A late intervention from Martin Comerford prevented O’Loughlin Gaels from crashing at the first hurdle of the senior hurling championship.
Comerford’s injury-time point saw the city side snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat and deny Tullaroan a dramatic win in what was a tense clash in Callan on Saturday.
Two minutes into stoppage time the misfiring Gaels were staring defeat in the face, but just when the exit door loomed, they were rescued. Comerford latched on to Mark Kelly’s ball from midfield, turned inside Eddie Campion and split the country end posts.
The score came with a huge sigh of relief from the O’Loughlin’s supporters, who saw their side struggle over the hour.
But for Bergin, they would have been in real trouble. The sharp-shooter helped himself to 1-7 of his side’s tally, the most important score coming with a first half penalty.
The draw was a real blow for Tullaroan to take. They fought hard to contain their opponents for most of the hour and looked to have turned the corner when David Dowling levelled matters for the seventh time in the 57th minute before, seconds later, Jimmy Coogan tipped them into the lead (0-14 to 1-10).
Tullaroan’s strong finish was a mirror image as to how they began the game. Tenacious from the off they didn’t let O’Loughlin’s settle into the game, hassling and harrying their opponents at every turn.
It was a tactic which worked, as a clearly flustered O’Loughlin’s failed to impose themselves on the game. A Bergin free was their only score in the opening stages, but that was swamped by Mark Simpson’s fine point from a sideline cut, Padraig Walsh’s score from inside his own half and other points from Ken Coogan and Mark Walsh (free).
O’Loughlin’s found it tough to break Tullaroan down. With their opponents bringing corner-forward Mark Walsh back towards midfield it meant the Gaels had room to move the ball around their backs, but little space at the other end to drive it into.
O’Loughlin’s had to be content with points from frees - Bergin added two more, one after a move which ended with Seamie Cummins finding the net from close range was called back - but the game never fully opened up.
Tullaroan held the upper hand into the second quarter, but O’Loughlin’s proved a tough opponent. The sides were level three times in a matter of minutes, Bergin shooting his fifth free of the half to make it 0-7 apiece by the 24th minute.
Tullaroan came back again, going in front once more with another Padraig Walsh point, but their charge was halted when O’Loughlin’s were awarded a 29th minute penalty for an off the ball incident between Seamie Cummins and Tommy Walsh.
Given the chance to push his side into an unlikely lead Bergin didn’t hesitate, rifling the sliotar inside the right post. Having been second best for so long, O’Loughlin’s were now in front (1-7 to 0-8).
A stop-start game became even slower in the second half. There were just three points recorded in the third quarter (Padraig and Mark Walsh scoring either side of a Bergin free) as both sides struggled to find match-winning form.
That’s not to say O’Loughlin’s didn’t have chances. With Alan Geoghegan coming into the game more and more they had plenty of possession and shots at goal, but racked up the wides (11 in the second half alone) instead of points.
Playing a tie which had been level seven times already the game seemed destined for a replay as the final stages loomed. Jimmy Coogan’s 57th minute point gave Tullaroan hope, especially as they shut O’Loughlin’s out for five minutes, but there was enough time for Martin Comerford to earn his team that dramatic reprieve.
SCORERS: Tullaroan - Padraig Walsh (0-5); Mark Walsh (0-3, frees); Mark Simpson (0-1, line ball); Stephen Maher, Ken Coogan, Martin Walsh, Jimmy Coogan, David Dowling (0-1 each). O’Loughlin Gaels - Mark Bergin (1-7, 0-6 frees, 1-0 pen); Martin Comerford (0-2), Mark Kelly, Alan Geoghegan (0-1 each).
O’Loughlin Gaels - S. Murphy, E. Grant, A. Forristal, E. Kearns, P. Butler, B. Hogan, N. Bergin, M. Bergin, J. Nolan, A. Geoghegan, N. McEvoy, M. Kelly, D. Loughnane, S. Cummins, M. Comerford. Subs: D. Burke, B. Dowling.
Tullaroan - R. Holland, P. Campion, T. Walsh, E. Campion, M. Simpson, S. Maher, R. Maher, D. Dowling, K. Coogan, Martin Walsh, Padraig Walsh, S. Cuddihy, J. Coogan, Peter Walsh, Mark Walsh. Subs: J. Maher, M. Maher.
Ref - G. Quilty (Slieverue).