BY NIALL SHERRY
Wall’s goal the difference as brave sash go down fighting
O’Loughlin Gaels 1-18 Tullaroan 0-18
2016 county champions O’Loughlin Gaels will face-off against Shamrocks of Ballyhale in this year’s St Canice’s Credit Union SHC final on November 7th following a 3-point victory over Tullaroan at UPMC Nowlan Park last Sunday.
In our Observer preview last week, we said this game was too close to call, and both teams ensured that this would be the case.
The teams could not be separated on no fewer than TEN occasions during a pulsating encounter, and the intermediate champions of two years ago battled well throughout against the 2016 senior winners.
The bookies had O’Loughlin’s as favourites coming into Sunday’s semi-final, but it was the Sash that registered the first score of the day when No.14 and this seasons prolific scorer, Shane Walsh fired over a nice point from play.
The home side’s top scorer, Mark Bergin then levelled things up with a well struck point from a placed ball. The sides continued to trade blows and there was two between the teams after Thomas Dunne hit a beauty of a point from his own half to give the Tullaroan faithful hope.
This hope would be tempered almost immediately. Bergin delivered a lovely long pass towards the corner, where the tricky Owen Wall was waiting. He collected the pass before cutting inside his marker, Stevie Maher, before striking to the net with a lovely batted finish. The Sash were now behind, but Shane Walsh pulled them level just before the water break with another point.
The second period saw both sides jostling for superiority. Scores were exchanged and the sides clung to each other, with some exquisite shooting from Conor Heary and Shane Walsh, before two excellent points from danger-man Wall and defender-turned striking star Paddy Deegan put the home side two points ahead.
Tullaroan to their credit continued to ask questions of the O’Loughlin’s defence, and Shane Walsh’s ability from the placed ball kept them in touch. Another fine strike from Thomas Dunne edged the Sasha head, before a lovely point from midfielder Cian Loy and one from Bergin left the Gaels one up at the short whistle.
The second half failed to spark as both sides were guilty of giving away possession and being wasteful in the attacking third. This period was broken when the accurate Bergin and Tullaroan number 13, Dylan Simpson notched a brace of scores each. First-half substitute Robbie Buckley then hit his first point of the day, before Sash net minder Paul Buggy denied Owen Wall a second major of the day. The sides reached the second water break with Andy Comerford’s charges two points to the good, 1-12 to 0-13.
Liam Keoghan’s brief words appeared to spur his side on as the third quarter got under way. A couple of points from Mossy and Padraig Walsh got the Sash on an equal footing again. Robbie Buckley notched his second point of the day, before Shane Walsh levelled with another placed ball. O’Loughlin’s wing-back and army officer, Conor Heary struck another lovely long-range effort to put the home side ahead before the impressive Robbie Buckley was judged to have been fouled by Tullaroan’s corner-back John Moore.
Kilkenny defensive star, Paddy Deegan stepped up but didn’t make a good connection and his penalty went to the left and wide. Tullaroan then surged forward in search of the equalising score and right on cue, substitute Jim Moore hit a point that their faithful thought had clinched extra-time.
The 2016 champions had different ideas. Deegan, fresh from his penalty miss, showed his class and leadership by hitting a fine score to push his team ahead.
David Fogarty and their top scorer, Mark Bergin also registered points in stoppage time to see their side home and break the hearts of the Tullaroan camp.
The great Tommy Walsh, who departed the game injured in the final 10 minutes, looked forlorn at the long whistle. Was this his final hurrah? O’Loughlin’s through to the final. Just the small matter of Ballyhale between them and a county title.
Scorers for O’Loughlin Gaels: M Bergin (0-9, 6 frees); O Wall (1-1); C Heary, P Deegan & R Buckley (0-2 each); C Loy & D Fogarty (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tullaroan scorers: S Walsh (0-10, 8 frees); T Dunne (0-3); D Simpson (0-2); M Keoghan, P Walsh & J Moore (0-1 each).
O’LOUGHLIN GAELS: S Murphy; D Fogarty, T Forristal, M Butler; J Molloy, H Lawlor, C Heary; J Nolan, C Loy; E O’Shea, M Bergin, P Butler; O Wall, P Deegan, C Kelly.
Subs: R Buckley for O’Shea (26); J Ryan for Nolan (54); S Bolger for Kelly (65).
TULLAROAN: P Buggy; J Moore, Tommy Walsh, S Maher; M Walsh, P Walsh, J Keoghan; J Walton, T Dunne; B Gaffney, Tommy Walsh, M Keoghan; D Simpson, S Walsh, B Walton.
Subs: J Moore for B Walton (47); T Walton for T Walsh (52); S Cuddihy for Simpson (64).
Ref: D Hughes.
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
November 7th UPMC Nowlan Park. Ballyhale Shamrocks Vs O’Loughlin Gaels.
4-in-a-row seeking Shamrocks, against 2016 champions O’Loughlin’s.
The city side will be using the next fortnight to hatch a plan to topple Kilkenny’s top cats.
The semi-final double-header last Sunday at Nowlan Park didn’t perhaps show the real class and talent within Kilkenny club hurling, but the penultimate game is all about the result.
First up was O’Loughlin’s vs the Sash. Neither side appeared to be able to pull away, in fact the sides were level on something like TEN occasions. I would imagine when Paddy Deegan’s 58th minute penalty was badly struck wide, Tullaroan must have smelt blood. However, it was Deegan that gave his side the lead in stoppage time, before two further points sealed the 3-point win.
To their credit the Sash battled hard, and it was sad to see former county legend Tommy Walsh leave the field at a crucial time due to injury. You had to feel for him at the long whistle.
Andy Comerford will have to ensure he gets his match-ups right to give his side a fighting chance in the final.
Shamrocks who took to the field as red-hot favourites against the Village showed their winning experience in the 2nd half. Goals win games, and it would be two majors from county stars that proved the difference in the end.
Tj finished the day with 1-11, which was over half of his sides total. It will be interesting to see if Huw Lawlor is given the job of curtailing the great man’s influence on final day.
It was great to see Adrian Mullen back in the starting line-up, and he hit a couple of fine points to boot.
The performances of midfielder Ronan Corcoran won’t have gone unnoticed by county management. He is a talented midfielder, who knows where the posts are.
Like I said earlier, match-ups will be crucial. Eoin Cody who hit 1-3 will also have to be closely watched.
Roll on the final. Then we can start to think about provincial bragging rights.