THEY’VE already gone through three games in two days, but the Kilkenny & District League’s under-16s will be forced to play the waiting game to see if their All-Ireland dreams survive.
The Cats, managed by Noel Tuohy and Denis Hynes, are only in the middle of their campaign but are already waiting on other results to go their way before knowing if they will get out of Leinster.
Kilkenny’s woe stems from the 1-0 loss they suffered to the North Dublin Schoolboys’ League on Saturday. The result leaves the Dubs in pole position, three points clear of the Cats heading into the second half of the group games this weekend.
“Right now everything has been taken out of our hands,” manager Tuohy told the ’People. “It looks as if that one game against Dublin will cost us - a draw would have put us top of the table on goal difference. Now we’ll have to win our two games this Saturday and hope they lose one of theirs.”
Kilkenny made a winning start to their campaign, Ronan Coffey grabbing a double as they came from behind to beat the North East Counties (NEC) in Derdimus.
The hosts took a little time to settle, but although they finally took control of the game they couldn’t make their pressure count. Striker Ronan Coffey, who bullied the North East Counties defence all game, should have hit the opener when he got his head to Aidan Tuohy’s 31st minute free, but his effort was straight at goalkeeper Conan Comerford.
Coffey was denied again six minutes from half-time after some last-ditch defending. Excellent play from Sean Feehan and Alan Phelan cut the NEC open, giving Coffey time to slip his shot under Comerford, but Jason Corron got back to hack the ball off the line.
Those missed chances looked like haunting Kilkenny when the NEC took an unlikely lead, Aidan Tuohy heading into his own net just minutes before the break. Tuohy didn’t let his head drop, however, and got his just reward when he levelled matters with a towering 58th minute header, storming into the box to power Dylan Jordan’s corner into the net.
That goal came in the middle of a purple patch for the Cats, who introduced Gary Bryan and Jordan Brett to the game at half-time. The changes worked, as the duo powered the hosts on and shut the NEC out of the game.
Ronan Coffey clearly benefited from having Bryan in midfield. Twice in the space of six minutes he latched on to two powerful Bryan headers won in the centre circle, each time the striker showing his pace to speed through and blast two unstoppable strikes beyond the helpless Comerford.
Smash and grab
The feel-good factor was dented a little after the North Dublin League staged something of a smash and grab to swipe all three points from an entertaining game at the Kells Road on Saturday afternoon.
In a match where both sides showed off their skills but seemed set to share the spoils, a moment of brilliance helped the Dubs settle the game.
Striker Quirino was the catalyst, dropping into his own half to pick up a loose ball six minutes from time. Rolling it under his foot he shifted towards the right before splitting the Kilkenny defence with a killer diagonal pass for Daniel Tyrrell to race on to.
Left with a one-on-one against goalkeeper Aidan Hynes, Tyrrell stayed cool and kept his focus, drawing the netminder from his line before steering a low drive into the net.
It was a sickening blow for a patched-up Kilkenny, who had been hit by injuries and absentees after their morning’s win over the North East Counties. Ronan Coffey swapped codes to play a hurling final for Scoil Aireagail, while Dylan Jordan missed out after suffering ankle ligament damage in the opening game. Aidan Tuohy played through the pain barrier with a wrist injury, while Jordan Brett left his sickbed to play for the Cats.
North Dublin pressed hard for a quick lead in this encounter at the Kells Road, but couldn’t find a way past Aidan Hynes.
The Bridge United keeper was quickly called into action, getting down well to stop Adam Murphy’s swivel shot in the 13th minute. He was back in action a few minutes later, dropping to his left to deny striker Quirino after a searing one-two with Jason Fox.
The Dubliners kept looking for a way to break the deadlock throughout the first half, but couldn’t get the better of a Kilkenny defence led by the central pairing of Aidan Tuohy and John Quinn. Tuohy impressed for more than his defensive qualities, shrugging off an arm injury suffered in the opening game and hamstring trouble as he battled on in the middle of the back four.
When Dublin did get through the defence, they still couldn’t beat Hynes. The goalkeeper made a brilliant instinctive save late in the half, staying big to beat out Dylan Kelly’s shot following a mazy run. When the rebound fell into his path Adam Murphy seemed poised to score, but Tuohy’s did enough with the last gasp challenge to put the midfielder off.
Kilkenny upped the tempo in the second half, taking the game to Dublin, but for all their efforts they couldn’t find a breakthrough goal. Bill Sheehan, a tireless worker throughout, almost grabbed the opener when he latched on to loose ball following a Conor Delaney shot, but his 48th minute effort flashed over the bar.
Kilkenny had another bite at the cherry after the hour mark when Shane O’Shaughnessy’s corner fell to Gary Bryan. His shot was blocked but Michael Brennan forced the ball back into Sean Feehan, who steadied himself but his shot was shut out by a sea of Dublin defenders.
The late goal was a sucker punch to Kilkenny’s hopes, but they bounced back in style with a 4-0 demolition of Kildare in Derdimus on Sunday. The Cats were sent on their way by a Ronan Coffey goal, his third in two games, while Bill Sheehan and Sam Watkins made it 3-0 by half-time. A Jordan Brett penalty in the second half completed the scoring, leaving Kilkenny three points behind North Dublin with two games to play.
Kilkenny will take on the Midlands League at 12 noon in Derdimus on Saturday, before meeting Wexford in Evergreen Park at 3pm.
Kilkenny & District League squad: Aidan Hynes (Bridge United), Shane O’Shaughnessy (Freebooters), John Quinn (Freshford Town), Aidan Tuohy (Evergreen), Sam Watkins (Thomastown United), Michael Brennan (Bridge United), Alan Phelan (Freebooters), Jordan Brett (Evergreen), Gary Bryan (Ormonde Villa), Bill Sheehan (Evergreen), Ryan Maguire (Evergreen), Conor Delaney (Deen Celtic), Nathan Cody (Evergreen), Sean Feehan (Deen Celtic), Peter Henebry (Evergreen), Dylan Jordan (Evergreen), Ronan Coffey (Evergreen), Eoin Kelly (Evergreen).