Na Gaeil and Rathgarogue-Cushinstown through to All-Ireland Junior Club Final
Aib All-Ireland Club JFC semi-finals
NA GAEIL (Kerry) 0-13 KILMAINE (Mayo) 1-9 (after extra-time)
RATHGAROGUE-CUSHINSTOWN (Wexford) 1-7 BLACKHILL EMERALDS (Monaghan) 1-6
By Kevin Egan
There was no shortage of drama and tension in the semi-finals of the All-Ireland junior football championship this afternoon, as Na Gaeil of Kerry and Rathgarogue-Cushinstown of Wexford both secured their place in the All-Ireland decider in a fortnight’s time by the smallest margin possible.
Na Gaeil needed extra-time to get past a heroic effort from Kilmaine in Cusack Park in Ennis, points from Dan Goggin and Diarmuid O’Connor in additional time proving just about enough to sneak a win for the Tralee-based club.
Michael Hession’s goal for Kilmaine after 12 minutes, a very well-worked team score, was the spark that set this game alight. It took two points from Mike Griffin and another from Dara Devine in the lead up to half-time to draw the sides level, 0-6 to 1-3, and even after Na Gaeil moved three points clear in the second half, Kilmaine were able to find another kick.
A point from Tomás Fahey and two frees from Adam Barrett tied the game up and forced overtime, and while O’Connor and Goggin pointed to put them in trouble again, Jarlath McDonagh cut the gap back to the bare minimum after two minutes of the second half of extra time. That was to be as good as it got for the South Mayo men however, whol piled on the pressure but couldn’t find a way through to raise another flag.
Despite the fact that the biggest trophy in club football – the Andy Merrigan Cup – is named after a Wexford man, clubs from the Model County have struggled to win trophies outside of their own county. Kilanerin-Ballyfad’s Leinster intermediate title in 2017 was the first win for a Wexford club in the history of these competitions, with Rathgarogue-Cushinstown adding a Leinster junior title last month.
Now the South Wexford club are just 60 minutes from going one step further and making history as All-Ireland winners, thanks to their 1-7 to 1-6 win over Blackhill Emeralds this afternoon in St. Conleth’s Park.
Tadhg Cody’s point in the 56th minute was the decisive score in Newbridge, with both sides trading goals in a last few minutes of the first half to go in deadlocked at 1-2 apiece. Bernard Furlong hit the net for the Leinster champions, before Jason Finnegan replied in kind for Blackhill on the next attack. Three frees from Daire Bolger and a magnificent score from Daniel Martin Carroll pushed the Wexford men 1-6 to 1-4 in front going into the closing stages, but two points from substitute Andrew Burns threatened to send this one into overtime as well, until Cody’s late heroics snatched victory for Rathgarogue-Cushinstown.