03 Oct 2022

Kilkenny IHL- Second wind gives Young Irelands a late win over Thomastown

Young Irelands 2-19 Thomastown 1-20

Kilkenny IHL- Second wind gives  Young Irelands a  late win over Thomastown

Sean Carey goes past Diarmuid Galway and Zach Bay Hammond to score a vital goal for Young Irelands. Picture: Willie Dempsey

A gale-force finish helped a wind-assisted Young Irelands deliver a storming finale to topple Thomastown.

The Gowran men used the elements to fashion a grandstand performance, hitting 1-6 in the last eight minutes to send the Grennan men to their first loss of the league and boost their own chances of avoiding the first round of the championship.

In a dramatic second half at well-appointed Dr Tierney Park, Irelands clawed back a hefty deficit, survived a penalty scare - not to mention a late, late goal fright which could have scuppered their victory hopes - to beat the Grennan men on the line.

They didn’t know it at the time, but the beginning of the end for Thomastown, who were seeking a third straight league win, came when Irelands sub Sean Carey latched on to a long 52nd minute delivery and rounded goalkeeper Diarmuid Galway before shepherding the sliotar into the net.

The strike halved the deficit for Irelands (2-13 to 1-19) and gave them hope the game might turn their way. Although they had played with a strong wind at their backs for the second half - such was its strength it carried some puck-outs inside the square at the Highview Athletic end of the pitch - they hadn’t been able to use it to its full effect as a superb Thomastown defence kept them at bay.

The goal revitalised Gowran, who suddenly found a second wind. Captain Paul Delahunty kept the run going, firing over a booming point before Ted Drea added another. Drea then turned provider, sprinting out to the corner to gather another long ball before forcing a pass inside for Geoff Brennan to fashion the levelling score with 57 minutes on the clock (2-16 to 1-19).

Thomastown, who had watched as their advantage was eroded, snapped back to life. Robbie Donnelly, who led his side with distinction, got them moving when he intercepted a Gowran pass and slipped play to Luke Connellan, who edged his side ahead again with a 58th minute point.

Having fought to get back into the game, Young Irelands weren’t about to give up. Tommy Phelan quickly restored parity from a free, but the game’s real drama was still to unfold.

As Gowran would find in the second half, Thomastown enjoyed the backing of the strong breeze from the throw-in. With the elements adding distance to Diarmuid Galway’s already long puck-outs they were able to keep possession deep in Gowran territory, allowing Robbie and John Donnelly to keep the pressure on their opponents.

With three Robbie Donnelly points on the board, Thomastown took a bigger step towards controlling the game when they landed the first big strike with six minutes on the clock. John Donnelly was the architect, threading a crossfield pass to Jack Holden, who turned past his marker before blasting a shot under netminder Jason Brennan.

With points from John Donnelly and Luke Connellan pushing them further ahead (1-5 to 0-3) Thomastown looked to be in command, but needed Diarmuid Galway to be on full alert to stay there. The loss of full-back Richard O’Hara to a hand injury unsettled the ’Town defence - spotting a chink in the armour Young Irelands exploited a gap and broke in via Jack and Geoff Brennan, who both had chances to shoot, but laid play off to Ted Drea, who was denied by Galway’s 10th minute save.

It wasn’t long before Thomastown had a goal chance of their own - 60 seconds, in fact. Stephen Donnelly sparked panic in the Gowran ranks when he rounded his man and squared the ball to Jack Holden, but his shot was smothered by Brennan, who dashed from his line to make the save.

Thomastown continued to make most of the running, with Peter McDonald and John Donnelly leading the way, but their dominance only yielded a few more points. There were some good scores - Jack Holden’s point over his shoulder and Donnelly’s minor after he exchanged quick passes with Luke Connellan, but a Gowran rally decimated their lead.

Sean Kehoe got them going with a 22nd minute point - at that stage he was only their second scorer, behind Tommy Phelan - but when Geoff Brennan battled through a series of challenges to rattle the net in the 25th minute the gap was down to two points (1-8 to 1-6).

Thomastown did raise their level in the closing stages, Robbie Donnelly (two frees) and Stephen Donnelly chipping in with points. John Donnelly added one more, taking Adrian Burke’s diagonal pass into his body before turning and grabbing a point, but would their four-point cushion (1-12 to 1-8) be enough to keep Irelands at bay facing into a strong breeze?

The elements seemed to do little to throw Thomastown off in the second half as they picked up where they had left off before the break. Pressing forward, they had a chance to open up a big lead when Stephen Donnelly was wrapped up in the square after seizing on a loose ball. Robbie Donnelly unleashed a stinging drive from the resulting penalty, aiming for the top left corner, but Jason Brennan dived to his right and reached high to turn the sliotar around the post.

The Grennan men shrugged off that miss and, by the three-quarters stage, had moved five points ahead (1-16 to 1-11). They pushed the gap out to six by the 50th minute, sub Zach Bay Hammond ending an impressive run and one-two with John Donnelly with a pass for Luke Connellan to turn into a point, but Young Irelands hung on in there, Sean Kehoe and Mikey Carey (65) providing the inspiration.

Gowran turned the game on its head with that late rally, eating into the lead by winning the battle across the middle third.

With the tie all square approaching stoppage time, Thomastown thought they had snatched a late winner when Robbie Donnnelly’s lofted shot bounced over the head of Jason Brennan, but the sliotar bounced off the goalkeeper’s right post and came back out.

That near-miss was met with relief by Gowran, who kicked on again. Mikey Carey edged them ahead, an advantage they held as Thomastown’s late efforts drifted wide, before Geoff Brennan sealed a dramatic win when he found space to strike an insurance point with virtually the last puck of the game, sparking scenes of celebration among the Gowran faithful.

Teams and scorers

Young Irelands - Tommy Phelan (0-9, 0-8 frees); Jimmy Lennon, Sean Carey (1-0 each); Sean Kehoe (0-3); Mikey Carey (0-2, 65); Paul Delahunty, Geoff Brennan (0-2 each); Ted Drea (0-1).

Thomastown - Robbie Donnelly (0-9, 0-6 frees, 0-2 65); Jack Holden (1-1); John Donnelly, Luke Connellan (0-3 each); Stephen Donnelly, Brian Staunton (0-2 each).

Young Irelands - Jason Brennan; Pat Farrell, Michael Walsh, Padraig O’Neill; Paddy Langton, Mikey Carey, Seamus Farrell; Jimmy Lennon, Paul Delahunty; Sean Kehoe, Geoff Brennan, Tommy Phelan; Jack Brennan, Ted Drea, Padraig Naddy.

Subs: Sean Farrell for Lennon, Sean Carey for Naddy, Patrick Brennan for J Brennan.

Thomastown - Diarmuid Galway; Peter Connellan, Richard O’Hara, Brian Murphy; Johnny Barron, Peter McDonald, Adrian Burke; Robbie Donnelly, Dylan Waugh; Luke Connellan, John Donnelly, Gary Lehane; Jack Cullen, Jack Holden, Stephen Donnelly.

Subs: Ned Kirwan for O’Hara (inj), Aaron Kehoe for Cullen, Zach Bay Hammond for Murphy, Brian Staunton for Lehane, Daithi Barron for Holden.

Referee - Ray Byrne (Glenmore).

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