Kilbeggan centre back Aidan Stone is tackled by Patrick Donohoe of Milltown in Saturday's Leinster JFC semi-final.

Byrne’s goal propels Milltown to comfortable win against Kilbeggan

Milltown (Kildare) 1-16, Kilbeggan Shamrocks 2-6

By Gerry Buckley

A better-balanced Milltown outfit were full value for their seven-point winning margin against Kilbeggan Shamrocks in last Saturday afternoon’s entertaining Leinster junior football semi-final, played in mixed weather conditions in Rochfortbridge.

In truth, the Kildare champions pulled away from their Westmeath counterparts in the second half after the sides had made the long walk to the clubhouse on level terms at the interval. Indeed, a goal and a point of the losers’ total were effectively consolation scores deep into added-time.

Despite playing against the wind – which seemed to grow in strength as the game progressed – the Lilywhite representatives started the livelier and they had two unanswered points on the board by the fourth minute, courtesy of Ben Curran (at the end of a laboured move which opened with a delightful piece of skill by Hugh Hamilton) and Conor Sheerin (a fine finish). Nigel Scally (who went on to work hard all through the game) halved the deficit with a great point under pressure, but Ronan O’Shea soon cancelled this out.

In the tenth minute, Niall O’Brien’s charges took the lead for what proved to be the only time in the match when a great move ended with Darragh Coffey feeding David Fennell who coolly slid the ball past Alan Dignam for a terrific goal. Sheerin levelled the game (0-4 to 1-1) from a routine free before Curran edged the men in green and red ahead with a quality point.

Fennell almost doubled his goal haul in the 21st minute, but Dignam denied him with his legs. A Patrick Donohoe free preceded the arrival of very heavy drizzle which lasted for most of the contest. Kilbeggan were tending to overplay the ball in good attacking positions at this juncture, but they still managed to pounce for a brace of late points via Paul Fennell (an outstanding 45-metre free taken from his hands) and a low-trajectory point from Scally in added-time. The sides were tied at half-time (0-6 to 1-3).

Colin O’Shea blazed the ball wide within 20 seconds of the resumption of play, but there was to be no denying his colleague Kevin Byrne some 90 seconds later, the midfielder taking Cian Buckley’s pass in his stride and duly blasting the ball past Joey O’Neill. Soon afterwards, to add to the losers’ woes, Paul Fennell was wide from what looked like a ‘gimme’ free. Points from Donohoe (a free) and Declan McKenna (availing of untidy Kilbeggan defending) put Milltown 1-8 to 1-3 ahead with 40 minutes elapsed. Darragh Coffey then pointed when a goal was his target, but a Donohoe brace (a free and an opportunist score seconds after Ronan O’Shea’s slapped effort was kept out by O’Neill) had Darren O’Shea’s men six clear at the end of the third quarter.

In the 46th minute, Conor Delaney slotted over a Kilbeggan free after David Fennell had been fouled just outside the parallelogram. However, wind-assisted Milltown were generally well on top and they tagged on six unanswered points between the 47th and 61st minutes. The white flags were raised by Donohoe (a hat-trick of top-class finishes by the player who was denied a goal in the 48th minute by O’Neill’s outstretched legs), McKenna, Aaron Jacob (with his fist), and Ronan O’Shea. To their credit, the maroon and white-clad side battled right to the final whistle and they were rewarded with a fly-kicked goal from Paul Fennell and a converted free from Delaney.

Scorers –Milltown: P Donohoe 0-7 (3f), K Byrne 1-0, C Sheerin (1f), B Curran, D McKenna, R O’Shea 0-2 each, A Jacob 0-1.

Kilbeggan: P Fennell 1-1 (0-1f), D Fennell 1-0, N Scally, C Delaney (2f) 0-2 each, D Coffey 0-1.

Milltown: Alan Dignam; Jamie Cross, Cian Buckley, Sean Murphy; Aaron Jacob, Colin O’Shea, Shane Daly; Kevin Byrne, Conor Sheerin; Karl Heuston, Hugh Hamilton, Ben Curran; Declan McKenna, Ronan O’Shea, Patrick Donohoe. Subs used: Calum Murphy for Heuston (38), Ben Heuston for McKenna (55), Aaron Walker for Byrne (59), Karl Downey for Murphy (59).

Kilbeggan Shamrocks: Joey O’Neill; Sean Hanlon, James Fox, Martin Ward; Conor Carroll, Aidan Stone, Mark Wrafter; Darragh Coffey, Brendan McMahon; Paul Fennell, Shaun Pidgeon, Micheal Coffey; David Fennell, Conor Delaney, Nigel Scally. Subs used: Colin Draper for Hanlon (inj., 14), Dean Fitzgerald for McMahon (46), Danny Scully for M Coffey (47).

Ref: Dan Stynes (Dublin).

Examiner's Eye on game

Man of the match

Patrick Donohoe (Milltown): The corner forward was accurate from placed balls and open play. In particular, his closing brace of points were right out of the top drawer.

Key moment

From the moment that Kevin Byrne powered home his 32nd-minute goal, the visitors always looked the likely winners.

Ref watch

Other than missing what looked like a blatant black card for a Kilbeggan player at the start of the second quarter, the Dublin whistler did very well in trying conditions.

Next up

Milltown will play Louth champions Glyde Rangers in the Leinster final, while Kilbeggan’s very progressive year is now over.