Naas 4-11 Blessington 1-07

Four-goal Naas cruised into the Leinster Club SFC semi-finals as they comfortably saw off Wicklow champions Blessington.

It was billed as a local derby between two clubs separated by just 15km but Blessington never looked at any stage capable of toppling their Kildare opponents.

The Naas bandwagon rolls on as their footballers emulated the hurlers in their club by booking a place in the last four of Leinster competition.

Naas took charge early on when Luke Griffin pounced in the tenth minute to palm the ball to the net after Blessington goalkeeper Jack Sargent fumbled Sean Cullen’s shot.

Although Kevin Quinn was an ever-dangerous threat to the Naas defence, too often he was isolated in the forward line with Naas able to move from defence to attack with much more speed and precision than their opponents.

Thirty-nine-year-old Eamonn Callaghan scored the last two points of the first quarter to leave Naas 1-04 to 0-01 ahead at the water break, and Griffin and Cullen quickly added points after the restart.

Mikey O’Connor answered back with a close-range free but more pacy and direct running by Paddy McDermott led to another Griffin point in the 25th minute to leave the score at 1-07 to 0-02.

Naas wing-back Tom Browne is closely tracked by David Boothman

That scoreline felt a fair reflection of the general play in the first half but Blessington were given a glimmer of hope in the last action of the half when a turnover by Naas led to a counter-attack and Quinn, who went to school in Naas CBS and played on the team who lost the Hogan Cup final in 2019, stylishly found the net with the last kick of the half.

That strike certainly breathed new life into the Blessington support and St Conleth’s Park bristled with anticipation ahead of the second half but any thoughts of a close contest ended when Brian Kane shot to the Blessington net within 30 seconds of the restart.

Kane’s goal was the start of a dominant third quarter for Naas and they added a third goal in the 37th minute when a long spell of possession was finished off by a clever pass by Darragh Kirwan who picked out the unmarked Griffin at the back post to tap in for his second goal.

Naas’ matchwinner from their opening round over Tullamore, Kirwan, then got in among the goals with a smart half-volley in the 50th minute to leave the score at 4-09 to 1-02.

As Naas ran in their substitute’s bench, Blessingon rattled off four points in a row through Quinn (2), Conor Kenny and David Boothman to put some level of respectability on the scoreboard but those scores were merely a consolation.

Callaghan wrapped up things for Naas with points either side of a Conor Kenny point and Kildare’s county town march confidently on towards a Leinster semi-final date in Croke Park with Wexford side Shelmaliers.

Naas: Jack Rodgers; Brian Kane (1-00), Paul Sullivan, Conor McCarthy; Tom Browne, Brian Byrne, Paddy McDermott; Eoin Doyle, Shane Bergin; Sean Cullen (0-01), Eamonn Callaghan (0-06, 3f), Alex Beirne; Darragh Kirwin (1-00), James Burke (0-01), Luke Griffin (2-03).

Subs: Paul McDermott for Beirne (16), Brian Stynes for Cullen (34), Barry Murphy for Griffin (52), Cathal Daly for Doyle (53), Drew Costello for Kane (56).

Blessington: Jack Sargent; Steven Bohan, Conall Gallagher, Jack Gilligan; Kevin Hanlon, Paul McLoughlin, Jack Cotter; Kevin John Rodgers, Anto McLoughlin; Martin Shannon, Kevin Quinn (1-03, 1f), Dan Cooney; Mikey O'Connor (0-01), Eoin Keogh, Conor Kenny (0-02).

Subs: Dan Silke Fetherson for Shannon (ht), David Boothman (0-01) for Cooney (ht), Curtis Geraghty for O’Connor (ht), Brian Bohan for P McLoughlin (38), Dean Siney for Hanlon (45).

Referee: David Hickey (Carlow).