Hogan’s heroes dig deep to see off Na Fianna
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
Leinster GAA AIB Senior Club Hurling Championship Final
Páirc an Chrócaigh, Saturday 2nd December
O’Loughlin Gaels 0-22 Na Fianna 1-18
Sixty minutes showing on the clock, the sides are level in Croke Park. The Kilkenny champions are awarded a free out on the right. Step forward veteran forward and placed ball specialist Mark Bergin. Nerves of steel, the Loughs captain goes through his normal free taking routine and dissects the Na Fianna posts to put his beloved club one point ahead as the games enters stoppage time. The St Johns Park warriors battle on and secure the victory, their third O’Neill Cup. O’Loughlin Gaels Leinster Senior Club Hurling Champions 2023.
What an ending to a pulsating, end-to-end provincial decider. Brian Hogan’s men will have enjoyed the past week, celebrating their latest title and their focus will now turn to an All-Ireland semi-final clash next weekend against Ulster’s finest, Cushendall Ruairi Ogs
The game started quickly, Loughs Owen Wall’s early pointed effort striking the post after just 13 seconds. From the restart, the Dublin champions worked the sliotar to Sean Currie who made no mistake in opening the scoring in the 2023 Leinster Final. Then the first big goal scoring opportunity. The ball was passed to Eoin O’Shea who burst through the middle of the Na Fianna defence before passing to Sean Bolger on his left.
The lively corner-forward cut inside and unleashed his shot past the advancing keeper, Jonathan Treacy. Luckily for the Capital club, experienced defender Kevin Burke had read the danger and positioned himself on the goal line which allowed him to divert the ball away from danger. The Noresiders were level on four minutes following some nice play involving Conor Heary, Eoin O’Shea and Sean Bolger, which resulted in the latter being fouled. Mark Bergin converted what would be the first of nine placed ball and the opener of his 11-point tally.
The game was then held up briefly following a nasty-looking collision between Owen Wall and Jack Nolan, with both players requiring treatment from the medical staff. Thankfully, both dusted themselves down and were able to continue. One of the Loughs County contingent, Paddy Deegan then struck over a monstrous effort from deep inside his own half for what was to be the first of the centre-back’s 5-point tally.
Owen wall was like a jack-in-the-box popping up everywhere, using his place and clever movement to draw defenders out of their natural habitat and in doing so, creating space for others around him. Wall was then fouled, and Mark Bergin did the rest.
Bergin’s nemesis on the Na Fianna team, Colin Currie then fired over a placed ball following a foul by Deegan on AJ Murphy, who like Owen Wall was constantly on the move and putting his marker Huw Lawlor through his paces. O’Loughlin’s captain Bergin then took a smart pass from Conor Heary and sent over a glorious score from play. Former Limerick player Bryan Ryan then rifled over a cracking point from about ‘65 out to reduce the Kilkenny sides lead to the bare minimum. The sides were level again in the 12th minute, thanks to another free from Colin Currie after Jordan Molloy had fouled AJ Murphy.
The Hebron Road side then hit four scores without reply, a trio of placed balls for Mark Bergin and a well worked point from Cian Loy who was nicely set up by Sean Bolger. During this spell two Na Fianna players, Liam Rushe and Bryan Ryan were shown yellow cards by Westmeath whistler, Caymon Flynn, who was mostly anonymous – a brilliant sign in the modern game.
O’Loughlin’s were now four ahead with about ten minutes of the first half remaining, but their Mobhi Road opponents were not for lying down and hit back with three scores of their own, courtesy of a lovely John Tierney strike and a brace of free’s from Colin Currie. There was also a decent goal scoring chance for Micheal Murphy who looked certain to burst the net but was denied by a full-length dive by Jordan Molloy. The first change of the game arrived on 26 minutes when Brian Hogan replaced Paddy Butler with Luke Hogan.
Sean Bolger, who was looking sharp, was then fouled and Bergin split the posts with another free opportunity. Once again, Na Fianna responded well and struck over another free of their own via Colin Currie. David Fogarty then gave a nice pass to Paddy Deegan who rifled over another lovely effort.
The Dublin side were winning the middle third battle, and this was highlighted when Treaty man, Bryan Ryan notched his second point of the game. There was still time for one further score in the opening period, and it came from the hurl of Jack Nolan who pointed after more great work by Owen Wall to leave the interval score, O’Loughlin’s 0-11, Na Fianna 0-9.
The Dublin side’s manager Niall Ó Ceallacháin must have reminded his charges that they had plenty more to give, as they came out showing much more intensity and physicality after the break. An early indiscretion by Jack Nolan was punished by Colin Currie and the Na Fianna man added a quality strike from play straight away following a turnover. The Noresiders opened their account in the second half, thanks to a nice point from David Fogarty after Conor Heary set him up. Na Fianna’s Ryan’s, Sean and Bryan combined for the latter to tag on his third of the day.
With the sides deadlocked again, every scoring opportunity was vital, and the ever-reliable Paddy Deegan notched his third point after another assist by Owen Wall. Then came the game’s only major, and it would be a Na Fianna one. Kevin Burke burst out of defence and passed to John Tierney who slipped the sliotar to Colin Currie. The No.13 had the presence of mind to offload to his brother Sean who stepped inside Huw Lawlor before striking an unstoppable shot past Stephen Murphy in the Lough goal. The Dublin champions now lead by 2 points, the game was well and truly on.
