'Late, late men' strike for gold as 'Irelands fall away

By John Knox jknox@kilkennypeople.ie

O’Loughlin/Gaels 2-12

Young Irelands 2-10

THE ‘late, late men’ caught the last bus to victory at Nowlan Park.

Exactly as they did in the quarter and semi-finals, and the drawn county final last week, O’Loughlin-Gaels left it until virtually the last moment before making their decisive break.

In the end a goal from flying midfielder, Seamus Cummins, snatched 40 seconds into injury-time, decided this replayed senior hurling final and earned O’Loughlin/Gaels their second championship title.

“It was a victory for character and effort,” insisted delighted O’Loughlin’s captain, Andy Comerford after Sunday’s shocker. “I thought the game was gone on us with about ten minutes remaining. This team doesn’t know when to give up.”

Rarely used call

Defending champions, Young Irelands must have thought the title was on the way to Gowran when a pointed free by the hugely influential D.J. Carey in the 47th minute stretched the difference to a yawning 2-10 to 0-9.

Strangely, ’Irelands weren’t to score again. Wind assisted O’Loughlin’s charged forward in wave after wave of attack. Two missed chances immediately after Carey’s last score for ’Irelands didn’t inspire confidence.

Then through a rarely used referee’s call, O’Loughlin’s found an escape route back into the game. ’Ireland ’keeper, Martin Carey was penalised for delaying a puck-out.

Referee Pat Dunphy restarted play with a throw-in on the 21. The ball broke to county man, Sean Dowling, who tipped it over the bar. That was the 50th minute.

Later a long ball from the O’Loughlin’s defence was fielded in front of the country end goal by Colin Furlong. With defenders hanging out of him he somehow got a hand-pass out to Nigel Skehan.

From no more than eight yards the late goal scorer in last week’s draw sent the green flying again (2-10 to 1-10). This was the 52nd minute.

Chased and chased

During the following minutes Skehan converted two frees, the first following a foul on Sean Dowling, the second on Martin Comerford. This brought us to the 55th minute.

For over five minutes the challengers chased and chased. They were defiantly held at bay right up to the hour mark. The additional seconds began to pass.

With less than 40 showing on the stopwatch a huge drive from midfield by Sean Dowling was claimed from the sky on the edge of the square by Colin Furlong. The sliotar was released to the in-rushing Seamus Cummins.

A shot form 10 yards through a forest of legs and bodies. The net bulged.

’Irelands last effort to retrieve the match came via a hopeful, low driven free from 40 yards by D.J. Carey. The shot was repelled.

The wind-up was amazing, and made something of a lie of the main body of the match. ’Irelands looked the better team most of the way, but especially during the third quarter when the opposition often lacked direction, and certainly cohesion.

Rare vintage

At no stage was there a hint that ’Irelands would be out-scored by 2-3 to nil, as happened during the closing 10 minutes.

O’Loughlin/Gaels have been keeping the best wine until last throughout this championship. On Sunday they produced a rare vintage indeed.

Just before the throw-in, a heavy shower sent people scurrying to the shelter of the stands. On the field, there was plenty of scurrying too.

Heavy tackles went in thick and fast. Players squared-up to each other off the ball in different areas of the park. The mood was mean.

In one particularly unedifying moment we had an O’Loughlin’s defender facing down an ’Irelands attacker. The latter would not be known to be confrontational, indeed the opposite would be the case. Yet he was reduced to using his hurley maybe half a dozen times to push the opponent away.

It wasn’t nice. It didn’t look nice.

The unsavoury opening was a time for decisive refereeing. Sadly, Mr Dunphy didn’t put his foot down. In his defence, it has to be said that he needed eyes in the back of his head to catch some of the goings-on, and he also spoke to four players about their attitude and approach.

Mean mood

Beacuse of the mean mood, at least a quarter of an hour of average hurling passed before the game settled down. The scores were level at 0-3 each at this time.

For ’Irelands, the scoring tone for the half was already set. D.J. Carey, with a heavily strapped right thigh, was their only scorer. He was hugely effective.

The breeze assisted losers hit the front for the second time in the 18th minute when Carey won, and converted, a 65. A body check on Jack Carey, that should have been punished with some sort of card from the referee, offered D.J. a handy point from a 21 yards free.

On 29 minutes Dick Carroll shot a great point from the left, on the sideline and 50 yards range, to become ’Irelands second scorer of the half (0-6 to 0-3).

A minute into lost time D.J. Carey produced one of those peerless moments that disarm all defences. He claimed a ball about 14 yards out, just to the left of the posts.

‘Ali-like’ shuffle

There was some sort of ‘Ali-like’ shuffle with the feet which won him a yard on a defender who, all in the one moment, was on his shoulder and was then lost. Carey galloped away towards the posts. A bullet-like drive off his left. The ball fell dead from the top far corner of the net.

Typical Carey. A flash of the brilliance that divides the average from the gifted.

