Deegan’s late strike sinks Shamrocks
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
St Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship Final
O’Loughlin Gaels 0-20 Shamrocks Ballyhale 0-19
UPMC Nowlan Park
Referee: Peter Burke
O’Loughlin Gaels, Kilkenny Senior Hurling Champions 2023! Paddy Deegan’s late, late strike ensured that Shamrocks Ballyhale’s name would not be etched onto the Tom Walsh Cup for a sixth successive year in a pulsating encounter at UPMC Nowlan Park last Sunday. Brian Hogan’s team will now move on to tackle a Leinster campaign in a week’s team, but that’s a matter for another day.
In front of a crowd of just over 7,000, this year’s finalists put on a display of courage, fight and no shortage of skill, and while we may not have been treated to a major, this game had a little bit of everything from start to finish.
When Loughs wing back David Fogarty’s effort struck the upright as the game entered 4 additional minutes of injury time, it looked like Shamrocks might just hold on for another historic win, but this O’Loughlin Gaels team are built of strong stuff and went onto notch two scores in this added time through Fogarty and Paddy Deegan to dethrone Pat Hoban’s side and claim their fifth senior title and first since 2016.
In a sign of things to come, the game started quickly with Sean Bolger getting the opening score of the game in the third minute, latching onto a long delivery out of the O’Loughlin’s defence before popping over a nice point. Captain Mark Bergin split the posts with his first two placed ball efforts which sandwiched a stunning long-range sighter from match-winner Paddy Deegan to leave Brian Hogan’s men four points up after the opening seven minutes of action.
Shamrocks Ballyhale got off the mark in the 8th minute when TJ Reid sent in Evan Shefflin for a lovely point and the legendary attacker opened his personal account in the 11th minute when he rifled over from what seemed an impossible angle. From the restart midfielder Jack Nolan picked up possession before firing over but the response from the champions was immediate, with the lively Eoin Cody striking his first point of the game. Nolan repeated his point of a couple of minutes earlier but again Cody hit back, to reduce the gap to just two points.
Evan Shefflin then batted the sliotar to TJ who struck over a lovely score to leave just the bare minimum between the sides before Mark Bergin hit two scores on the bounce for the city side. There was lots going on all over the pitch, little battles in every position as both sides jostled for supremacy. At times an extra referee or two might have come in handy, but to Peter Burke’s credit, he was letting both teams get on with matters and seemed to appreciate that the occasion of a county final may mean that things might get a little heated now and again.
Huw Lawlor then fouled Eoin Cody which gave TJ the opportunity to add to his tally from the placed ball. Bergin & Reid exchanged free’s before a possible goal opportunity for TJ was crudely halted by Paddy Deegan, who saw yellow for the challenge on Shamrocks main man. TJ duly slotted the free over and his side were level just a minute later, thanks to a fine over the shoulder effort from Adrian Mullen, who was being heavily shackled by his county teammate, Mikey Butler, no matter where the sliotar was!
Paddy Mullen was then adjudged to have thrown an illegal handpass by Emerald’s whistler Burke and once again Mark Bergin made no mistake from the resulting free. A nip and tuck opening period finished with Adrian Mullen striking over his second of the day to bring the sides level as the short whistle sounded with both sides on ten points.
The second half began in blistering fashion, with Eoin Cody notching his 3rd point of the game in the opening minute to give the Shamrocks the lead for the first time in the game. The lead was short lived as county panelist Conor Heary split the posts seconds later as O’Loughlin’s stood toe-to-toe with the All-Ireland club champions. TJ Reid then took another trademark catch before being halted illegally and punishing the foul with another placed ball score. His nemesis on the opposing side, Mark Bergin then sent over a booming free from his own ‘65, before he added a nice point from play having taken a fine pass from Paddy Butler.
The hard-working Eoin Kenneally then finished off a lovely flowing team move to level matters again before the unusually quiet Owen Wall pointed after a nice pass from Conor Heary. TJ Reid then scored another lovely point, this time over his left shoulder from the ‘65 as the sides could not be separated on a sunny Sunday in UPMC Nowlan Park. O’Loughlin Gaels then made the first change of the game, with Conor Kelly replacing Eoin O’Shea in the forward line.
Brian Hogan’s charges then fashioned a goal chance, and it took a magnificent save from Dean Mason to deny Sean Bolger a certain major. Small margins in a county final. O’Loughlin’s didn’t leave empty handed, as the ever-reliable Mark Bergin cooly split the posts from the ‘65 that followed. Adrian Mullen then found Conor Welsh in space and the midfielder struck over a lovely point to deadlock the game once again. Then came a little schemozzle that involved numerous players from both sides, possibly as a result of Paddy Mullen leaving a little on his man as the ball went out of play. When order was restored, Adrian Mullen was the somewhat unlucky recipient of the game’s second yellow card.
