BY NIALL SHERRY
Thomastown fall at final hurdle after extra time defeat
Michael Lyng Motors Hyundai Kilkenny Intermediate Championship Final
UPMC Nowlan Park
Danesfort 1-36 Thomastown 4-25(AET)
The ‘Fort are back! Having suffered relegation in 2020, Danesfort will mix it with the best next season, having overcome a stubborn Thomastown side to clinch the Michael Lyng Motors Hyundai Kilkenny Intermediate Championship title after extra-time.
Two points separated the sides when Ballyhale whistler Michael O’Sullivan called time on a game that at times looked as if neither side wanted to emerge victorious. In truth, the game only came to life mid-way through the second half, but for the remainder of normal time and the extra periods, this game kept spectators guessing right to the death.
The first two scores of the day came from Danesfort, one from their chief protagonist, Richie Hogan, the other from young midfielder Cathal Kearney. Thomastown got the scoreboard moving thanks to a placed ball from the ever-reliable Robbie Donnelly. The men in stripes hit back immediately with a nice point from wing-forward Colm Phelan, the first of his 3-point tally on the day.
During the early exchanges, a couple of key match-ups were developing; Richie Hogan was being marshaled by Thomastown No.9, Brian Staunton, while Danesfort captain Des Dunne had the difficult task of marking county man John Donnelly. The latter was some battle across the game, as both parties gave as good as they got with some big hits going in. Neither Dunne nor Donnelly shirked throughout the game, but you got the sense that Dunne was getting the better of his vastly experienced opponent.
Danesfort’s early 1-point lead was soon gone, as Thomastown vice-captain and score-in-chief, Robbie Donnelly sent a long delivery into the danger zone where young Jack Holden was loitering. Holden struck the sliotar beyond Paddy Hogan to the net, not the cleanest of strikes – but they all count!
Former All-Ireland winning defender in both codes, Paul Murphy then struck a lovely point having been afforded the freedom of UPMC Nowlan Park. The next four points were shared, the pick of them being a lovely effort from out on the sideline by Jack Bruton. As the mid-way point of the opening period arrived, U20 star Peter McDonald fired over a great point, following some nice work by wing-back Johnny Barron.
Two placed balls followed, one from Robbie Donnelly after Des Dunne was harshly adjudged to have fouled John Donnelly, the other won and converted by Richie Hogan after Ned Kirwan tried to halt his progress.
Thomastown were up by the minimum, 1-6 to 0-8. Paul Murphy was being employed as a sweeper in front of his full-back line and was picking up lots of loose ball around the park. One example of this was when he collected a mis-hit pass and arrowed a lovely ball into his full-forward Robbie Walsh who split the posts to level matters.
Stevie Donnelly and James Mullally then exchanged points before three points on the spin from Danesfort gave them some breathing space. The first of this trio of scores came from Colm Phelan after great work by his captain Des Dunne. Richie popped over another free before midfielder Philly Cooney powered through the middle and rifled over a fine score.
The final score of an interesting if not enthralling first half came from Thomastown, as a well-worked sideline cut by Luke Connellan was finished superably by John Donnelly. The short whistle sounded and Danesfort went into the changing room 2 points to the good, 0-13 to 1-8.
Thomastown had notched nearly as many wides as they had points in the opening period – 7, whiles the ‘Fort were far more economical in front of the posts in a game that hadn’t fully taken off and appeared to lack the intensity you would expect from a championship final.
The second half started with a further two missed opportunities for Thomastown. These would prove crucial come the end of proceedings.
Danesfort turned their opponents over with Des Dunne leading the way. The ball was moved to Richie who did the needful. The Town got their first score of the second period via the dangerous Stephen Donnelly before St Kieran’s College pupil, Ben Whitty fired over a cracking score, the first of three efforts after the interval. Robbie Donnelly hit his 4th score of the game from a free to bring the gap back to two points.
A seventh point of the day from Richie along with another sweet point from Jack Bruton left the 2011 Intermediate Champions four clear with about 37 minutes on the clock. Thomastown threw on their second sub of the day with the promising Zach Bay Hammond replacing Adrian Burke as they sought to fight their way back into the game. They needed the next point and they got it, a good score from their captain Jonjo Farrell.
Niall Bergin’s side responded; Robbie Walsh played a lovely pass to the impressive Mullally who split the posts for a fine point. Then came one of the best scores of the game. Paul Murphy played the pass to Ben Whitty and the youngster went in a mazy run, weaving inside and out before dispatching a fantastic point worth the admission price alone!
