All-action Lisdowney caused more than a mild surprise when they triumphed over close neighbours, defending champions and fierce rivals, St Patrick’s of Ballyragget in this gripping Northern under-21 Roinn A hurling championship clash in Freshford on Saturday, winning by 1-9 to 0-9 writes Jim Buggy.
In the end a goal from Aaron Fogarty made all the difference and booked Lisdowney a place in the Northern final against as yet unknown opponents.
The winners deserved to be ahead at the final whistle. They always looked the hungrier of the two teams throughout what was a thrill a minute game. Excelling performances from Fogarty, Kevin Sweeney and Larry Carroll propelled them ahead from the fifth minute, and they never relinquishing the lead.
The result might easily have gone the other way, however. Conor Foley failed to capitalise on a glorious chance in the opening minute, which could have changed things. Instead ’keeper, Eoin Walsh made a tidy save.
Fogarty shot the first score of the game, his pointed free setting the tone for a hectic afternoon of action. Fogarty pointed his second effort after a foul on Sweeney before Kelly pointed a free of his own. Aaron Fogarty shot over his first from play after 10 minutes, using his superior size to his advantage when slapping the ball over the bar.
He followed up with a massive strike from his own 65 metre line, his shot from under the Freshford stand sailing between the posts. Two frees from Kevin Kelly kept Pat’s within touching distance. The occasional opportunities to breach the defence and get at the goal were thwarted by some frantic last-ditch defending.
Michael Brennan sprinted into space on the right side, his point pulling the teams level. Pat Carroll quickly put Lisdowney back in the driving seat, catching a clearance from Liam Lacey and sending the ball back over the head of the Ballyragget ’keeper. Kevin Kelly shot his fourth score, this time from play with a lovely strike after breaking from midfield.
Micheal Kenny wrapped up the first half scoring by striding away from his marker before firing over coolly. Lisdowney had been the better side in the first half, certainly challenging strongly against last year’s champions. The two Carrolls had struck a lot of ball around midfield and the forwards were looking razor sharp.
Poor decision making
Ballyragget could have been in front at the break but for some poor decision making when they got through on goal a number of times.
Kelly started the second half with a pointed free before Edward Kenny showed great vision to pick out Fogarty for his second from play. With 10 minutes gone Lisdowney were starting to regain the momentum, Michael Kenny exemplifying this with a sweetly taken point after winning the breaking ball.
Kelly pointed another free before Fogarty caught a Ballyragget clearance and sent the ball over for his sixth of the game. Kelly pointed another free before the decisive strike came.
Lisdowney were awarded a 20 metre free in the 53rd minute. Fogarty stepped up and rattled the net with a fine strike. Lisdowney shot four points ahead. Pat’s came back strongly, but yet again their indecisiveness in front of goal let them down.
Eoin Bergin’s burst through the middle took away the Lisdowney defenders from the goal. His pass found Michael Brennan in the small square and he finished into the net, but the whistle had blown for a foul on the ball by Brennan. A Kevin Kelly free set the game up for a tense finish, with Lisdowney supporters baying for the final whistle that came in the fifth minute of extra time.
St Pat’s were left ruing their chances in a game that they could have had more impact on. For a lot of their players, however, they have been playing non-stop since last February; their path to All-Ireland success seeing them hurling through the last 22 months. A break could have been what they needed, and they should come back strongly in next year’s intermediate championship.
Lisdowney’s momentum has taken them past Dicksboro and now Ballyragget. Whether they can continue their impressive string of victories when the under-21 action resumes next year will certainly be interesting.
Lisdowney - E. Walsh, B. Carroll, N. Kenny, C. Bergin, P. Carroll (0-1), S. Phelan, E. Lyons, K Sweeney, L. Carroll, M. Kenny (0-2), G. Healy, J. Bergin, E. Kenny, A. Fogarty(1-6, 1-3 frees), J. Dunphy.
St Patrick’s - L. Lacey, B. Butler, S. Staunton, P. McEvoy, R. Healy, G. Brennan, M. Staunton, J. Gannon, J. Ryan, M. Brennan, E. Bergin, K. Kelly, C. Foley, C. Bolger, D. Brennan. Subs - D. Kelly.