BY NIALL SHERRY
Photos by INPHO
The future’s bright for Lyng’s All-Ireland winning star’s
O’neills.com U20 All-Ireland Hurling Final
Semple Stadium, Thurles, Sunday 22nd May
Kilkenny 0-19 Limerick 0-18
Kilkenny are All-Ireland champions! Derek Lyng’s U20 side came out the right side of a swashbuckling clash with Limerick at Semple Stadium last Sunday afternoon.
When referee Thomas Walsh blew his whistle to signal the end of the game, the Cats were 1-point to the good and huge celebrations ensued as they recorded their first U20 All-Ireland title. Previously, the Norseiders had claimed eleven titles at the old U21 grade, their last coming way back in 2008.
While Billy Drennan was rightly awarded man-of-the-match, much talk in the aftermath of Kilkenny’s victory was Paddy Langton’s first -half point. The Young Irelands defender’s long-range effort appeared to have been prevented from dropping over the crossbar by Limerick keeper, Conor Hanley Clarke. Much to the netminders annoyance, the umpire reached for the flag and signaled a point. The Hawk-Eye system was not in operation for the curtain-raiser to the Cork – Tipp Munster championship game that followed, and those in black and amber will have been relieved when they watched the action back at home!
The game was only a matter of seconds old when Doon’s Adam English fired over a fine point from out under the stand on the right-hand side of the stadium to set the tone. Kilkenny would register a couple of bad wides before a powerful and skillful run by Timmy Clifford was rewarded with an even better finish by the talented Dicksboro player in the 3rd minute. Denis Walsh then struck over a lovely score, after some good approach play by Peter McDonald.
Limerick were level with a little over 5 minutes gone, thanks to a fine over the shoulder point by corner-forward Patrick O’Donovan, when the angle seemed against him. The dangerous Patrick Kirby then took possession and cut inside his man before splitting the posts from the middle of the ‘D’. Kilkenny hit back straight away, again through centre-forward Timmy Clifford. Effin’s O’Donovan then notched his second point of the day, again from a tight angle out on the left.
The Treaty County were then awarded a free for a pull on the arm, and Aidan O’Connor pointed to give his side a 2-point lead. Timmy Clifford then turned provider when he passed to Andy Hickey, who feinted to go one way before slotting over a well taken point. A well-worked sideline cut found Glenmore’s Ian Byrne, who turned his man beautifully before pointing to draw the sides level again.
Play then became a little scrappy, with the game being played in the middle-third. This period was broken when Aidan O’Connor rifled over a free from almost on half-way, out on the left.
Then came the major talking point, Paddy Langton’s point. Limerick keeper Connor Hanley-Clarke got his hurl to the sliotar, but the umpire deemed that it had made it over the crossbar. The keeper challenged the decision made by the umpire, but the point stood.
Diarmuid Mullins team then worked a short free and Adam English fired over the bar to restore the Treaty’s lead, but Billy Drennan then levelled matters again, after taking a lovely catch, finding space and sending over his first of the day with 21 minutes of frantic action gone. The weather then took a turn for the worst, and skies opened. Conditions then became a little tricky for both sides, especially underfoot.
Shane O’Brien then took a pass and escaped the clutches of his marker, before taking his point. Drennan the restored parity, this time from the placed ball after Timmy Clifford was cynically taken down. Aidan O’Connor then popped over a Limerick free to separate the finalists. That man Clifford was having a massive impact on the final. His next involvement saw him flick the ball over a Limerick defender and unleash a shot that was deflected away by Hanley-Clarke in the Treaty goal. The Cats recycled the ball well and Denis Walsh managed to register a point to deadlock matters again.
As the game entered additional time, Kilkenny were awarded a fee inside their own half. Their keeper, Aidan Tallis stepped forward and sent over a wonderful effort to edge the Noresiders ahead. Waterford whistler Walsh then brought the opening period to a close with the score board reading, Kilkenny 0-10, Limerick 0-9.
The second half began in a carbon copy of the first with Limerick attacking from the off and drawing first blood, this time through wing-back Colin Coughlan who sent over a tidy point from distance. Galmoy’s Drennan then notched his 3rd point of the day, before Aidan O’Connor hit his fourth to make it 0-11 apiece. Kilkenny captain Padraic Moylan then sent a long ball into the Limerick defence, which broke kindly to Drennan, who made no mistake and pointed.
Killmallock net minder Hanley-Clarke then came to his side’s rescue twice in quick succession, with 2 fine reflex saves, the second of which from Ian Byrne’s improvised finish was sensational. The Cats just couldn’t raise the green flag that their attacking performance deserved. Billy Drennan then struck over the ‘65 that followed the second goal effort.