Games can change in a flash and Thomastown got themselves back into it with their second major of the day. Danesfort full-back Diarmuid Phelan was blown –up for fouling Stephen Donnelly. Up stepped Robbie D, who struck his shot past Paddy Hogan. Robbie Donnelly would get the next score also from a free, we now had a 1-point game.
Zach Bay Hammond then won a handy free which Robbie Donnelly converted to level matters with 47 minutes played. 2-13 Thomastown, 0-19 Danesfort. Game on.
Danesfort then re-took the lead with a well-taken Daire O’Neill point after some excellent build-up play involving keeper Paddy Hogan who found brother Richie who in turn made the crucial pass to O’Neill.
The lively and impressive Jake Cullen was then sprung from the bench in the 50th minute by Danesfort as they sought to build on their 1-point lead. Cullen had been instrumental in his side’s run to the decider and they hoped he would continue his fine form.
The next point in the final would come from those in stripes, as the impressive Jack Bruton struck over a fine score having got the better of his marker, Peter Connellan. Less than a minute later, playmaker Robbie Walsh played in Richie Hogan who fired over his sides 23rd point of the day. Thomastown’s first substitute, Eddie Donnelly then recycled the sliotar well before finding John Donnelly who pointed. One of Thomastown’s favourite sons was then sprung from the bench – Tucker O’Hanrahan.
Some lovely play between Ben Whitty and Robbie Walsh resulted in Jake Cullen notching a lovely point. The dangerous Bruton then got his third of the day as the Danesfort lead was stretched to five points.
Thomas O’Hanrahan then got in on the scoring act with a classy point – typical Tucker! Then two other substitutes combined for the next score – Brian O’Hanrahan passed to Eddie Donnelly, who made no mistake. Cathal O’Neill was then blown for a foul on Stephen Donnelly, and brother Robbie punished the indiscretion. The Danesfort lead was down to just two points.
Then came the additional time announcement – 4 minutes. The next score was a cracker. Richie Hogan showed great vision and awareness to lay the ball off to the marauding corner-back Daire O’Neill who struck over a fine score. There was now a goal between the sides. Could the men in blue find a 3rd major of the day? Another long ball in and around the house caused a little chaos in the Danesfort defence. As the ball broke Jack Holden struck his shot beyond Paddy Hogan and raised his second and his sides third major! The Thomastown supporters cheered wildly.
Richie Hogan then slotted over another placed ball to edge his team ahead. Thomastown restored parity when John Donnelly found Jack Holden who rifled over. James Mullally who had been roaming all over the park for large parts of the second half, then hit a lovely point – number 28 for Danesfort. Play was then held-up for a number of minutes following a nasty looking leg injury to Darren Booth. The Danesfort medical team tended to the corner-back for almost 6 minutes, before the stricken player left the UPMC pitch on a stretcher.
Play resumed with a free to Niall Bergin’s men on their own ‘65. After some discussion during the stoppage between the Hogan boys, Richie stepped up and struck the free. His effort dropped short and Ned Kirwan emerged with the ball. The sliotar was worked to Stephen Donnelly who slung over a brilliant point to bring the sides level. That would be the last action of normal time, Thomastown 3-19, Danesfort 0-28. Extra-time beckoned.
Extra-time began with an excellent Danesfort score, courtesy of James Mullally. The ‘Fort also hit the next two points, a wonderful 5th from play from the mercurial Richie Hogan, and another fine effort from Ben Whitty. John Donnelly the drew a foul from his marker and Robbie Donnelly took full advantage from the placed ball. The pacey Zack Bay Hammond then sent over a lovely point off his left side, the Danesfort lead was back to 2 points.
Danesfort then struck a huge blow to Thomastown’s title hopes. Robbie Walsh who had been a key link in all that was good about his sides play in the final managed to offload to the supporting Jake Cullen who rifled a bullet of a low shot past Diarmuid Galway. Bergin’s men were four to the good, surely that would be enough, given the tired limbs cramping all over the park.
Having experienced so much final heartbreak over the last few years, Thomastown were rocked. To their credit they never gave up and hit back with a nice point from Luke Connellan, but Danesfort cancelled this effort out, via a lovely point from Jack Bruton, his 5th of the day in an inspiring performance. The vastly experienced duo of Paul Murphy and Richie Hogan then combined for the latter to notch his 12th point of the day.
Jake Cullen then gave a lovely hand-pass into Jack Bruton who fired over for his 6th point of the day to put his side 7 points clear. Another final defeat loomed for Thomastown. Robbie Donnelly hit a brace of points before John Donnelly popped over one to reduce the arrears to 4 points.
