Gaels seek Leinster crown at Croker!

Defensive duo - Mikey Butler and Huw Lawlor

Na Fianna stands in way of Loughs provincial dreams



Leinster GAA AIB Senior Club Hurling Championship Final

O’Loughlin Gaels Vs Na Fianna 4:05pm

Tomorrow, Páirc an Chrócaigh

Referee: Caymon Flynn

O’Loughlin Gaels will run out at Croke Park tomorrow knowing that they are possibly only 60 minutes away from being crowned kings of Leinster hurling for 2023. Standing in their way will be Dublin’s Na Fianna who will also fancy their chances of taking the provincial title in a year when the usual suspects Shamrocks Ballyhale are not involved in the deciding clash for the O’Neill Cup.

The south Kilkenny club’s continual dominance in the province was brought to a shuddering halt when the Loughs defeated Pat Hoban’s men in the county final at UPMC Nowlan Park. Brian Hogan’s men were fully deserving of the win over TJ Reid and Co and have shown that they are a side to be reckoned with on their own merits.

Paddy Deegan who notched the winner to dethrone Shamrocks alluded to it when speaking with the media after their win over Kilcormac-Killoughey, suggesting that OLG had possibly been overlooked as Kilkenny contenders as many thought it would be a straight shootout between Shamrocks and Dicksboro. Since claiming the Tom Walsh Cup, O’Loughlin’s have entered the provincial arena and have been quietly efficient in disposing of Mount Leinster Rangers and more recently Shane Hand’s Offaly champions.

One of the most pleasing aspects of their semi-final win was the fact that OLG had nine different scorers against K-K. While Mark Bergin again topped the scoring charts with 0-7, he had great support from others around him, in fact all six starting forwards registered scores and manager Hogan will know a similar statistic will be needed when they take to the Croker turf tomorrow.

As has been the norm this season, wingbacks David Fogarty and Jordan Molloy notched scores also and the Dublin side will no doubt be preparing for the attacking threat that this Loughs defensive line provides.

The middle third area will again be key to which of the finalists can get a stranglehold and provide the necessary platform to their attacking resources to do their thing. Cian Loy and Jack Nolan’s partnership has been blossoming all season and the Loughs supporters will hope they have another big game left in the tank that can see the St Johns Park side claim a third Leinster title. They won’t have it all their own way mind you, as Brian Ryan and Peter Feeney will give as good as they get, and Ryan in particular likes to trouble the scoreboard.

O’Loughlin’s county contingent were all in magnificent form in the semi-final win in Tullamore and the ‘fab four’ will look to repeat this against Na Fianna. Paddy Deegan swept up so much ball against Kilcormac-Killoughey and drove his side forward at every opportunity, while All-Stars Mikey Butler and Huw Lawlor were supremely commanding in dealing with the Offaly sides attacking threats in young Adam Screeney and James Gorman. We could potentially see Mikey picking up Colin Currie who is one of the players that has really stood up for Na Fianna in the absence of their talisman, county star Donal Burke who has missed the entire campaign with a nasty hamstring injury. Huw Lawlor will patrol and protect the square and hope to ensure a quiet afternoon for keeper Stephen Murphy behind him.

The Currie brothers are key to Na Fianna’s attacking threat, and both will be tough opponents for the Loughs defence. Colin has notched 0-17 in the two Leinster games to date and has good accuracy from the placed ball. Alongside the Currie’s, Na Fianna has the very lively AJ Murphy and Ciaran Stacey in a dangerous forward unit. Let’s also remember that the Dublin champions took down the mighty Naas in the semi-final.

At the back, former All-Star Liam Rushe normally occupies the ‘6’ role and you will generally find dual star Conor McHugh in the last line leading by example. Diarmuid Clerkin and Burke’s, Kevin and Sean will look to restrict the influence of Owen Wall, Sean Bolger and Conor Heary.

The Mobhi Road side’s manager, Niall Ó Ceallacháin will have been trying to hatch a plan to limit Conor Heary’s role at headquarters. Heary has been instrumental in everything that has been good about this O’Loughlin Gaels side. The Kilkenny panelist’s stats must be off the wall, as he appears to cover every blade of grass in all games. It’s not just hard work and determination that marks him out as a serious operator, Heary has the skill and hurling intelligence to go alongside his other attributes. His point against K-K in the semi-final was beautiful.

Brian Hogan will know that this Na Fianna side poses a real threat to the Loughs ambitions for remaining in competitive action early next year, but the Noresiders will not be found wanting physically as Paddy Deegan pointed out, Mickey Commerford will have them in good nick for tomorrow’s final and what might transpire in 2024 if successful.

Tomorrow will be a magnificent occasion for everyone connected with O’Loughlin Gaels and hopefully the city side can claim the O’Neill Cup and enjoy the Christmas period with one eye on an All-Ireland semi-final. Hon’ the Loughs!


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