Powerful club fare to continue

To understand how much a club means to a parish one had to be in Palmerstown on Saturday to witness the senior hurling relegation final between Fenians (Johnstown) and Graigue Ballycallan.

To understand how much a club means to a parish one had to be in Palmerstown on Saturday to witness the senior hurling relegation final between Fenians (Johnstown) and Graigue Ballycallan.

Here were two proud clubs with impressive histories battling to stay in the upper echelons of Kilkenny hurling. This was more than sport as parish loyalty goes deep into the heart of the men and women.

The tie was far from the best fare we witnessed in Kilkenny this year, but one could not fault the efforts of the players, every one of whom dug deep for the sake of the parish.

In the end it was those doughty battlers from Johnstown who survived by the narrowest of margins. The Fenians and their loyal band of followers celebrated as if they had won the county final.

It was oh so different for the players, plus the men and women from Kilmanagh and Ballycallan. I saw grown men and women shed tears, their hearts broken at the defeat but even more so at the manner of it. The players were devastated.

The game was a couple of minutes into injury-time when Kieran Grehan scored a precious point for Fenians. Moments earlier it seemed that the referee would call a halt to play after a couple of players got injured. A draw would have been a fair outcome.

The official opted to play on and Johnstown made one final surge which yielded the winner. For the sixth time they avoided the dreaded drop to the intermediate grade.

For all its enjoyment sport was never intended to be fair. In a winner take-all contest the Fenians took the laurels and can look to 2014 with plenty of hope.

On this performance Graigue-Ballycallan will be a strong force at intermediate level. Playing in the lower grade may not seem an appetising prospect, but come the Spring I have no doubt there will be no difficulty getting the players refocused for a new challenge.

The trap door had almost closed on Young Irelands when they conjured up two late goals to take Mooncoin to a replay in the intermediate relegation final. I expected a tight contest again.

Next stop on Saturday was Nowlan Park and the two junior hurling semi-finals. Lisdowney, without ever reaching the heights they are capable, had an easy victory over James Stephens. The second semi was a more exciting contest which Bennetsbridge deservedly won but only after a big attitude change in the second half.

Barrow Rangers dominated the opening 30 minutes but there was no doubting the superiority of the ’Bridge after the break. We can look forward to a great final between two fine young teams.

There was no doubting also that the two best teams won Sunday’s intermediate semis. Despite being without Joe Lyng and Paul Sheehan the Rower Inistioge won handsomely against St Patrick’s (Ballyragget).

Emeralds sprung a surprise in the second semi. Brilliant displays from Aidan Fogarty and Derek Lyng helped them, but this was far from a two-man show.

Some weeks ago they stared relegation in the face. Now they are in the county final and have every chance of winning it. Too many of the Dunamaggin players had an off-day but that could not be said of Noel Hickey. He was majestic and his point from 100 metres was the score of the weekend. The Southerners defeat goes to show how difficult it is for any relegation side.

It was another great hurling weekend and we can expect the same in the senior semi-finals this Sunday.