Rarely does a replay live up the action from a drawn classic. Well, it happened in this terrific under-16 Roinn A hurling championship final.
It was all decided in the 64th minute in Palmerstown on Friday. James Stephens had led since the fifth minute and seemed to have held off O’Loughlin’s great challenge when goalie, Jamie Reid denied Conor Kelly (O’L) with a smart save.
However, from the clearance Kelly regained possession and his pass to Niall Higgins saw the midfielder take a chance with a shot from distance. The ball ended up in the net.
Cue uproar among the St John’s Park clan. It was unbelievable stuff.
In front of a huge crowd, Conor Kelly got the show on the road with a fine point almost from the throw-in. This was followed by colleague Ethan Kerwick sending the white flag flying.
The rest of the half virtually belonged to one man. He was probably one of the smallest players on the field, but James Stephens star, Eoin Guilfoyle, is a huge talent.
In a four minutes and 21 seconds blast the deadly full-forward shot five points in-a-row, one a real gem from the sideline. The Gaels came for air with a pointed free from Kelly.
Soon after Guilfoyle showed real class before off-loading possession to Leon Hayes, who rifled the sloitar home. Guilfoyle added two points and was threatening to turn it into a one man show. Again Kelly sneaked a point from a free.
Aodh O’Connor and John McNamara swapped points before O’Loughlin’s Ronan Lavelle pulled back a point. Jamie O’Keeffe scored a storming point in reply for The Village.
Jamie Reid pulled off the first of a superb hat trick of saves from Kelly with Kelly pointing the resulting free. Guilfoyle had the last say of the half when he landed a point.
Half-time score: James Stephens 1-11; O’Loughlin’s 0-7.
Guilfoyle began the half with two pointed frees sandwiched between a Kelly free. O’Loughlin’s thought they had come back when Kelly split the defence, finding Kerwick in space, and the corner forward duly found the net.
The losers didn’t panic. Guilfoyle landed a hat trick of points by the 41st minute to cancel the goal. It looked to be the winning surge.
Kelly found space and ran at the heart of The Village defence. His shot was stopped by Reid, but Lavelle picked up the rebound and sent the green flying.
Seconds later it was virtually an action replay. Kelly’s shot hit the net. He followed with a pointed free.
The Village mentors put their team on lockdown. There was no score until the 53rd minute when Cian Kenny landed a sweet point for the losers.
’Stephens looked set for victory until the game exploded in their faces in ’lost time’. Guilfoyle was wondereful, and he was ably assisted by Aodh O’Connor, Jason Butler, Jamie Reid and O’Keeffe.
O’Loughlin’s can thank Conor Kelly, Ethan Kerwick, Ben Tyrell and Jamie Young for what was a Houdini like win.
SCORERS: O’Loughlin Gaels - Conor Kelly (1-6, 0-5 frees); Ethan Kerwick, Ronan Lavelle (1-1 each); Niall Higgins (1-0); John McNamara (0-1). James Stephens - Eoin Guilfoyle (0-13, six frees); Leon Hayes (1-0); Cian Kenny (0-2); Aodh O’Connor, Jamie O’Keeffe (0-1 each).
O’Loughlin Gaels - Declan Murphy; Donal O’Leary, David Fogarty, Ian O’Keeffe; Peter McNamara, Jamie Young, Ben Tyrrell; Niall Higgins, Declan Coffey; John McNamara, Conor Kelly, Jack Sheridan; Ronan Lavelle, Vinny O’Grady, Ethan Kerwick. Subs - Charlie Maher, William Slattery.
James Stephens - Jamie Reid; Michael O’Brien, Jason Butler, Cian Russell; Thomas Nugent, Jim Ryan, Sean McKee; Jamie O’Keeffe, Ben O’Shaughnessy; Leon Hayes, Aodh O’Connor, Cian Kenny (capt); Naill McEvoy, Eoin Guilfoyle, Chris O’Connor. Sub Sean Ruth.
Referee - Stephen Delaney (Graigue-Ballycallan).
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