurteen side struggling thereafter when forced to go long. Kilconieron were able to get their hand on the sliotar more as a result, but their tactic of shooting from range wherever possible produced mixed results.

With four minutes of injury time allotted and the sides all square, it appeared that one score might be enough for either time to come out on top. In the 64th minute Shane Caulfield held his nerve to convert a free but with Paul Uniakce having received treatment for an injury suffered after win- ning his side that placed ball, two more minutes were played.

Pearses saw their initial attack repelled but Tomás Kenny produced a lovely flick along the ground after diving full length to keep the sliotar in play. Mark Hennelly then of- floaded to Adrian Bellew who drove the sliotar long, and Conor Fahey received posses

sion and chose the ideal time to fire over his first score of the game.

This finish to this encounter produced great excitement in a game which had struggled to get going with the water breaks doing little to help.

Kilconieron managed to rat- tle the net at the start and end of extra time as Sean Con- naughton and Eamon Hickey grabbed goals. They outscored their opponents by 1-4 to 0-1 in the first period of extra time.

Pearses kept plugging away, even when Emmet Ward limped off injured late on as they reduced their arrears to four points with 76 minutes played. However, Shane Caulfield caught the resulting puckout and fired a long ball in on top of Sean Connaughton with the sliotar breaking into the path of Hickey who pulled first time to the net.

The opening exchanges saw both sides spurn opportunities with some hard hits setting the tone for this game early on. Conor Caulfield and Brian Hickey fired over early scores for Kilconieron with Pearses grew into the game with Jimmy Gelston and Ward (free) levelling the game. Declan Loughnane’s Kilconieron side were on top but four wides in the opening quarter did little to help their cause.

Shane Caulfield and Ward fired over two scores each to leave the sides level at 0-4 apiece at the first water break. The game had started to open up before the water break but the stoppage in play seemed to damage any momentum that had been generated. Shane Caulfield put his side back in front but Ward, who hit eight of his side’s nine first half points, fired over.

Ward then hit three unan- swered frees as Brian Hickey responded for Kilconieron. Declan Loughnane’s side continued to spurn opportunities but a Shane Caulfield free and a well worked Colin Curley score helped Kilconieron level this game after two minutes of injury time. Gary Lally and Oisin Flannery combined to play Ward through as he pointed to give his side a 0-9 to 0-8 half time lead.

Pearses began to struggle on their own puckouts as Fearghal Flannery was guilty of some wayward restarts, although the former Galway player needed his teammates to do more to en- gineer space to receive the sliotar. Gary Lally did increase Pearses’ lead in the 34th minute but they struck three wides before the water break.

Kilconieron were struggling to break down a resolute Pearses defence as they hit three wides of their own before Conor Caufield powered upfield and notched a score. Tomás Flannery saw his fierce goalbound effort saved while from the resulting attack Kil- conieron carved out a huge goal chance when Eamon Hickey waltzed past two defenders, but he didn’t get the required con- nection when through one on one with Fearghal Flannery.

A Ward free helped Pearses lead by 0-11 to 0-9 with the sides combining to hit three points and six wides with the weather getting progressively worse as players began to lose their footing more often.

It was Kilconieron who were in control in the final quarter as Conor Caulfield, David Mangan and Shane Caulfield (free) helped their side move in front. Oisin Flannery and Ward (free) helped level the game after a Shane Caulfield free.

Shane Caulfield looked to have won the game for his side when he converted a placed ball from 45m out but Conor Fahey struck late to send this game to extra time. When play resumed last year’s intermediate champions enjoyed a dream start when Luke Uniacke played Sean Connaughton through as he rifled an effort to the net.

Despite Shane Caulfield and Conor Fahey swapping scores, Kilconieron looked the more energetic side with Mangan, Shane Caufield (free) and Colin Curley helping them lead by 1-18 to 0-15 at the end of the opening half.

Once more Pearses showed their grit when battling back despite Ward being forced off injured in the 75th minute. Despite a Mangan point, two Tomás Flannery frees combined with a Cormac Ward score helped the North East Galway side cut their arrears to four points.

A tight finish appeared to be in store, but Shane Caulfield fielded a Gerry Smyth puckout before firing the sliotar into the full-forward line with Eamon Hickey reacting quickest to pull first time to the net and guarantee Kilconieron’s spot in the quarter final.

Kilconieron: G Smyth; N Martin, P Martin, D Gannon; C Caulfield (0-3), P Uniacke, U McGlynn; S Burke, C Dillon; C Curley (0-2), B Hickey (0-2), I McGlynn; S Caulfield (0-9, 0-7f), D Mangan (0-3), S Connaughton (1-0). Subs: E Hickey (1-0) for B Hickey (44mins); P Burke for C Dillon (60mins); P Burke for D Mangan (60mins); D Mangan for P Burke (61mins); P Burke for D Mangan (78mins); C Dillon for S Burke (79mins); C Connaughton for I McGlynn (79mins); A Evans for S Caulfield (80mins).

Pádraig Pearses: F Flannery; M Hennelly, T Kenny, R Lally; A Bellew, D Wynne, J Barrett; C Fahey (0-2), C Raftery; E Ward (0-10, 0-7f), J Gelston (0-1), D Reilly; G Lally (0-1), O Flannery (0-1), T Flannery (0-2f). Subs: C Ward (0-1) for Gelston (46mins); R Bellew for G Lally (47mins); E Cunniffe for D Reilly (52mins); J Gelston for R Bellew (61mins); D Reilly for J Barrett (61mins); G Lally for C Raftery (70mins); C Raftery for E Ward (inj, 75mins).

Referee: C Quinlan.