A quick fire blast of late goals from Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) put the wind up The Gaels, but really there was no dispute. The better team won!
The big question in Freshford afterwards on Saturday was did O’Loughlin Gaels make life difficult on themseleves, or did Erin’s Own find their true form during the closing minutes when they nabbed two goals?
Whatever, the St John’s Park crew sailed on and claimed their fifth Northern under-21 Roinn A hurling title and a place in the county decider this weekend against beaten finalists of last year, Mullinavat.
“It was a good win in the end, but we made hard work of it. We lost our shape completely during the closing 10 minutes,” was how O’Loughlin’s selector, Maurice Nolan, summed up things.
“That is Erin’s Own, though. I have been hurling against them for years and they are never beaten. They fought back really well at the finish. It was nail biting stuff at the end.
“It wasn’t that we hadn’t been warned. They did the same in the semi-final against James Stephens. We drilled it into the lads to expected it. I suppose we put so much into the first half that we probably ran out of steam at the end. A few players stood tall at the end when they needed to and that was vital.
“We have a nice team. Four played senior this season and three were coming on as subs. Your would hope they would be able to push on. The county final won’t be simple. There is no room for pretty hurling this time of year. It will be a 50/50 game and we will give it a right lash.”
Everything seemed to be motoring along nicely for the winners when Danny Lenehan picked up a loose ball on the ‘40’ in the 47th minute before driving it over the bar. They kept the strong momentum going when Jack Nolan drilled over a 65 within a minute to leave Erin’s Own struggling, and trailing by 0-5 to 1-12.
By this time the losers had released goalie and captain, Eoin Meally from duty between the posts. He added much needed sparkle to the attack almost immediately. He had a good shot from close range blocked out for a 65, which Rob Moran converted to earn them their first score in 11 minutes of play (1-12 to 0-6).
When free taker Padraig Keating punished O’Loughlin’s after a player handled the ball on the ground by shooting another minor, nothing much appeared on the cards. However, the losers were swarming all over the opposition. Meally had a goal attempt from a close in free blocked. Moran had a short dropping 65 cleared before Keating saw a free come back into play off an upright.
The winners had lost control of the match, and they were on the back foot. In the 57th minute a lovely hand-pass from Keating ripped the Gaels defence asunder and almost casusally, but with lovely control Meally flicked the ball into the net over the head of exposed and advancing goalie Sammy Johnston (1-12 to 1-7).
All of a sudden we had ourselves a different match. Within 60 seconds the ball was in the winners net again, this time the finish being applied by Sean MacDermott after a powerful run up the left wing towards the Threecastles end by Jamie Holahan.
The gap was down to two points. In the dying minutes a couple of the O’Loughlin’s player did a few mighty things under massive pressure. Erin’s Own were awarded a free on the call of time - not including added time - on the ‘40’ on the right wing, but they chose to drop in the ball when taking a score might have been the better option.
O’Loughlin’s held out in the end, which was fair reward for the great hurling of the likes of Paddy Butler, the entire half-back line, powerful midfielder David Burke, his partner Vincent Wallace, Jack Nolan plus the hard going Billy Leydon and Jason Quan.
You would have put your house on O’Loughlin’s when they opened that big gap of 1-12 to 0-5. No one saw the late complication coming. There was a real sense of adventure to the Gaels hurling up to that. This is a team that loves to drive forward, to charge forward every time they have possession. They are a lovely team to watch because of their flair, and neat combinaiton play.
The exchanges during the opening quarter were tight and tense as the sides measured up each other. O’Loughlin’s took up the running in the 12th minute when Jack Nolan pointed a 65 won by Wallace. They led all the way home from there. Nolan turned provider for the next score, a great long range point from wing-back Paddy Deegan in the 13th minute (0-4 to 0-2).
Their only goal was just around the corner. It came at the end of a lovely flowing move involving Nolan and Billy Leydon, with David Burke applying a great finish at the second attempt after a good save by Meally. The winners powered on. At the break they led by 1-7 to 0-3.
Within 30 seconds of the restart they threatened the ’Comer goal when Vincent Wallace went on a searing run, but he was tripped up short of the 20 metre line. Jack Nolan claimed a point. Fergal Brennan added another and additions from Billy Leydon, Lenehan and Nolan left it at 1-12 to 05 with about 12 minutes left.
The best of Erin’s Own was unleashed then. They left it too late!
Scorers: O’Loughlin Gaels - Jack Nolan (0-7, four frees, three 65s’); David Burke (1-0); Danny Lenehan (0-2); Paddy Deegan, Billy Leydon, Fergal Brennan (0-1 each). Erin’s Own - Padraig Keating (0-5, frees); Sean MacDermott, Eoin Meally (1-0 each); Andrew Carron (0-1); Rob Moran (0-1, 65).
O’Loughlin Gaels - Sammy Johnston, Dan O’Driscoll, Paddy Butler, Shane Parsons, Paddy Deegan, Huw Lawlor, Padraig Meany (capt), David Burke, Vincent Wallace, Danny Lenehan, Jack Nolan, Fergal Brennan, Billy Leydon, John Doyle, Jason Quan. Subs - Stephen Hawe, Richard Moylan.
Erin’s Own - Eoin Meally (capt), David Moran, Ciaran Wallace, Niall MacMahon, Liam Wallace, Rob Moran, Eoin Brennan, Declan Dunne, Conor Delaney, Sean MacDermott, Padraig Keating, Noel Callinan, Darragh Brennan, Andrew Carron, Ciaran Brennan. Subs - Jamie Holahan, Steven Murphy, Shane Rice.
Refereee - Peter Burke (Emeralds).