O’Loughlin Gaels’ winning run in the senior hurling league came to a finish as the city side lost out to the reigning champions Clara.
A goal from Ciaran Prendergast proved to be the difference in Jenkinstown, the corner-forward earning his club a place in the quarter finals against James Stephens. O’Loughlin’s face the Rower Inistioge in the league final.
Both teams have been impressive so far this year, and this game saw both sets of forwards continue to shine despite the dreary conditions.
Early points from Prendergast and Peter Nolan pushed Clara into a two point advantage, before a Mark Bergin free got O’Loughlin’s off the mark.
A brace of frees from Conor Phelan extended Clara’s lead, the scores a reward for the way in which they had totally outclassed their opponents in the opening ten minutes.
The distribution to their full-forward line was second to none, while the runners in midfield and the half-forward line were benefitting from the quick play.
They didn’t have it all their own way though. Paddy Deegan had originally been named at midfield, but the withdrawal of Eoghan Grant meant that the 18-year-old slotted in at full-back. There was no need to worry, however, as Deegan proved to be outstanding throughout.
Two booming frees from goalkeeper Killian Phelan kept Clara in complete control, as they led by seven points to O’Loughlin’s solitary score after 13 minutes.
It wasn’t until midway through the first half that Mark Bergin got O’Loughlin’s first score from play.
Stephen Murphy and Killian Phelan were having a contest amongst themselves as the two ’keepers scored a combined six points in the opening half.
At the break Clara led their opponents by 0-11 to 0-9. They had started in flying form, but gradually O’Loughlin’s dragged themselves back into the game.
The second half started sluggishly, as both teams tried to find their range in the howling wind. Chris Bolger whipped over a sweet strike, preceeding Prendergast grabbing the decisive goal.
Mark Bergin and Conor Phelan traded frees before a goalmouth scare for Clara almost resulted in a precious goal for O’Loughlin’s. Sammy Johnston had been pushed back to right half-back, but from there he raced upfield to fire over a morale boosting score for his side.
Phelan and Bergin traded frees once more as the champions of 2010 struggled to find the goal that would see them take the advantage.
Mark Kelly drew gasps from the crowd for the final score of the game, the Kilkenny hurler screaming past his marker with lightning pace before rifling the sliotar over from the left hand corner.
It was a great score, but it wasn’t enough to prevent his side from losing by the slenderest of margins.
SCORERS: Clara - Conor Phelan (0-6, 0-5 frees, 0-1 65), Ciaran Prendergast (1-1), Killian Phelan (0-4, all frees), Peter Nolan (0-2), Jack Langton, Chris Bolger (0-1 each). O’Loughlin Gaels - Mark Bergin (0-10, 0-8 frees, 0-1 65), Stephen Murphy (0-2 frees), Jack Nolan, Sammy Johnston, Mark Kelly, John Doyle, Paddy Cantwell (0-1 each).
Clara - Killian Phelan, Dermot Nolan, Sean O’Shea, Conor O’Shea, Neal Prendergast, Tom Ryan, David Langton, Lester Ryan, Jack Langton, Liam Ryan, Conor Phelan, Peter Nolan, Chris Bolger, Austin Murphy, Ciaran Prendergast. Subs: David Prendergast, Shane Cassin.
O’Loughlin Gaels - Stephen Murphy, Huw Lawlor, Paddy Deegan, Eddie Kearns, Andy Kearns, Brian Hogan, Paddy Cantwell, Mark Bergin, David Burke, Sammy Johnston, Conor Bergin, Jack Nolan, John Doyle, Mark Kelly, Brian Dowling. Subs: Danny Loughnane, Sheamie Cummins, Alan Geoghegan.
Referee - Paddy Neary (James Stephens)