Cathal Kearney then burst forward from midfield and capped a good day at the office with a second point from play and extend the lead to 5 points. There would be no way back for Thomastown, but they did get the final score of the game and it was a fourth goal this time from captain Jonjo Farrell, but it was too little too late. Referee Michael O’Sullivan sounded the long whistle. Danesfort were 2022 Michael Lyng Motors Hyundai Kilkenny Intermediate Champions – and more importantly, had secured a return to the senior ranks, in this their 100th year.
Final score, Danesfort 1-36, Thomastown 4-25.
Danesfort– Richie Hogan (0-12, six frees), Jack Bruton (0-6), Jake Cullen (1-1), James Mullally (0-4), Ben Whitty, Colm Phelan (0-3 each), Daire O’Neill, Cathal Kearney (0-2 each), Paul Murphy, Philly Cooney, Robbie Walsh (0-1 each)
Thomastown– Robbie Donnelly (1-9, six frees), Jack Holden (2-1), Jonjo Farrell (1-1), John Donnelly, Stephen Donnelly (0-4 each), Luke Connellan (0-2), Peter McDonald, Eddie Donnelly, Zach Bay Hammond, Thomas O’Hanrahan (0-1 each)
Danesfort– Paddy Hogan; Darren Booth, Diarmuid Phelan, Daire O’Neill; Des Dunne, Paul Murphy, Cathal O’Neill; Philly Cooney, Cathal Kearney; Colm Phelan, James Mullally, Ben Whitty; Richie Hogan, Robbie Walsh, Jack Bruton.
Subs– Jake Cullen for Cooney 49 mins, Philly Walsh for Booth 66 mins, Philly Cooney for O’Neill 76 mins, Dylan Dunphy for Bruton 78 mins, Ciaran Mullen for Mullally 78 mins.
Thomastown– Diarmuid Galway; Peter Connellan, Richard O’Hara, Ned Kirwan; Johnny Barron, Peter McDonald, Adrian Burke; Robbie Donnelly, Brian Staunton; Luke Connellan, John Donnelly, Dylan Waugh; Stephen Donnelly, Jack Holden, Jonjo Farrell.
Subs– Eddie Donnelly for Waugh h-t, Zach Bay Hammond for Burke 37 mins, Brian O’Hanrahan for Barron 52 mins, Thomas O’Hanrahan for Farrell 54 mins, Brian Murphy for Staunton 65 mins, Jonjo Farrell for Holden 75 mins.
Referee– Michael O’Sullivan (Shamrocks Ballyhale).
>> SHERRY SAYS…
80-odd minutes of hurling, drama, excitement, goals, points. You name it, this game had it.
Think it’s fair to say that this final took a while to catch fire, but when it did, it kept those in attendance wondering who was going to prevail in the Intermediate final.
Let’s start by congratulating Danesfort. Back to the top table, where no doubt they will ruffle some feathers next season, especially if they can keep the talisman Richie Hogan fit.
How the aul hands like Richie & Paddy Hogan, Robbie Walsh and the super-fit Paul Murphy blend with the younger players like Ben Whitty, Jack Bruton, Tom Mullally, Jake Cullen etc. Has been a large part of this successful campaign and bodes well for their provincial series and indeed, next season.
For any teams to rack up scores like Danesfort & Thomastown did last Sunday is remarkable, given the elements, the conditions underfoot. The grounds staff at UPMC Nowlan Park deserve a lot of credit for the pitch.
Thomastown, what can you say? Sunday’s defeat will be a very bitter pill to swallow. To score 4-25 in a county final anywhere on the island in October and not secure victory will take a while to get over. Coupled with a tendency to fall just short is a heavy weight to bear for the men in blue. The Donnelly’s did what they could, Jack Holden too. Their seven wides in the first half proved costly.
Back to the champions, Danesfort. There was one point from Ben Whitty during the game – absolute quality. The St Kieran’s College man has a bright future ahead, as do a few of his fellow club men. Jack Bruton was announced as MOTM afterwards, but it could have been Whitty, it could have been Richie Hogan, it could have been James Mullally, it could have been their captain Des Dunne.
A brief word on the Junior final. Congratulations to Black & Whites who came out on top in the junior decider against Windgap. A first half goal by half-forward Emmet Foley was crucial, along with 0-9 from Ryan Murphy. Eddie Scally’s men were full value for their win and will have enjoyed the last week, before they turn their attentions to provincial matters.