Brian Hogan’s men needed to dampen the Dubs spirit quickly, and from the restart, Conor Heary fired over a nice score from the middle of the park, exactly the response that was needed. Fresh from his assist for his side’s goal, Colin Currie then popped over another free before two scores from Mark Bergin got the Kilkenny side back on level terms after 43 minutes of action at Croker.
Colin Currie then got the chance to notch his 8th point of the day and he duly obliged before AJ Murphy fired over a sweet point to restore the Glasnevin sides 2-point lead. Jordan Molloy then picked up possession from deep and as he went to strike the ball forward, his hurl broke under the challenge, but the wing back had the presence of mind to retain the sliotar and give a hand pass to the supporting Paddy Deegan who steadied himself before striking over his 4th point of the game from his centre back position, incredible.
The Loughs then sent on Conor Kelly for the hard-working Cian Loy as they sought to inject some fresh legs into their side for the final thirteen minutes or so. Na Fianna went on their next attack and thankfully it was halted by Huw Lawlor, who saw yellow for his trouble, for a high challenge on AJ Murphy. Point number nine in the bag for Colin Currie from the resulting free.
The St Johns Park side’s action man, Paddy Deegan was then stopped in his tracks, illegally, and his captain slotted the placed ball from centre field to leave just one between the sides. Then arguably, the finest point of the game arrived. The rampaging Paddy Deegan then drove forward again and while held up, he managed to give a pass in the direction of his No. 5, David Fogarty, tight to the Hogan Stand sideline. The young wing back, one of the stars of O’Loughlin’s season to date, flicked up the ball and struck over an incredible score, one that brought the loughs bench to their feet. The sides were deadlocked again.
No sooner had those celebrating Fogarty’s score sat down than Na Fianna scorer-in-chief, Colin Currie struck an equally stunning score from the same sideline. Currie then found his way into the referee’s notebook following a stick to the helmet of Huw Lawlor. A Yellow card for Colin and a new helmet for Huw! More fresh legs for the Loughs arrived in the form of Jamie Ryan who replaced Jack Nolan for the final six minutes.
Na Fianna then were trying to play their way out of defence under the Hogan Stand, but some great battling by the Kilkenny city side saw Sean Bolger turnover the ball and give a nice pass to Paddy Deegan, who composed himself before striking over his 5th point play from play, again from distance. All square again, but Niall Ó Ceallacháin’s side attacked again and edged ahead thanks to a lovely point from the impressive AJ Murphy, who on this performance could be a county starter next season.
With time running out, Brian Hogan needed his charges to go to the well again, just like they did in the county final against Shamrocks Ballyhale. Step forward sub, Luke Hogan. Eoin O’Shea emerged from a little bit of a ruck and flicked the ball to Conor Kelly. Kelly Scanned for options and sent a searching pass towards fellow sub Luke Hogan. Despite not collecting the ball first time, Hogan tried again and in doing so gave himself the space and angle to fire over a sweet point to tie matters up once more.
Could these two battling teams be separated? Following a long Na Fianna restart, Micheal Murphy was turned over and the ball was collected by Huw Lawlor who sent a booming pass down the sideline towards the ever-running Owen Wall. The clever Wall flicked the sliotar inside, towards his captain but was upended by Kevin Burke, referee Caymon Flynn.
Cometh the hour, cometh Mark Bergin. Full-time score in the 2023 Leinster Senior Club Hurling Championship, O’Loughlin Gaels 0-22, Na Fianna 1-18.
Scorers for O’Loughlin Gaels: Mark Bergin 0-11 (0-9f), Paddy Deegan 0-5, David Fogarty 0-2, Cian Loy 0-1, Jack Nolan 0-1, Conor Heary 0-1, Luke Hogan 0-1.
Scorers for Na Fianna: Colin Currie 0-11 (0-9f), Sean Currie 1-1, Brian Ryan 0-3, AJ Murphy 0-2, John Tierney 0-1.
O’LOUGHLIN GAELS: Stephen Murphy; Tony Forristal, Huw Lawlor, Mikey Butler; David Fogarty, Paddy Deegan, Jordan Molloy; Jack Nolan, Cian Loy; Conor Heary, Mark Bergin, Eoin O’Shea; Paddy Butler, Owen Wall, Sean Bolger.
Subs: Luke Hogan for Paddy Butler (26), Conor Kelly for Loy (49), Jamie Ryan for Nolan (54).
NA FIANNA: Jonathan Treacy; Sean Burke, Conor McHugh, Diarmuid Clerkin; Paul O’Dea, Liam Rushe, Kevin Burke; Brian Ryan, Peter Feeney; John Tierney, Micheal Murphy, Sean Currie; Ciaran Stacey, AJ Murphy, Colin Currie.
Subs: Donal Ryan for O’Dea (13), Shane Barrett for Feeney (46), Sean Baxter for Stacey (53), Gavin King for Tierney (60).
Referee: Caymon Flynn (Westmeath).