Ballybrown’s Aidan O’Connor then notched his first score from play, from out on the left to once again level matters at Semple Stadium. Derek Lyng then made a change, with James Walsh replacing Andy Hickey. The next point would be a Kilkenny one. Ian Byrne took possession, spun away from the swarm of players and sent over a fine point. In keeping with the previous 44 minutes, the sides were level thanks to a point popped over the bar by Doon’s Eddie Stokes.
With neither side appearing capable of seizing the initiative, Cats skipper Padraic Moylan surged forward before off-loading to Tullaroan’s Gearoid Dunne, who fired over a good score. Kilkenny then gave up an easy score, when Lisdowney’s Aidan Tallis was blown-up for over-carrying, having emerged from the Kilkenny goal with the sliotar. Aidan O’Connor was never going to miss. Guess what – the sides were level, again! Eoghan O’Brien was then introduced for the recently booked Joe Fitzpatrick, who had stood firm and brought the physical battle to the Treaty forwards during his 47 minutes of involvement.
Billy Drennan was proving a real thorn in the side of the Limerick defence, and he further demonstrated his powers when striking over a lovely point from the right side of the ground. The Galmoy man then took a catch from Denis Walsh’s sideline cut before swinging over an exquisite score. The Cats now led by two with 51 minutes on the clock.
Aidan O’Connor then missed one before making amends moments later from about ‘65 out. Kilkenny were winning the possession battle, but couldn’t pull away from this physically imposing Limerick team. In a bid to seek out elusive advantage, semi-final goal hero Jack Doyle was sprung from the bench in place of Gearoid Dunne. Limerick then halted Denis Walsh’s attempt to break forward, and Drennan made no mistake from the free awarded. Denis was then harshly adjudged to have fouled and Aidan O’Connor split the posts to reduce the Cats advantage to one.
Kilkenny then attacked down the right-hand side. Some neat play from Denis Walsh saw the ball moved to Timmy Clifford who fired over his third of the day with the game one minute into the 3 allocated minutes of additional time.
Limerick’s placed-ball specialist, Aidan O’Connor then sent over another free to leave just the minimum between the sides, with just 1 minute remaining. The Treaty knew that they needed just one more score to force extra-time. They worked the sliotar to Colin Coughlan, who was in space out on the right. The Ballybrown man’s effort sailed agonisingly wide. Their race was run. Kilkenny’s was won. Final score, Kilkenny 0-19, Limerick 0-18.
Kilkenny: Aidan Tallis (0-1, 0-1f); Niall Rowe, Sean Purcell, Padraig Lennon; Joe Fitzpatrick, Padraic Moylan, Paddy Langton (0-1); Killian Doyle, Andy Hickey (0-1); Denis Walsh (0-2), Timmy Clifford (0-3), Peter McDonald; Billy Drennan (0-8, 0-2f, 0-1 ‘65), Gearoid Dunne (0-1), Ian Byrne (0-2).
Subs: James Walsh for Andy Hickey (43), Eoghan O’Brien for Joe Fitzpatrick (50), Jack Doyle for Gearoid Dunne (58).
Limerick: Conor Hanley Clarke; Chris Thomas, Fergal O’Connor, Evan O’Leary; Cian Scully, Ethan Hurley, Colin Coughlan (0-1); Jimmy Quilty, John Kirby; Adam English (0-2), Aidan O’Connor (0-10, 0-7f), Eddie Stokes (0-1); Shane O’Brien (0-1), Patrick Kirby (0-1), Patrick O’Donovan (0-2).
Subs: Donnacha Ó Dálaigh for Patrick O’Donovan (50), Patrick Reale for Evan O’Leary (55), Joe Sweeney for Cian Scully (58).
Referee: T Walsh (Waterford).
>> SHERRY SAYS…..
Kilkenny’s first All-Ireland at U20 level! The Cats previous 11 title wins came at the old U21 grade, the last being in 2008.
There may well only have been one point between the sides at the final whistle, but the Cats greater attacking threat and opportunities created, I believe saw them crowned worthy winners.
OK, Paddy Langton’s first half point was debatable and contentious, but Ethal Hurley’s foul on Timmy Clifford could and possibly should have seen the Limerick centre-back see a dark coloured card!
Also – I don’t remember Kilkenny keeper Aidan Tallis making any last ditch saves, the way his Treaty counterpart Hanley-Clarke had to.
Billy Drennan was rightly awarded the MOTM award, his 5 points from play proving crucial, alongside his 3 placed ball scores. Drennan was ably supported by Denis Walsh, Ian Byrne and the talented Timmy Clifford.
The defence stood firm against a much talked about Limerick attacking threat. Niall Rowe was one of the leading lights at the back, again the Dicksboro conveyor belt keeps on delivering.
As manager Derek Lyng said afterwards, there are lots of good hurlers coming through in the county. Perhaps Mr. B Cody should take note.