The two-point gap at the final whistle reflected the closeness of the encounter, but St Lachtain’s (Freshford) may come to rue a late decision to take point rather than go for a goal as the last call loomed in this intermediate hurling league tie in Muckalee on Friday.
Both sides came into the game on the back of a victory the previous weekend, so confidence was high. St Lachtain’s were the first to put their noses in front, courtesy of an Eoin Guinan point, but from the moment Gowran’s Paul Holden equalised, Young Irelands (Gowran) would remain in front until the finish.
Freshford’s Liam Hickey slotted in seamlessly for the injured Davy Brennan, partnering with Guinan and captain Bill Beckett on the half forward line. It was the full-forward line that failed to fire for Freshford, in no small part due to the defensive efforts of ’Irelands.
Paul Keogh was always going to struggle to replicate the 2-11 he posted against Conahy the previous week, and he certainly attracted increased attention for his efforts. His brother Sean looked very assured in possession, his 0-2 tally belies the trouble he caused the Freshford defence. Both pointed early on to open up a 0-3 to 0-1 gap.
St Lachtain’s Brian Kennedy showed a great touch and neat turn of pace, before splitting the posts from distance. With the score at 0-8 to 0-5, Liam Hickey made a galloping run through the Gowran defence, but carried a little too far, his pass coming too late to provide an easy finish for team mate Steven Farrell.
A Paul Keogh point left the scoreboard reading 0-9 to 0-5 on the 25-minute mark, but St Lachtain’s stayed with their opponents, closing the gap to two points by the interval.
The sides went into the dressing rooms with the score at 0-9 to 0-7. It was still anyone’s game. Both knew that an early second half goal could prove vital, not least in psychological terms.
That decisive moment came 10 minutes after the break when Paul Keogh burst through on goal, only to be enveloped in a melee 10 metres out. St Lachtain’s failed to deal with the loose ball, and Dick Carroll pounced to send the sliotar into the back of the net. At 1-10 to 0-8, the game took on a different complexion.
St Lachtain’s rallied and foraged a point through Noel McGree as the intensity of the game ratcheted up a notch – two hurleys breaking in consecutive clashes.
Gowran managed to extend their lead through Tom Drennan and a Paul Keogh free. However, the 1-13 to 0-9 scoreline looked far beyond the capabilities of a Freshford revival.
And then, out of nothing, Eoin Guinan – as he is wont to do – popped up in the right place at the right time. The Young Irelands’ defence had fallen off a surging run through midfield by J.J. Lennon, who carried into range. A goaline battle ensued, and it was Guinan who emerged with the ball, before burying it in the net (1-13 to 1-10).
Both sides were by now showing signs of wear and tear as the clock ran down. If ever Freshford were going to rescue the game, the moment came with four minutes to go.
With only three points in the difference, Guinan once again hammered into the defence looking to reclaim possession, and succeeded in forcing a turn over, eventually winning a free in front of goal.
He opted to point rather than try for the three pointer, perhaps in the belief that more scores would follow. A late point followed, but the well had run dry by that stage.
St Lachtain’s would be entitled to point to a difficult fixtures listing, as this was their second game in six days and fatigue was certainly a factor toward the end. At the close of game, however, they had few complaints over the result.
Scorers: Young Irelands - Dick Carroll (1-2); Paul Keogh (0-4); Sean Keogh, John Morris, Tom Drennan (0-2 each); Paul Holden (0-1). St Lachtain’s - Eoin Guinan (1-5); Bill Beckett (0-2); Brian Kennedy, Noel McGree, John Dooley, Liam Hickey (0-1 each).
Young Irelands – Martin Carey, Niall Walsh, Michael Walsh, Ciaran Carroll, Jonny Dunphy, Stephen Byrne, Emmett Byrne, J.J. Lennon, Michael Lennon, Paul Holden, Tom Drennan, Sean Keogh, John Morris, Dick Carroll, Paul Keogh.
St Lachtain’s – James Meagher, Michael Cormack, Barry Hughes, Tomas Flynn, Mark Kavanagh, Brian Kennedy, John Fitzpatrick, Noel McGree, John Dooley, Liam Hickey, Eoin Guinan, Bill Beckett, Michael Farrell, Steven Farrell, Shane Donnelly.
Referee – Julian O’ Dwyer (Windgap).