A fluffed penalty attempt that could have turned a deficit into a lead helped shape this under-21 North hurling championship semi-final.
St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) failed to convert the penalty in the opening minute of the second half, and O’Loughlin Gaels made them pay a heavy price when they charged up the field and scored a goal from play, writes John Knox.
The goal, created by a wonderful left wing cross at the Threecastles end by Jason Quan that planted the ball in the hand of scorer, Daniel Lenahan at the back post, lifted O’Loughlin’s into a good lead of 2-6 to 0-7. While they had always looked the better team, the sway in fortunes during those minutes lifted the St John’s Park outfit to a new level and they ran out good winners in the end.
Indeed, were it not for the heroics of St Patrick’s goalie, Patrick Gannon, who brought off a string of fine saves in the second half, the Gaels would have won by more. The winners play Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) in the final.
The winners looked a decent outfit. They are blessed with a powerful pair of hard running and ball carrying midfielders in Vincent Wallace and David Burke. It was wonderful to watch the pair charging at the opposition, offering colleagues support play and drawing defenders into bad positions before releasing the ball.
Honestly, the sideshow that was the dynamic play of this pair was a real treat, and they received wonderful support from talented colleagues like Paddy Deegan, Huw Lawlor, Padraig Meany, Shane Parsons and Daniel Lenihan.
St Pat’s opened the scoring with two beautiful long range points from free by county panelist, Kevin Kelly. The winners strong half-back line and midfield soon asserted itself, and after full-back Patrick Butler won them the lead with a third minute goal from a free near midfield, they led all the way home from there.
That goal - the ball simply sailed into the net - was the main one during the half, at the end of which O’Loughlin’s led by 1-5 to 0-7. All but one of the St Pat’s scores came from the stick of Kelly, while bustling centre-forward Eoin Bergin hit the other one.
It was Bergin who won the penalty within 30 seconds of the restart after he charged 50 metres through the O’Loughlin’s defence before being ground inside the ‘20’. The unfortunate Kelly failed to rise the ball before a rushed ‘pull’ failed to make contact with the sliotar.
The ball was lashed down the field, where it ended up in the Pat’s net via Lenahan’s dipping shot from 10 metres (2-6 to 0-7). Moments later goalie Gannon did well to intercept a ball destined for Fergal Brennan in a dangerous position, after being put through by Billy Leydon, and in the 39th minute he brought another fine stop, this time from Jack Nolan.
Nolan clipped over a brace of points as the winners eased 2-8 to 0-7 ahead within eight minutes of the restart. St Pat’s halted the slide with strikes from Eoin Bergin and Kevin Kelly at the double (2-8 to 0-10), but for all the promise and threat posed by Kelly, Paddy McEvoy, Robbie Healy and so on, they failed to raise another flag.
It was game, set and match to O’Loughlin’s when Daniel Lenehan blasted home a penalty in the 52nd minute. That took them 3-12 to 0-10 clear, beyond being caught. It was a strong looking performance from the winners!
Scorers: O’Loughlin Gaels - Daniel Lenehan (2-1, goal penalty); Jack Nolan (0-6, frees); Patrick Butler (1-1, frees); Vincent Wallace (0-2); Paddy Deegan, Billy Leydon, John Doyle (0-1 each). St Patrick’s - Kevin Kelly (0-8, five frees, two 65s’); Eoin Bergin (0-2).
O’Loughlin Gaels - Sammy Johnston, Dan O’Driscoll, Patrick Butler, Shane Parsons, Paddy Deegan, Huw Lawlor, Padraig Meany, Vincent Wallace, David Burke, Fergal Brennan, Jack Nolan, Daniel Lenehan, Billy Leydon, John Doyle, Richard Moylan. Subs - Jason Quan, Ben Leydon, Seamus McGrath.
St Patrick’s - Patrick Gannon, Billy Morrissey, Paddy McEvoy, Billy Butler, Oisin Brennan, Robbie Healy, Mark Staunton, Michael Brennan, Brendan Neary, Brendan Brophy, Eoin Bergin, Kevin Kelly, Jack Ryan, Michael Kenny, David Kenny. Subs - Conor Foley, Niall Brophy, Jack O’Shea, Fabian Jacob.