If Dunnamaggin, who were relegated last season, are to make a quick return to the senior grade they won’t do so as double champions.
The Southerners had a place in the intermediate hurling league final snatched from their grasp by a 63rd minute point that earned Young Irelands (Gowran) a draw, thereby robbing Dunna’ of the victory they needed to make the decider.
Dunnamaggin, who were without the injured Noel Hickey, must now concentrate their efforts on the championship in the hope of grabbing silverware, and promotion. For ’Irelands the dreaded battle against relegation awaits.
Midfielder Michael Lennon was a big player for ’Irelands during the nail biting closing five minutes when the action really grabbed the attention. In the 55th minute he pointed to reduce the arrears to the minimu, 1-14 to 1-13. The nervy losers missed two chances from frees after that before Lennon levelled with a top class score from midfield after possession was surrendered easily.
That score arrived in the 60th minute and fans must have thought that was it. The action rolled on. Canice Hickey, a colossus in the heart of the Dunnamaggin defence, scored a magnificent free from midfield and a metre in from the sideline to edge them in front again. They missed a chance to wrap up the game when an effort from the busy Kieran Bergin missed the target.
’Irelands just kept ploughing forward, and it was Lennon who drew the game with virtually the last strike of the tie.
While the action at the finish was good and rich in effort, the match was a slow burn in terms of quality. Some of the early exchanges were very average, even if the commitment all round was absolute.
Five times the scores were level during the opening 24 minutes. Within seconds ’Irelands hit the front when a huge gap opened in front of the opposing goal at the village end and Thomas Carroll charged through to bury the ball in the net. With quick additions from Paul Holden (two frees), the second after Jodie Foley was body blocked, they suddenly found themselves double scores to the good (1-7 to 0-5).
When Willie Phelan was hit by a late tackle in the 29th minute, Dunna’ retrieved a goal through Kenny Moore from the free shot, and then a late, late point from Moore cut their interval deficit to 1-6 to 1-7.
That went up again when the lively Dick Carroll pointed for ’Irelands when the action resumed. It went up to three points by the 35th minute when Tom Drennan and Holden added minors against one reply from Darren Fitzpatrick, a vry good effort from the left sideline.
Dunnamaggin had a hard earned point from Anthony Kearney to keep the effort going. Canice Hickey threw in a second one before Kearney picked up possession from the midst of a a bunch of players before levelling (1-10 each). The winners looked like driving on when sub Sean Connery won them back the lead. A converted free from Willie Phelan, following a push in the back on Paddy Delaney, suggested they were ready to roll.
Not so! ’Irelands hung on grimly, helped by a spirits lifting point from Paul Holden. When goalie David Herity lashed a might free from 90 metres towards the ’Irelands and the ball bounced off the hard ground and over the bar, the suggestion was the gods had ordained it was to be their day (1-13 to 1-11).
After Holden and Phelan traded scores, ’Irelands midfielder Lennon saved the day.
Scorers: Dunnamaggin - Ken Moore (1-2, goal free); Canice Hickey (0-3, frees); Darren Fitzpatrick, Anthony Kearney (0-2 each); Willie Phelan (0-2, one free); David Herity (0-1, free); Kieran Bergin, Sean Connery (0-1 each); Colin Herity (0-1, free). Young Irelands - Paul Holden (0-8, four frees); Dick Carroll, Michael Lennon (0-3 each); Thomas Carroll (1-0); Tom Drennon (0-1).
Dunnamaggin - David Herity, Mark Dowling, Aidan O’Donovan, Mark Heffernan, Paul Kirwan, Canice Hickey, Andrew Hickey, Willie Phelan, Darren Fitzpatrick, Colin Herity, Kenny Moore, Peter Kenneally, Paddy Delaney, Anthony Kearney, Kieran Bergin. Subs - Sean Connery for C. Herity; Seaghan O’Neill for P. Delaney.
Young Irelands - Martin Carey, Martin Carter, Michael Walsh, Ciaran Carroll, J.P. Treacy, Emmett Byrne, J.J. Lennon, Paul Kehoe, Michael Lennon, Tom Drennan, Jodie Foley, Chris Nolan, Thomas Carroll, Paul Holden, Dick Carroll. Subs - Sean Kehoe, Ollie Carter, John Morris.
Referee - Raymond Byrne (Glenmore).