TJ Reid then added to his tally with two further placed balls to edge the Shamrocks into a 2-point lead with 10 minutes of normal time remaining, the first after he took another lovely catch before being fouled, the second after Jordan Molloy had cut across Eoin Cody as he look destined to test Stephen Murphy in the O’Loughlin’s goal. Luke Hogan was then sprung from the bench to replace No.14 Paddy Butler as Brian Hogan and his coaching staff sought to gain a bounce from some more fresh legs.
A well-worked sideline cut from the challengers saw Conor Kelly swap passes with the influential Bergin before rifling over a cracking score to the delight of the O’Loughlin’s faithful in attendance. Veteran forward Colin Fennelly then opened his account with a typical score before Paddy Mullen joined his brother Adrian in referee Burke’s book for a high tackle on Jordan Molloy. Again, Mark Bergin punished the indiscretion by popping over the free. The sides were level again on 57 minutes when sub Luke Hogan went on a storming run before dispatching a quality score between the Shamrocks posts. The holders hit back instantly, the travelling Fennelly notching his second point to nudge his side ahead with just three minutes of the scheduled 60 remaining.
O’Loughlin’s threw everything at the retreating Shamrocks as they looked to snatch a score that might force the game into extra-time. One of this season’s standout players for the city side, David Fogarty raided forward and struck an effort that looked to be the equalizing score, but his effort struck the upright and Shamrocks cleared the sliotar down field as time ticked by.
Fogarty was not to be denied, and the wing-back was presented with another chance in injury time which he nailed to deadlock matters with about 2 minutes of additional time remaining. The O’Loughlin’s supporters roared and punched the air in all sections of UPMC Nowlan Park as the prospect of extra-time loomed.
O’Loughlin’s were not about to wait for extra-time. Sean Bolger had the ball out on the left and played a pass infield towards Paddy Deegan. Colin Fennelly almost intercepted it with his foot, but Deegan collected the sliotar and headed towards the left sideline before he shortened his grip and struck a stunning effort off his left which curled beautifully over the bar. The sound of O’Loughlin’s support was immense. There was to be no six in a row for the Shamrocks. Time was up, Final score from UPMC Nowlan Park, O’Loughlin Gaels 0-20, Shamrocks Ballyhale 0-19.
Scorers for O’Loughlin Gaels: M Bergin (0-10, 0-6f and 0-1 ‘65’); P Deegan and J Nolan (both 0-2); D Fogarty, C Heary, O Wall, S Bolger, C Kelly and L Hogan (all 0-1)
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: TJ Reid (0-9, 0-6f); E Cody (0-3); A Mullen and C Fennelly (both 0-2); E Shefflin, C Walsh, E Kenneally (all 0-1)
O’Loughlin Gaels: S Murphy; T Forristal, H Lawlor, M Butler; D Fogarty, P Deegan, J Molloy; J Nolan, C Loy; M Bergin, E O’Shea, C Heary; O Wall, P Butler, S Bolger.
Subs: C Kelly for O’Shea (41); L Hogan for Butler (50); J Ryan for Nolan (57)
Shamrocks Ballyhale : Dean Mason; Dara Mason, D Corcoran, K Corcoran; E Shefflin, R Reid, P Mullen; C Walsh, L Barron; A Mullen, TJ Reid, E Cody; E Kenneally, C Fennelly, N Shortall.
Subs: None used
Referee: P Burke (Emeralds)
>> SHERRY SAYS…
Congratulations O’Loughlin Gaels on a hard-fought victory in UPMC Nowlan Park last weekend. From the first whistle they never took a backwards step and left everything on the pitch. They brought the fight to Shamrocks and went toe-to-toe with one of hurling’s greatest club’s and got over the line by the bare minimum.
The final two scores of an absorbing, pulsating contest were things of beauty, very Ballyhale-esque. Having struck the post moments earlier, David Fogarty showed tremendous courage and confidence to strike the next effort which split the posts and levelled matters, for what seemed like the 100th time!
Extra-time looked nailed on, but perhaps Paddy Deegan had seen the photos of the fantastically decorated O’Loughlin’s clubrooms at half-time and didn’t want to hang around. His winning score was exceptional, pure Paddy Deegan. O’Loughlin’s had big performances from many, but captain Mark Bergin was both influential and inspirational on the big stage and was many pundits’ MOTM.
For Shamrocks, TJ was again everywhere and tried to drag his team across the line once again, but they just came up short this time. There’s no doubting that Joey’s; Holden and Cuddihy, Ronan Corcoran and Brian Cody to name but a few, would have added much quality and depth to this side. The fact that their starting XV finished the game perhaps is the biggest indicator of the loss of these bodies. Ballyhale is a very proud club. They will regroup and be ready to challenge again next August.
A Leinster quarter-final clash with Mount Leinster Rangers at Netwatch Cullen Park awaits for the newly crowned Kilkenny champion’s next weekend. Let’s hope they enjoy the celebrations and give the provincial campaign a right good go. To Brian Hogan, his backroom team and all at O’Loughlin Gaels – congratulations on a great win and best of luck as you represent Noreside going forward.