There will be new champions at minor hurling Roinn A level this season following the defeat of holders, James Stephens in this sem-final.
This was a keenly fought affair between deadly city in Thomastown, and in the end O’Loughlin Gaels deserved their success after leading virtually from start to finish.
This was a super Saturday for O’Loughlin’s free taker, Shane Maher, who grabbed all their points. James Stephens weren’t great in the scoring stakes either. Seven of their nine scores came from set pieces, with Ray Lahart the biggest contributor.
However, there was always a bit of bite to the hurling as two highly motivated sides battled with all their might for a place in the final against the Rower-Inistioge. The decider will be played on senior county final day, Sunday week, as the curtain-raiser to the main club match of the season.
The early promise was rich as the teams traded points between Maher and Lahart. The winners hit the front again in the 12th minute when Maher popped over a second free.
He landed two more before Daniel O’Connor slipped through for a goal in the 18th minute to put his side 1-4 to 0-1 ahead.
The winners defence was very sold, and scoring chances were few and far between for the losers. In fact, 18 minutes divided ’Stephens first and second scores, the latter arriving in the 25th minute from a free by Tadhg Dwyer.
At half-time O’Loughlin’s led by 1-5 to 0-3.
Luke Scanlon flashed over a nice point for the losers in the opening minute of the new half, but there was no great follow up. The next two scores fell to Maher. The next four were claimed by Ray Lahart as the free takers took over (1-7 to 0-8).
O’Loughlin’s nailed victory in the 51st minute when Seamus McGrath shot their second goal, 2-7 to 0-8.
Scorers: O’Loughlin Gaels - Shane Maher (0-8, six frees); Daniel O’Connor, Seamus McGrath (1-0 each). James Stephens - Ray Lahart (0-5, frees); Tadhg Dwyer (0-3, two frees); Luke Scanlon (0-1).
O’Loughlin Gaels - Sean Bolger, Brian Buckley, Paddy Deegan, Dan O’Driscoll, Garry Bryan, Hugh Lawlor, Thomas Gleeson, Luke Rafter, James Lenehan, Ross Butler, Vincent Wallace, Daniel O’Connor, Shane Maher, Cian Loy, Robbie Buckley. Subs - Danny Bolger for D. O’Connor; Seamus McGrath for B. Buckley.
James Stephens - Gavin Costigan, Adam Butler, James Tyrrell, Conor Browne, Cormac Connolly, Niall Mulllins, Jamie Byrne, Conor Byrne, Luke Scanlon, Matty McWey, Ricci Drennan, Dylan O’Shea, Ray Lahart, Tadhg Dwyer, Thomas Murphy. Subs - Jake Scanlon for C. Connolly; Dylan Drennan for T. Murphy.
Referee - Michael O’Sullivan (Ballyhale Shamrocks).