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Relentless Gneeveguilla swat Saints aside to return to Premier Junior final

County Premier Junior Football Championship Semi-final

Gneeveguilla 4-15

St Michael’s Foilmore 1-5

Six weeks after losing one of the most dramatic county finals in a long time, Gneeveguilla are back in the County Premier Junior final after winning one of the most one-sided semi-finals as one is ever likely to see, as they swatted a hapless St Michaels/Foilmore aside by 19 points.

Perhaps driven by the hurt of that 3-20 to 3-18 extra-time loss to Ballydonoghue in the 2020 final six weeks ago, or hugely motivated by it, Gneeveguilla were again a side full of running and invention as they accounted for a terribly poor St Michaels/Foilmore with such ease and control that they must be hot favourites to go all the way and claim the 2021 silverware.

The talk prior to the game was that St Michaels/Foilmore would put it up to their East Kerry opponents but the difference in class was obvious as early as the second minute when Conor Herlihy opened their account after a rapid move involving five Gneeveguilla players.

The movement and speed of Gneeveguilla showed why they will be playing Division One league football next season, whilst St Michaels/Foilmore will continue to operate in the murky waters of Division Five. Maybe it was a tad foolish to think that such a gap could be overcome in a semi-final and Gneeveguilla made light work in dismissing the South Kerry club’s ambition.

Herlihy’s point was one of a very healthy spread of nine different individual scorers for Gneeveguilla with right half back Pa Warren having a field day with a contribution of 1-4. Warren is the archetypal modern player full of running and skill and the 2017 All-Ireland minor medal winner looks to be developing as a footballer in all the right ways.

But really, Gneeveguilla dominated in every sector of the field and St Michaels/Foilmore literally couldn’t lay a hand on them. The winners work rate and tackling was also out of the top drawer and time and again they turned over the south Kerry side after they hunted in packs like ravenous dogs, and counter attacked with speed and fervour.

The deployment of two markers on the losers danger man Éanna O’Connor certainly worked for the victors as he failed to score from play, but the ball going into him was both infrequent and poor and the likes of Eoin Fitzgerald and Patrick Brosnan were able to mop up with ease and feed the excellent link man Mike Murphy.

Meanwhile, the inside trio of Padraig Doyle, Shane O’Sullivan and John O’Leary really made the most of some of the delicious ball that went into them and they led the St Michael’s defence on a merry dance throughout.

It was one way traffic and after the first 20 minutes of the game Gneeveguilla were 2-6 to 0-1 ahead. Their first goal came after two and a half minutes when Doyle fed O’Sullivan who had the simple task of punching his cross-field pass into the net.

Goal number two came eight minutes later after some brilliant Gneeveguilla tackling forced a turnover in the middle of the field, a common theme throughout the contest, the ball was transferred quickly and Pa Warren arrived like a steam train to billow the back of Brian Smith’s net.

Warren and O’Sullivan added a couple of punched points before half time and St Michael/Foilmore responded with an Éanna O’Connor ’45’, but really even with the second half to come it was obvious that there was no way back for a team that failed to raise a single white flag from play in the opening forty five minutes.

Gneeveguilla rattled the crossbar a couple of times early in the second half and added a brace of points before John O’Leary bundled in their third goal in the thirty sixth minute.

Goal number four arrived eight minutes later and it was the pick of the bunch. Shane O’Sullivan spotted Mike Murphy ghosting behind the St Michaels/Foilmore cover with a lovely pass and as goalkeeper Smith advanced to narrow the angle, Murphy produced a lovely flick of the wrist to lob the bouncing ball over the advancing keeper’s head. Pure devilment.

Murphy added a point straight afterwards and although they were now 4-15 to 0-3 ahead the Gneeveguilla manager Seán O’Leary continued to let his charges know in no uncertain terms that they needed to continue with their voracious work-rate.

Inevitably, St Michaels/Foilmore got their own bit of a purple patch and Gneeveguilla goalkeeper Patrick O’Riordan was forced into a good save from Ciaran Clifford but substitute Matthew O’Sullivan followed up to hit the back of the net.

Éanna O’Connor added a couple of frees before the finish but it was all purely cosmetic as Gneeveguilla eased their way to a 19-point win after a superb display.

Whilst the quality of the opposition has to be taken into account, this Gneeveguilla side look like they are eager to put the disappointment of losing the 2020 final just a few weeks ago well behind them.

GNEEVEGUILLA: Patrick O’Riordan; Patrick Brosnan (0-1), Damian Cronin, Eoin Fitzgerald; Pa Warren (1-4), Darren Brosnan, Sean O Keeffe (0-3, 1f); Ronán Collins, Paul O’Leary (0-1); Conor Herlihy (0-1), Shane O’Sullivan, Mike Murphy (1-1); Padraig Doyle (0-1), Shane O’Sullivan (1-1), John O’Leary (1-1, 1f). Subs: Philip Cremin for D Cronin (36), DJ Murphy for C O’Connor (41), Padraig O’Connor for C Herlihy (45), Jack Cremin for P Doyle (47), Con Buckley for M Murphy (52).

ST MICHAELS/FOILMORE: Brian Smith; Kevin Griffin, Cian Goggin, Emmett Curran; Stephen O’Connor, Mark Griffin, Seán O’Sullivan; Ronan Clifford, Darren O’Sullivan (0-1f); Seán Scanlon, Ciaran Clifford, Éanna O’Connor 0-3 (2f, 1 ‘45’); Alan Goggin, Cian O’Connor, Bernard Kelly. Subs: Andy O’Connell for S O’Sullivan (ht), Luke O’Shea for A Goggin (ht), Mike O’Driscoll (0-1) for D O’Sullivan (ht), Matthew O’Sullivan (1-0) for B Kelly (38), Darragh Scanlon for S Scanlon (38).

Referee: Murt Moriarty (Dingle)

Main Man

Pa Warren was brilliant and St Michaels/Foilmore couldn’t cope with his relentless straight line running. He was no slouch in defence either, and his tackling and general positional play was excellent. The wing back is a man that could have a role to play at a higher level.

Talking Point

Will the one sided nature of the semi final come against Gneeveguilla in the final? Will they be lulled into a false sense of superiority? Possibly, but highly unlikely. This side have already felt the pain of losing a final this year look to be very well prepared physically for what lies ahead.

Turning Point

The game was so one-sided that there wasn’t one and Gneeveguilla dominated completely from start to finish, bar the last five minutes.

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