A pointed free subsequently from Nigel Skehan left O’Loughlin’s trailing by 0-4 to 1-6 at half-time.

Carey contributed 1-5 (two points frees, one 65) to ’Irelands tally. He was very good, and you saw an end produce to his work. Almost in the same class was midfielder, James McDermott, who literally ran the show. He turned in as strong a performance as he has produced in years and drove an ocean of ball forward.

Thankfully, the concentration during the second quarter was on hurling. Consequently, the offering was more appetising and it grew better as the battle waged.

Extended break

O’Loughlin’s took an extended break in the dressing-room and were slow returning for the second half. When the action resumed, they burst out of the traps.

Andy Comerford and Nigel Skehan (65) tossed over points before 33 seconds had passed.

’Irelands stopped the advance abruptly. Dick Carroll, who had worked hard to shake off his marker all afternoon, finally won space. He gathered the ball out on the right wing and galloped nearly 40 yards and past three defenders before booting the ball to the net.

’Irelands were six points to the good (2-6 to 0-6). Once ragged O’Loughlin’s pared that down to four, but their game was all over the place for a while and most of the times the difference was six.

That stretched to seven in the 47th minute when D.J. Carey was fouled in front of goal 25 yards out. A give away score.

O’Loughlin’s looked far from champion material when looking up from the wrong end of a 2-10 to 0-9 lead. The rest of the game was a green and white blur.

Never gave up

The one consistent factor with the city side was that they never gave up trying. Once a window of opportunity opened, they burst through like storm-troops.

Team captain, Andy Comerford was a massive force. He was the fire that grew into an inferno, and lifted the O’Loughlin’s challenge to boiling point.

Sean Dowling and Nigel Skehan were others who lifted their contributions appreciably when the team began to roll. When shifted into a new role at full-forward, Colin Furlong became the key that unlocked an ’Irelands defence that stood secure for 50 minutes.

Martin Comerford, Brian Murphy and a tigerish Brian Kelly, who appeared to confuse determination with indiscipline at times, were others who made major contributions to the winning cause.

Other top performers for the losers were Ciaran Carroll, Ciaran Phelan, Thomas Drennan and Charlie Carter. The loss through injury of James McDermott was no small factor in the decline of ’Irelands power during the closing stages.

The scorers

O’Loughlin-Gaels - N. Skehan (1-7, four points frees, three 65s’); S. Cummins (1-0); A. Geoghegan (0-2); A. Comerford, S. Dowling, B. Dowling (0-1 each). Young Irelands - D.J. Carey (1-7, four points frees, one 65); D. Carroll (1-1); C. Carter (0-2).

The teams

O’Loughlin-Gaels - K. Cleere, B. Kelly, B. Hogan, B. Murphy, A. O’Brien, A. Comerford (capt), S. Dowling, S. Cummins, A. Geoghegan, M. Comerford, C. Furlong, N. Skehan, J. Comerford, M. Nolan, B. Dowling. Sub - N. Bergin for J. Comerford 49th min.

Young Irelands - M. Carey, C. Carroll, E. Farrell, C. Phelan, S. Byrne, T. Drennan, D. Phelan, J. McDermott, O. Carter, C. Carter, J. Carey (capt), J. Fitzgerald, D. Carroll, D.J. Carey, D. Carter. Subs - P. Carroll for O. Carter half-time; O. Carter for McDermott (inj) 54th min.

Referee - P. Dunphy (Carrigeen).

Attendance - 10,000.

Wides - O’Loughlin/Gaels 9 (3 and 6); Young Irelands 6 (4 and 2).

Senior hurling roll of honour

20 – Tullaroan (1887, 1889, 1895, 1897, 1899, 1901, 1902, 1904, 1907, 1910, 1911, 1915, 1924, 1925, 1930, 1933, 1934, 1948, 1958, 1994).

12 – Mooncoin (1888, 1900, 1906, 1908, 1913, 1916, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1932, 1936, 1965); Bennettsbridge (1890, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1971).

9 – Shamrocks [Ballyhale] (1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983. 1985, 1988, 1989, 1991).

7 – Carrickshock (1931, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1951).

6 – James Stephens (1935, 1937, 1969, 1975, 1976, 1981).

5 – Fenians [Johnstown] (1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977); Glenmore (1987, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1999).

4 – Dicksboro (1923, 1926, 1950. 1993); ire g (1939, 1944, 1945, 1947).

3 – Confederation (1893, 1894, 1896).

2 – Threecastles (1898, 1903); Erin’s Own [City] (1905, 1909); St Lachtain’s [Freshford] (1961, 1963); Graigue-Ballycallan (1998, 2000); Young Irelands [Gowran] (1996, 2002); O’Loughlin Gaels (2001, 2003).

1 – Johnstown (1914) Thomastown (1) 1946; Graigue (1949); Slieverue (1954); John Lockes [Callan] (1957); Rower-Inistioge (1968); St Martin’s [Muckalee] (1984); Clara (1986); Dunnamaggin (1997).


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