Good Counsel College New Ross
St Brendans Killarney
Thomas O’Connor’s top level future may lie away from Gaelic football but the youngster was absolutely sublime in Clonmel yesterday afternoon when his Good Counsel College, New Ross, side made it back to back Paul McGirr Cup titles.
The Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools U16 cup is one of the hottest trophies around and O’Connor, who is reportedly set to join Southampton FC after he finishes his junior certificate, is undoubtedly one of the hottest properties in the game. The Kilkenny native – and Republic of Ireland U15 soccer international – scored two goals from the penalty spot and added four points from play from a personal haul of 2-6.
It’s incredible to note that O’Connor was also the best player on the field when his side beat Rochestown in last year’s decider. On that day he scored 0-8.
But yesterday’s 2-12 – 3-7 win against St Brendan’s Killarney surely tops the lot. It was an action-packed, end to end game, one that was played in the perfect spirit of pure Gaelic football.
“It was a breath of fresh air to see two sides eager to play football without a blanket defence,” Said co-manager Kevin Bates, who led the team to glory with Kevin Kehoe.
“This resulted in a very exciting and free flowing game where the skills of both forward and defender were on display.
“Brendan’s really stayed true to the Kerry traditions and their boys played with great skill and determination which left the game in the balance until the very end,” Bates added.
The GC manager added that the manner in which the game was played really absorbed the fine crowd in attendance.
“Yeah, the game was played in a great spirit with great support for both sides in the stands in a game that really was an advert for the sport. We are delighted with the result of course.”
Bates could not ignore the impact that O’Connor had but pointed out that there were several other support acts who stepped up to the mark and lit up centre stage themselves.
“While Thomas O’ Connor’s performance was quite exceptional at centre forward, he was very well supported by a gifted group of players who created their own little bit of history for Good Counsel today, achieving a double All-Ireland in U-16 Football & Hurling this year, to add to the U-16 football Paul McGirr title won last year.
“It was just great to hear the crowd chanting C’mon the ‘Superblues’ at the end. It has been a great period in this school’s history. We are all very proud of them.”
The game lit up from the start – St Brendan’s first attack almost yielded a goal but David Shaw’s thunderous drive struck the crossbar and bounced down on the goal line giving the umpires a very difficult decision to make. The goal was not allowed and from there Good Counsel went onto establish a foothold in the final.
After 10 minutes ‘The Sem’ did find a goal when Donnchadh O’Sullivan took advantage of some fine interchange play to score, giving the Killarney side the lead.
However, it was the only time on the day that they would be ahead of their Wexford opponents.
And it was from there that O’Connor burst into life and his side took over. They clipped over a spate of points before Mark Hartnett hit back with another goal for Brendan’s.
The end to end nature of this fine spectacle continued when O’Connor slotted home his first penalty. He then hit two long range points to help his side into 1-9 to 2-1 at the break.
The Kerry giants had a stiff wind in their favour after that but when O’Connor goaled from the spot again soon after the restart the writing was on the wall.
They surged on from there, leading 2-11 to 2-1.
Still, by the game’s end, St Brendan’s were left kicking themselves. They missed a stack of chances, had that disallowed goal to reflect upon and only lost by two points when the final whistle blew.
They hit 1-4 without reply but it wasn’t enough. Good Counsel hung on to claim a famous double with the junior hurling title and back to back McGirr cups.
Thank you to Mr Coffey for the photos.
Additional Photos available at http://www.mauricehennebryphoto.com