A hat trick of goals from Walter Walsh was not enough to bridge the gulf between Tullogher and St Patrick’s in this Intermediate quarter-final.
It’s often said in hurling that ‘goals win games’, but parity in the goal statistics column will be of little consolation to Tullogher Rosbercon after Saturday’s clash in Palmerstown. The southerners simply had no answer to St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) wonderful passing combinations and unerring accuracy.
On four occasions during the game (including at the final whistle), they opened up a 10-point gap on Tullogher. Indiscipline threatened towards the end occasionally with yellow cards flashed to both sides, but there was no doubt as to which side was in charge from 25 minutes in.
On a warm and sunny, the moderate breeze blowing westerly across the pitch did not deter long-range efforts at the posts. St Patrick’s did not get as many frees as their opponents, but they missed almost nothing all day, striking the sliothar with a metronomic accuracy.
In truth, they did not need the frees, because the likes of Joe Brennan, Michael Brennan and Kevin Kelly did not require an invitation to split the posts.
By contrast – Walsh’s wonderful goals aside – Tullogher managed just two points from play, with the remaining nine coming from Cian O’ Donoghue’s frees. Tullogher’s forwards won little ball in the final third, while Ballyragget’s forwards were outstanding, contributing 3-19 between them.
St Patrick’s opened the scoring and never looked back. Joe Brennan, who imposed himself relentlessly throughout the game pointed first, before O’ Donoghue levelled. Michael and Geoffrey Brennan also pointed in those opening minutes, before a thrilling run from Joe Brennan was halted illegally, and Kevin Kelly smashed home a penalty (1-3, 0-1).
That five-point gap was quickly erased, however, when Walter Walsh managed to get on the end of a long free, and race through the crowd to lift the sliothar over Michael Gannon in the Ballyragget goal. Another free soon had the southern club back within one point.
Brian ‘Brooky’ Phelan was magnificent in the middle of the park. As well as his consistent ball distribution, his work rate kept Tullogher under constant pressure for the 60 minutes, giving Richie Dollard and the Cotterells very little space in which to think and to move.
Any Tullogher point provoked an instantaneous and ruthless response from St Patrick’s. They strung together five quick points from play – Brooky Phelan, Kevin Kelly, Eoghan Bergin, and two from Saoirse Kenny – before Tullogher could fire back. Two frees for them, and a Joe Brennan response in between, left the score (1-9, 1-4).
Saoirse Kenny was another St Patrick’s man who had a significant impact on the game – the sliothar just seemed to keep turning up in his hand. Good fielding work down the right hand side saw him collect a hand pass, turn his man and find the space to hit his third point of the day.
Michael Brennan, Joe Brennan and Kevin Kelly all managed to point again before half time, as did Edmund Cullinane at the other end. The game looked to be all but over by the break, as the northern side left the pitch nine points in the clear with the score at (1-14, 1-05).
Kevin Kelly hit yet another point from play immediately on the resumption, with Pat Hartley quickly hitting back at the other end, before Kelly again returned fire – this time with a free.
The ten-point gap was quickly shattered however, as Walter Walsh made another bullocking run forward and found the net (1-16, 2-06).
His intervention served to send a jolt of life into the game, as his team mates around him were certainly encouraged by the goal. Good work pushing forward from the likes of Brendan Lawlor and Edmund Cullinane produced three frees in succession for O’ Donoghue to reduce the gap to a mere four-point one (1-16, 2-09).
If a comeback were ever to threaten, now was the time. But Ballyragget rose to respond to the insurrection, and once again, it was that man Joe Brennan who took it upon himself to restore order.
In five minutes, he clipped over a point and then, capitalising on some excellent defensive work from Geoffrey Brennan, ran onto a wonderful pass to smash home a goal. Add on two Kevin Kelly frees, and soon the difference was ten points again (2-19, 2-09).
With ten minutes to go, Tullogher successfully converted another free, before Ballyragget’s Eoghan Bergin stole in for his second point of the day to top off more hard work by Brooky Phelan. Phelan was doing everything he could to close out the game.
Kevin Kelly sent another free between the posts, and then the crowd were treated to a late fireworks finish, as Joe Brennan tore up the pitch again with sliothar-on-hurl and, cutting inside the fullback, hit a stunning goal.
The drama was not over yet though. Walter Walsh responded for the southern side almost immediately, firing home a third well-crafted goal.
A closing minute free for Cian O’ Donoghue left the final score (3-21, 3-11).
St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) again demonstrated that they are a serious, skillful team, capable of real tour-de-force hurling. If several key players can remain injury-free, and with momentum from this victory, they will surely feel they are capable of taking things to the next level.
Scorers: St Patrick’s – Joe Brennan (2-4), Kevin Kelly (1-7), Saoirse Kenny (0-3), Michael Brennan (0-3), Eoghan Bergin (0-2), Brian Phelan (0-1), Geoffrey Brennan (0-1). Tullogher Rosbercon – Walter Walsh (3-0), Cian O’ Donoghue (0-9),Edmund Cullinane (0-1), Pat Hartley (0-1).
St Patrick’s: Michael Gannon, Paddy Cahill, Stephen Staunton, James Gannon, Robbie Healy, Kieran Delaney, Geoffrey Brennan, Brian (Brooky) Phelan, Bill Staunton (capt), Michael Brennan, Kevin Kelly, Joe Brennan, Saoirse Kenny, Eoghan Bergin, Barry Staunton.
Tullogher Rosbercon: Martin Roche, John Hartley, John Grennan, Sean Murray, Anthony Cotterell, Pat Hartley, Dunnacha O’ Connor, Brendan Lawlor, Richie Dollard, Walter Walsh, John Cotterell, Moling Cotterel, Cian O’ Donoghue, Edmund Cullinane, John Barron, Tony Conway.