A late goal from Gavin Nolan helped Conahy Shamrocks get the better of an intermediate hurling league battle with their neighbours St Patrick’s.
Nolan’s strike proved decisive, coming at a stage in the game when a draw had looked the likely outcome from this lively Friday evening affair in Lisdowney.
Both sides had chances in the closing stages, but it was Conahy who availed of one final opportunity.
Nolan did the damage when he raced on to a crossfield pass from Kieran Mooney, pausing only to steer the ball into the back of the Ballyragget net and secure the first brace of points for his side in this year’s Intermediate League.
It was a sucker punch for Ballyragget to take, especially as they had made the more impressive start. A brace of points from Kevin Kelly got the Saints up and running, but the response from Conahy was immediate thanks to the accuracy of Kieran Mooney, who brought the sides level.
Mooney was the tormentor-in-chief of the Ballyragget defence in the first half, giving a great display as he led the Shamrocks attack with distinction.
Mooney’s goal, following a long free from David Healy in the 13th minute which was initially kept in play by Paul Buggy, saw his team take the lead for the first time.
Although Michael Brennan hit back with a point for Ballyragget in the 18th minute they were not to score again until a minute before the interval.
The Shamrocks didn’t have the same problem. During that same period Mooney shot three points for Conahy, two of them from frees.
Just on the stroke of half-time Conahy had a goal disallowed for a square-ball infringement. It was a close call (Half-time: Conahy Shamrocks 1-7, St Patrick’s 0-7).
Unlike the start of the game, Conahy began the second half in impressive fashion. Two well-taken points from Alan Healy, plus a pointed free from Kieran Mooney, left six points between the sides.
For the next six minutes Ballyragget took a firm grip on the game winning lots of breaking ball in the middle sector of the pitch. They started with a fine point on the run from Joe Brennan. Three further points from Kevin Kelly and two from Michael Brennan brought the sides level in the 46th minute.
The Ballyragget men were now in control of the game and Conahy needed to score quickly to arrest their neighbour’s momentum. Neither side managed to score for the next five minutes until Alan Healy popped over a Conahy point in the 52nd minute.
One minute later Ballyragget was correctly awarded a penalty when Conahy goalie Andy O’Keeffe pulled down an opponent. On an evening when the light was quickly diminishing and the ball was greasy due to rain a shot at goal appeared the obvious move by Ballyragget.
Instead Kevin Kelly opted to take a point and while it levelled the scores, in hindsight it may have been a better option to try for a goal.
Shortly afterwards Conahy were back in the lead when substitute Tom Phelan ran through the Ballyragget defence to score a point. Kevin Kelly responded with a free and a draw was now looking very likely.
That was until Nolan raised that late green flag.
Conahy’s tenacity and determination was at the heart of this success. The players showed admirable commitment from the opening stages and especially after Ballyragget got on level terms mid-way through the second half.
Ballyragget never matched the work rate of their opponents over the 60 minutes, yet they looked odds-on to win the game when drawing level in the second half. They will be disappointed that they were unable to build on the momentum they established in the second half.
SCORERS: Conahy Shamrocks - Kieran Mooney (1-7, 0-5 frees), Alan Healy (0-4), Paul Buggy (1-0), Tom Phelan (0-1). St Patrick’s - Kevin Kelly (0-10, 0-7 frees), Michael Brennan (0-3), Joe Brennan, Eoin Bergin (0-1, each).
Conahy Shamrocks - Andy O’Keeffe, Thomas Nolan, Nicholas Feehan, David Healy, Brian Healy, John Mullan, Philly Cass, Gary Kavanagh, Padraig Harding, Paraic Nolan, Kieran Mooney, Paddy Mullan, Gavin Nolan, Paul Buggy, Alan Healy. Subs: Tommy Phelan, Oliver Feehan.
St Patrick’s - Paddy McEvoy, Stephen Staunton, James Gannon, John Mooney, Brian Phelan, Geoff Brennan, Robbie Healy, Bill Staunton, Kevin Kelly, Michael Brennan, Seoirse Kenny, Barry Staunton, Joe Brennan, Eoin Bergin, Conor Delaney. Sub: Jody Phelan.
Referee - Eamonn Mansfield (Cloneen).