Majors make the difference in beating the ‘Bridge
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
O’Loughlin Gaels 3-16 Bennettsbridge 0-22
UPMC Nowlan Park
Referee: Conor Everard
O’Loughlin Gaels ability to find the net, ultimately proved the difference in the first of this season’s semi-final ties at UPMC Nowlan Park as they ran out 3-point winners over a gallant Bennettsbridge side, who came up just short against Brian Hogan’s men.
Three majors over the hour from the lively Owen Wall (2) and sub Conor Kelly sets up a cracking clash with holders Shamrocks Ballyhale that they will go into with confidence following this display. Tim Dooley will rue the loss of key player and midfielder Kevin Blanchfield whose semi-final ended after only 20 minutes as he was replaced by Shane Byrne.
The game started quicky, two scores early doors, the Bridge’s David Blanchfield pointing; but crucially, O’Loughlin’s Owen Wall striking the first of his two majors, much to the delight of the city club’s supporters. Jason Cleere popped over a fine score before one of the impressive young stars of Brian Hogan’s team, Jordan Molloy split the posts with a cracking point. County star, David Blanchfield notched his second of the day on 6 minutes, but the opposition fired over a quality score of their own via Conor Heary.
Bennettsbridge then appeared to find their rhythm and registered the next four points, a trio for placed balls from the reliable Nicky Cleere and another lovely effort from David Blanchfield to put them two points ahead. Another of the county contingent on show, Paddy Deegan then got on the scoresheet for the St Johns Park side before Nicky Cleere popped over another free. Then came the serious blow to Tim Dooley’s charges chances, midfielder Kevin Blanchfield leaving proceedings and being replaced by Shane Byrne on twenty minutes.
Conor Heary then notched his second point of the game and O’Loughlin’s built on this with two further scores from Mark Bergin to nudge them ahead, but only briefly as Hugh O’Neill rifled over for the Bridge to deadlock matters. Number 14 for the city side, Paddy Butler then tagged on a point before wing-back James Hughes levelled proceedings once again. There was time for one further score before the interval and it came from the hurl of young David Fogarty who ensured his O’Loughlin’s side would go into the break with a narrow lead, 1-8 to 0-10.
When play resumed, the sides swapped scores, both placed ball efforts from Nicky Cleere and Mark Bergin. The impressive David Fogarty pounced for his second point of the day before Sean Morrissey struck back for the Bridge. Mark Bergin fired over a lovely score from play, but Tim Dooley’s men struck back with points from Nicky Cleere (f) and a sweet point from sub Jack Campion as the sides could not be separated.
Mark Bergin’s influence on the match was growing and he pointed from play in the 41st minute but again the Bridge hit back with scores from Nicky Cleere (f) and centre-back Bill Hughes to retake the lead. Jordan Molloy then saw his way into referee Conor Everard’s book and Nicky Cleere pointed the resulting free to push their lead to 2 points with about 13 minutes remaining. Mark Bergin then slotted over two placed balls in a row to restore parity at UPMC Nowlan Park. The O’Loughlin’s management team then made a change with Paddy Butler being replaced by Conor Kelly, a move that would prove very fruitful in the remaining minutes of the game. Another Paddy, county man Deegan then sent over a cracking point before sub Conor Kelly beat Enda Cleere to raise his sides second green flag of the day.
With the gap now four points, Bennettsbridge needed a response, and they struck the next 3 scores, two from Nicky Cleere and a second of the day from midfielder Hugh O’Neill to leave just the bare minimum between the sides. Then came major number 3 for O’Loughlin’s, courtesy of Owen Wall as the game entered added time. Bridge midfielder O’Neill then notched his 3rd point of the game before Conor Kelly made it a two-score game with a well taken score. The goal the Bridge so badly needed, didn’t come, Nicky Cleere popped over his 11th score of the day, but their race was run. Final score at UPMC Nowlan Park, O’Loughlin Gaels 3-16, Bennettsbridge 0-22.
O’Loughlin Gaels: Mark Bergin (0-8, 4 frees), Owen Wall (2-0), Conor Kelly (1-1), David Fogarty and Conor Heary (0-2 each), Paddy Deegan, Jordan Molloy and Paddy Butler (0-1 each)
Bennettsbridge: Nicky Cleere (0-11, 9 frees and 2 ‘65’s), David Blanchfield (0-3), Hugh O’Neill (0-2), Jason Cleere, Sean Morrissey, Bill Hughes, James Hughes, Daniel Murphy and Jack Campion (0-1 each)
O’Loughlin Gaels: Stephen Murphy; Tony Forristal, Huw Lawlor, Mikey Butler; David Fogarty, Paddy Deegan, Jordan Molloy; Jack Nolan, Cian Loy; Mark Bergin, Eoin O’Shea, Conor Heary; Owen Wall, Paddy Butler, Sean Bolger.
Subs: Ronan Buckley for Nolan 51 mins, Conor Kelly for Butler 52 mins, Jamie Ryan for Loy 59 mins.
Bennettsbridge: Enda Cleere; Timmy Kelly, Enda Morrissey, Daniel Murphy; Conor Murphy, Bill Hughes, James Hughes; Hugh O’Neill, Kevin Blanchfield; Nicky Cleere, David Blanchfield, Willy Murphy; Jason Cleere, Liam Blanchfield, Sean Morrissey.
Subs: Shane Byrne for K Blanchfield 19 mins, Jack Campion for W Murphy h/t, Kevin Blanchfield for J Cleere 54 mins.
Referee: Conor Everard