An inspired performance from Mark Bergin saw O’Loughlin Gaels rise to a hard-fought win - but they fell just short of their desired goal.
The centre-forward struck a dozen of the city side’s 16 points, enough to beat 14-man Danesfort, but not sufficient to edge Ballyhale Shamrocks out of the Shield final, a berth they missed on the head-to-head ruling.
There was little in it during the early stages; the game was so close that there were just three scorers after 18 minutes - Richie (2) and Paddy Hogan (2) for the ‘Fort, Mark Bergin (3) keeping the Gaels in contention.
Danesfort’s pace picked up in the second quarter as they refused to let the O’Loughlin’s half-back and midfield lines settle. Switching Richie Hogan into the full-forward line also helped as they looked more potent, Hogan pushing them 0-7 to 0-3 clear by the 22nd minute. It was a lead which could have been greater, but nine first half wides cost the ‘Fort dearly.
With Hogan in accurate form Danesfort stretched their lead to five points, but they were challenged when corner-back Gavin O’Keeffe was red-carded seconds before the end of normal time. Even though they were a man shy they held firm, Paddy Hogan splitting the posts from midfield while netminder Frank Manogue frustrated the O’Loughlin’s forwards even further with a fine stop to deny Mark Kelly a goal when he squeezed a ground shot through a crowded square (0-9 to 0-3).
Danesfort, who went with a two-man full-forward line, were quickest out of the blocks in the second half. Even against the wind they went seven points up thanks to Robbie Walsh but O’Loughlin’s were about to make a charge.
The introduction of Niall McEvoy made the Gaels a different prospect in the second half. McEvoy scored one point and made two for Bergin, who also landed two frees, as they moved to within two of the leaders by the 43rd minute. Stephen Murphy and Brian Hogan also frustrated ’Fort, combining to beat out Paddy Hogan’s venomous 40th minute penalty.
Danesfort were in need of a big score and looked like they had found it when a storming run from Paul Murphy ended with a quick pass for Richie Hogan to point. However, the wind was in O’Loughlin’s sails, as Mark Kelly and Bergin landed a brace apiece to give their team the lead for the first time with eight minutes to play (0-12 to 0-11), a lead they secured with a Bergin treble completed with a cheeky flick over his marker from a solo run. Danesfort didn’t quit, Robbie Walsh and Paul Murphy made it a on-point game approaching the end of normal time, but Brian Hogan popped up to settle matters for O’Loughlin’s.
O’Loughlin Gaels - S. Murphy, E. Grant, A. Forristal, E. Kearns, J. Quan, B. Hogan (0-1), P. Butler, B. Dowling, J. Nolan, S. Cummins, M. Bergin (0-12, 0-8 frees), D. Loughnane, D. Burke, M. Kelly (0-2), M. Comerford. Subs: N. McEvoy (0-1) for Dowling, 31 mins; A. Geoghegan for Burke, 46 mins; S. Johnson for Loughnane, 53 mins.
Danesfort - F. Manogue, G. O’Keeffe, L. Forristal, M. Cunningham, D. Booth, P. Hogan (0-3, 0-2 frees), P. Walsh, P. Murphy (0-1), J. Phelan, R. Hogan (0-8, 0-3 frees), D. Forristal, C. O’Neill, C. Treacy, R. Walsh (0-2), P. Hickey. Sub: T. Woodcock for O’Neill, 53 mins.