Single goal denies Cats an All-Ireland semi-final spot

Kilkenny & DL1

Kilkenny & DL1

North Dublin SL1

A BRAVE effort ended in agony for the Kilkenny & District League’s under-15s, who bowed out of the inter-league title race through the harshest of factors - goal difference.

Fighting back from a goal down, the Cats threw everything into attack in the closing stages of an entertaining game at Derdimus on Saturday, but couldn’t advance at the expense of North Dublin.

Kilkenny were still chasing the game when, with four minutes left, they grabbed their deserved equaliser.

Craig Hayes went close - really close - when he stood over a free-kick just outside the D, but ’keeper Lee Doyle did brilliantly to push the ball away from the top right corner of his net.

The Dubs had no such luck from the resulting corner. Christian Lapuste’s delivery fizzed across the box, flashing across several players, before Aidan Hynes made the decisive connection at the back post.

The goal left the sides level on points at the top of their group but Dublin - who scored one more goal in their wins over Carlow and Wexford - got the nod on scoring difference.

Dublin came to Kilkenny looking for a result and were quick to make their presence felt. Aaron Elliott had his early header tipped over the bar by Ross Butler. The Cats goalkeeper was called into action minutes later, racing from his line to smother James Casey’s diagonal ball which was aimed at the on-rushing Sean Doyle.

Weathered storm

Kilkenny weathered that early storm, and despite playing with just one up front on a difficult pitch they almost took the lead on 13 minutes. Sole striker Craig Hayes thought he had scored when played through by Aidan Tuohy, but although he beat Doyle with a great shot the ‘goal’ was ruled out for offside.

They went close again 10 minutes later, with a chance created through some excellent skill. Picking up a quick ball from Shane Shaughnessy, David Doyle nutmegged one Dublin opponent, then quickly spun around another. He slipped a low ball through for Hayes but his shot was well stopped by Lee Doyle, who stuck out his left foot to make the save.

The miss proved costly, as Dublin took the lead within a matter of minutes. Catching their hosts light at the back, Andy Gorman threaded a through ball for Sean Doyle, who fired a first-time cross into the box. Aaron Elliott had ample time to control the delivery, taking a touch before slamming a point-blank shot past Butler.

Kilkenny upped their game after that, but couldn’t find a way to draw level. Jordan Brett and skipper Gary Bryan both tried their luck from frees but Doyle was equal to their efforts. Brett tried again in injury-time, dispossessing Gorman and playing a one-two with Hayes before breaking into the box, but his final shot lacked accuracy to trouble the Dublin netminder.

Midfield steel

The introduction of Christian Lapuste gave Kilkenny more steel in midfield in the second half, but they still drew a blank where it mattered most. They piled on the pressure, with impressive full-back Brian Crowdle and Aidan Hynes doing well to keep play alive down the right. Hynes fired in a low 47th minute cross which David Doyle did well to control. He got his shot off, despite being off-balance, but Lee Doyle got down smartly to make the stop.

Dublin heeded that scare, but although they tried to add to their tally they couldn’t beat Butler. The Kilkenny ’keeper made a fine save to stop Adam Murphy’s 50th minute half-volley, then got up quickly to prevent the ball from spinning into his net.

That save gave Kilkenny heart, enough to keep driving forward for an equaliser. Centre-back Aidan Tuohy showed lightning speed when he picked up a loose ball inside his own half and surged forward. Tuohy’s pace took him past several challenges and into the box, but his 56th minute shot hammered into the side netting.

The hard work finally paid off when Hynes netted a well-deserved goal, but try as they might Kilkenny couldn’t get the second strike that would have seen them through.

That’s not to say that they didn’t fight for it. With Tuohy pushed up top they went with three at the back, laying siege to Dublin’s goal. They went as close as any side could to snatching the win when Tuohy drove at goal and pulled a low ball across the face of the target deep into injury-time, but Hayes was a hair’s breadth away from connecting.

It was an agonising way to go out, but the Cats can hold their heads high after three top class performances under Mick Manley and Mark Brennan.

Kilkenny & DL: Ross Butler (Ormonde Villa), Brian Crowdle (Evergreen), Shane Shaughnessy (Freebooters), Aidan Tuohy (Evergreen), Gary Bryan (Ormonde Villa, capt), Jordan Brett (Evergreen), Aidan Hynes (Bridge United), Kevin McDonald (Bridge United), Craig Hayes (Freebooters), Sam Watkins (Thomastown United), David Doyle (Freebooters). Subs: Christian Lapuste (Freebooters) for Watkins, 41 mins; Mikey Brennan (Bridge United) for Doyle, 71 mins; Nathan Cody (Ormonde Villa) for Shaughnessy, 78 mins.

North Dublin SL: Lee Doyle, Eoghan Dempsey, Ryan Corbally (Shane Darcy, 55 mins), Andy Gorman, Gavin Kearney, Cian Fogarty (Adam Clarke, 41 mins), Sean Doyle (Glen Carragher, 64 mins), Adam Murphy, Mark O’Brien, James Casey, Aaron Elliott (Paddy Roche, 53 mins).

Referee: Patrick O’Connor. Linesmen: Ollie Falsey, Larry Drennan.