Kilkenny suffer sickening semi-final setback

Waterford Schoolboys4

Waterford Schoolboys4

Kilkenny & DL U-16s2

MILLIMETRES and a matter of seconds combined to leave the Kilkenny & District League’s under-16s with dashed All-Ireland hopes.

The fine line between victory and defeat was apparent as the Cats suffered an All-Ireland semi-final heartbreak against Waterford on Sunday – a second loss to the Munster men in 24 hours.

Trailing 2-0 midway through the second half, the Cats launched a superb comeback attempt at Ozier Park. Having turned up the pressure, defender Jack McCarthy almost brought his side right back into the game on 63 minutes when he stole in at the back post and met Andy Hickey’s swirling corner.

McCarthy’s first header was blocked by goalkeeper Sean Whitty. The second looped over the netminder – but somehow it stayed out, despite the presence of several Kilkennymen close to the goal line.

Costly miss

That missed chance proved costly, and quickly. Instead of being 2-1 down and back in the game, Kilkenny were 3-0 behind within a matter of seconds. Jack Doherty grabbed the insurance goal for the hosts, pouncing on a loose back-pass before racing through gleefully tuck the ball past Jason Mahony.

It was a cruel blow, especially for a side who seemed destined to dominate the game in the opening stages. Kilkenny had the best of the early chances, but couldn’t make them count. Skipper Sean Maguire skimmed the crossbar with two headers, while midfielder Ciaran Bowe smashed his side-foot shot smash into goalkeeper Sean Whitty from a matter of yards out.

Kilkenny were dominant, but couldn’t turn the chances into goals. Nathan West went close again on ten minutes, latching on to Maguire’s knock-down and drilling a low shot towards the far corner of the Waterford net, but somehow Whitty got down and deflected the ball just outside his right post.

Haunted

Those spurned chances came back to haunt the Cats just seven minutes later. Allowing a long kick-out to bounce, the Kilkenny defence were caught flat-footed as David Cooly grabbed possession and whipped in a cross. Jason Keane sped in from midfield, beating Jason Mahony in a tussle for the ball which spun up and dropped into the net.

Kilkenny were stunned by that goal, and almost conceded another soon after. Using the strong breeze Jack Doherty lofted in a free which looked to be sailing over but dropped at the last second. The ball was just beyond the hand of Mahony but clipped the angle of post and crossbar.

Waterford were clearly on top now, and gave their hopes a real boost when they doubled their advantage four minutes from half-time. A quickly-taken corner on the left saw Doherty and Keane work the ball into the box, Keane teeing Doherty up to smash an unstoppable shot into the right side of the net.

Kilkenny came back into the game in the second half, forcing Waterford to defend deeply, but they couldn’t make their efforts count. Sean Maguire brought a super save from Sean Whitty on 51 minutes, while Andy Hickey also saw his curling shot get beaten away by the Waterford netminder three minutes later.

Glimmer of hope

The sucker punch of the third goal hurt the Cats, but they refused to give in. Nathan West gave them a glimmer of hope when he curled a peach of a free-kick over the wall and past Whitty on 68 minutes.

However, Waterford were not about to buckle at that stage and restored their three-goal lead when sub Robbie Burke smashed a pile-driver all the way to the net after the initial shot from Gavin O’Donovan had been brilliantly stopped by Mahony.

Kilkenny refused to give in, and battled on until the final whistle. They got some reward when Sean Maguire latched on to Sean Henebry’s floated pass, outmuscled Nick Connell and then rounded the ’keeper, but his 79th minute strike proved to be too little too late.

Kilkenny & DL: Jason Mahony, James Kenny, Barry Whelan, Jack McCarthy, Killian Cantwell, Peter Shaw (Sean Henebry, 62 mins), Ciaran Bowe (Adam Farrell, 52 mins), Mark Lyons, Sean Maguire, Nathan West, Andy Hickey.

Waterford Schoolboys: Sean Whitty, Chris Cullen, Jamie Cross, Nick Connell, Gavin O’Donovan, Jason Keane, Terry Akrubu (Robbie Burke, 66 mins), Conor Coad (Eric Conway, 76 mins), Ryan Clancy, David Cooly (Adam Walsh, 66 mins), Jack Doherty.

Referee: Anthony Walsh (Waterford).