14-man Pearses came close to causing an upset on 15-man St. Thomas’ in the U16 Shield Semi Final played in sun-drenched St. Thomas’ early yesterday morning. Fielding with only 14 players due to injuries & unavailable players this seemed to be a tall order on paper. But Pearses dug in from the word go and put in a very incredible performance to lose by a late goal as the hits were huge from the first minute with bone crunching tackles flying in. Goals win matches and this was evident yesterday morning as Thomas’ scored 2 but it could easily have been more only for great goalkeeping from ‘stand in’ keeper Conor Walsh as Darren Moran was unavailable.

Pearses hit the ground running with Jonah Donnellan the first to register a white flag when he picked up a loose ball in the ruck to find the range after great work from Anthony Feeney & David Walsh combined. Donnellan added a free which Dara Scarry & Cian Burke had to work hard to earn on 6mins. The hosts responded with 2 points from play, the pick of them from their No.10 & a free which they easily converted. Donnellan fired over a 65’ & a free within 2mins of each other & added another free after Anthony Feeney was fouled following a clean fetch. At this stage Dillon Roche, Feeney, Harry Mitchell & Diarmuid Ryan were in the thick of all the action. Donnellan pushed Pearses 0-6 to 0-3 ahead after young Fionn Donohue was fouled. By the 23rd minute St. Thomas had clawed back the lead through 3 unanswered points from play to make it 0-6 apiece.

Only for some wayward shooting from both sides, there would have been more scores amassed as David Walsh hit a few wides in succession. Both teams exchanged scores from play; Pearses through Jonah Donnellan who collected a bouncing ball & St. Thomas’ fired over from out near the sideline. The hosts took the lead again through play but the slender margin was quickly clawed back through a Donnellan free when he was dragged down himself. Two Donnellan scores before the break gave Pearses a helping hand to a 2 point lead at half time. The first from play after Donnellan latched onto a long range free from Harry Mitchell & a free just on the stroke of half time as young Daniel Lydon was fouled and floored with an ankle injury in the process. With sock in hand, he hobbled to the sideline. It certainly wasn’t too nice to see a lad heading for the dugout before the break when you’ve only 14 men giving it their all on the field. Half time: Pearses 0-10; St. Thomas’ 0-8.

Some wayward shooting from play & frees from Thomas’ at the beginning of the 2nd period paid dividends for Pearses. Jonah Donnellan threw over 2 quick points from play after Thomas’ defence stood back & he cut through the middle to put 4 pts between them. Danger then looked imminent for Pearses but Harry Mitchell’s quick reflexes and first time pull quickly put a halt to that. Then Diarmuid Ryan who possibly had his best performance ever in a black shirt at centre back was rounded by No. 11 for the 1st time in the game, weaved his way into a scoreable position and let fly only to be denied at the butt of the post by Conor Walsh. Up to yesterday, this lad may have lacked goalkeeping experience, but this was a top drawer stop as he put the ball out for a 65’ which Thomas’ converted. Donnellan nailed another free from the middle of the field to push it to 4 pts again.

Then a bit of a Thomas’ onslaught towards goal saw a scramble in the square. Thomas’ pulled first time at close range and while Walsh got the hurl to it, the momentum of the ball carried it over the line. Then on 16mins as Thomas’ were in the ascendancy, Walsh made another fine stop but they raised their 2nd green flag when an unstoppable well placed effort on the 2nd attempt flew into the far corner with 10mins to play – Pearses 0-13: Thomas’ 2-10. Anthony Feeney up the other end, went on a mesmerising run, drawing 3 defenders on him but was off target with the finish. Both teams traded points again, Donnellan with a free after James Queeney was fouled & Thomas’ from play. 2-11 to 0-14 with 23mims played. Jonah landed another free after Scar was fouled and great hassling & harrying from Pearses involving Diarmuid Ryan, Cathal Hynes, Kyle McDonagh & Anthony Feeney released Donnellan who went on a run & his goal bound effort was deflected out for a 65’ which was duly converted to put the minimum between the sides. Thomas’ added a free from a difficult angle & followed up with a point from play for a 3 point cushion again. Feeney had a great chance when he got on the end of Harry Michelll’s long range free from the back & with a lot of work to do, his final overhead shot hit the butt of the post & out for a 65’ which was sent into the square by David Walsh but was allowed go tamelessly wide. Ultimately St. Thomas’ ran out 3 point winners but it might have been made easier if there was equality in numbers from the start.

Final score: Pearses 0-16: St. Thomas’ 2-13. Scorers: Jonah Donnellan 0-16 (0-9F, 2×65’)
Panel: Conor Walsh, Cathal Hynes, Harry Mitchell, James Queeney, Dillon Roche, Diarmuid Ryan, Daniel Lydon, Fionn Donohue, Anthony Feeney, David Walsh, Jonah Donnellan, Cian Burke, Kyle McDonagh, Dara Scarry.

The big Pearses crowd couldn’t take their eyes off this one from the start, willing on the lads at every chance and although the odds were stacked against Pearses from the start, play ebbed and flowed as both teams threw everything they had into the game. So that sees the end of the U16 hurling action for this year. A tough campaign which saw Cillian Fahey pick up that nasty ankle injury in the first outing & compounded also by the loss of Conor Hillary through a broken finger in the U15s. Thanks to Tony Walsh & his mentors Larry Hillary & Kevin Ryan for their efforts with the panel.