Late, late points from Gaffney and Starr see ’Boro through in nail-biter

IT TOOK nearly 130 minutes to reach a decision, and in the end a mere puck of the ball secured victory and senior status for another year for intermediate champions, Dicksboro, while defeated Clara were condemned to the torment of a relegation shoot-out, writes John Knox.

IT TOOK nearly 130 minutes to reach a decision, and in the end a mere puck of the ball secured victory and senior status for another year for intermediate champions, Dicksboro, while defeated Clara were condemned to the torment of a relegation shoot-out, writes John Knox.

Both sets of supporters were left living on their nerves when the action in this senior hurling championship first round/relegation semi-final replay at glorious Jenkinstown on Saturday drifted deep into injury-time for the second week running, and still it was all up for grabs.

This time, however, there was to be no late reprieve for Clara, who were downed by fine points from Martin Gaffney and sub Cillian Starr in the 59th and 61st minutes.

The losers pounded away at the opposition through over three minutes of extra-time, but a late effort for a point by Liam Ryan and two later frees from the deadly striking, Keith Hogan, who had to drop the ball into the ’Boro danger zone, failed to reap any reward.

Victory earned the ’Boro another championship day out this weekend, against city neighbours O’Loughlin/Gaels in the quarter-finals, while Clara must face Tullaroan in the relegation final with the losing dropping down to the intermediate division next season.

Little between them

Two teams with little between them produced a game that was not too dissimilar to the drawn clash (1-14(C) to 0-17) in that they went at it toe-to-toe during the last quarter when the match was there to be won or lost. It was hurling on the edge, wholesome entertainment for the good size crowd, who lapped it all up on a beautiful day lost from summer.

Again, as in the drawn tie, the ’Boro employed a seventh man between their two defensive lines, but it failed to prevent Clara enjoying a terrific opening. The losers had what favour the largely cross field wind gave, and four points during the opening five minute helped them find their feet in the contest.

Indeed, they might have goaled twice in that time. After a mere 30 seconds Liam Ryan was sent racing up the left wing at the Dunmore end following a beautifully directed pass from James Nolan, but his shot whistled across the face of the winners goal and wide.

Their next raid realised a point for Eoin O’Shea, which would have been a goal but for a timely half-hook on the scorer by Philip Hogan; the chance coming about after a defender failed to cut out a left wing cross from James Nolan. Keith Hogan and Eddie O’Donoghue (free) swopped minors after that before a free from Hogan and a good score from play by Liam Ryan took Clara 0-4 to 0-1 ahead.

The ’Boro kept in touch with a point from a free on midfield by Eddie O’Donoghue before Clara created and scored a goal of rare beauty. It was the ninth minute. Eoin O’Shea did great work on the left wing before aiming a cross at James Nolan.

The latter off-loaded instantly to the supporting Keith Hogan, who hit the target from 20-metres, slightly to the right of the posts (1-5 to 0-2).

Fabulous take of 1-13

Already the flying Hogan had 1-3 in the bag as he bounded his way to an eventual fabulous take of 1-13.

Neither side was able to impose itself on the game, so all sorts of possibilities were on the menu as the action flowed from end to end.

The finishing was clinical, as a mere two wides (one each) during the opening 20 minutes would suggest.

After an exchange of points, Dicksboro thundered back in the game when Paul O’Flynn rattled the net. It was a Route I creation, centre-forward Oisin Walsh fielding a puck-out from his ’keeper, Cillian Breathnach before sending the scorer racing away on an almost free path to goal (1-6 to 1-3).

The ’Boro were flying as the high scoring quarter finished with O’Donoghue (free) and David Ryan posting points to leave the minimum between the sides.

From there to the rest Clara enjoyed the better of things and they took a 1-10 to 1-7 lead into the break. Keith Hogan was the scorer in chief, with a take of 1-8 during that period.

The ’Boro exploded into action after the turn. Quick scores from Derek O’Gorman and O’Donoghue, following a foul on Oisin Walsh, cut the deficit to the minimum. It took them a while to catch up, however.

Parity wasn’t achieved until the 44th minute when Paul O’Flynn, who was becoming a more influential figure up front, received a directed low free from Enda Malone before squaring the match at 1-12 each. Two minutes later Malone hit the target from near midfield to dump Clara behind for the first time.

By now it was hurling off the cuff, survival stuff. Hogan levelled from midfield. The ’Boro regained the advantage through Derek O’Gorman. Neil Prendergast squared it this time (1-14 each).

Clara regained the lead in the 51st minute through Keith Hogan with a converted free from midfield following a foul on Liam Ryan. For a while they looked to be taking control on their own ‘40’ where David Langton, Neal Prendergast and Tom Ryan defended with might and utter determination.

Goal from nothing

Then from virtually nothing the ’Boro plucked a goal. A sideline ball from the wing-back position on the right saw the sliotar deliver at pace towards the Clara full line of defence. The ‘line’ was caught square. The ball hit the ground goal side of the last defender.

Sub Shane Maher gained the advantage. He pulled first time on the ground ball. The Clara net danced.

The winners were 2-14 to 1-15 in front.

Hogan again jumped to the rescue for the losers. First he converted a 65 before scoring a free from virtually his own ‘45’ metre line (2-14 to 1-17).

There was a mere minute of normal time left to be played.

That was to be as good as it was to get for Clara. With a mere 30 seconds left on the clock Adrian Stapleton hooked a defender as he attempted to clear the ball. Martin Gaffney won possession before shooting a point.

Cillian Starr added a like score 90 seconds into injury-time after a huge free from his goalie, Cillian Breathnach, broke to his advantage and he turned chance into a profit.

The joy of survival was without limits for the ’Boro. Clara have another day in which to chase the feeling!

Dicksboro – Cillian Breathnach, Danny Kenny, Kieran Cuddihy, Philip Hogan, Michael Fagan, David Glynn, Enda Malone, Eddie O’Donoghue, Martin Gaffney, Derek O’Gorman, Oisin Walsh, Ollie Walsh, Paul O’Flynn, Adrian Stapleton, David Ryan. Subs – Kevin Nolan, Shane Maher, Cillian Starr.

Clara – Kevin Nolan, Dermot Nolan, Shane Prendergast, Sean O’Shea, Neal Prendergast, David Langton, Tom Ryan, Lester Ryan, David Prendergast, Conor Phelan, Eoin O’Shea, Brian Phelan, Keith Hogan, James Nolan, Liam Ryan. Subs – Cillian Phelan, Christopher Bolger.

Referee – Maurice Flynn (Mooncoin).