County men to the fore as OLG make Leinster final
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
Leinster GAA AIB Senior Club Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Glenisk O Connor Park, Tullamore,
Referee: Sean Stack
Kilcormac-Killoughey 0-12 O`Loughlin Gaels 0-17
O’Loughlin Gaels sealed their place in this year’s Leinster GAA AIB Senior Club Hurling Championship Final with a hard-fought 5-point win over Offaly champions Kilcormac-Killoughey in Tullamore last weekend. Brian Hogan’s charges will now make the trip to Croker tomorrow to tackle the undoubted challenge of Dublin’s Na Fianna as they seek to secure the provincial crown.
The home side started brightly and drew Loughs keeper Stephen Murphy into a smart stop in the opening stages which he did well to divert behind for a ‘65. Centre-back Cillian Kiely converted the ‘65 to give his side an early lead, but this was to be one of only three scores registered in the opening period by the Offaly champions.
O’Loughlin’s were on level terms within a minute, also from a placed ball courtesy of captain Mark Bergin who sent over a lovely free after a robust challenge on full-forward Paddy Butler. Bergin added a second point soon after, punishing K-K’s foul on the all-action Conor Heary.
Kilcormac-Killoughey who appeared to be going long at every opportunity, then sent another searching ball into the Loughs defence. Conor Mahon appeared to get a flick on the sliotar which sent it in the direction of James Gorman, who picked up possession before firing over his shoulder to bring his side level.
Play was a little scrappy at times as both sides tried to get to grips with the heavy ground underfoot at O’Connor Park, and this led to some physical exchanges when perhaps in summer things would have been a little more free flowing. OLG then took the lead again after Mark Bergin gave a lovely little pass to the supporting Cian Loy and the midfielder duly split the posts with a fine effort.
The Kilkenny champions strong running from deep positions was reaping dividends and when Eoin O’Shea was halted illegally, Mark Bergin made no mistake from the placed ball to make it a double score lead after 13 minutes. O’Shea then got on the scoresheet himself after some great play involving Owen Wall and Conor Heary. The Loughs skipper then fired over his third effort of the day after Dublin whistler Sean Stack penalised a K-K player for a throw ball.
Sean Bolger then showed good determination and movement to create a score for himself having been fouled, but a good advantage by referee Stack saw the corner forward rifle over. Owen Wall, who had been making lots of intelligent runs early in the game then got his name on the score sheet with a classy effort from the left sideline to extend the visitors lead to six points with ten minutes remaining in the opening period.
K-K’s rising star, Adam Screeney then found a little space, having been well shackled by All-Star County corner-back Mikey Butler for most of the previous twenty minutes, but was bottled up by Jordan Molloy who saw yellow for his troubles, when the home support was hoping for perhaps a black card, but that would have been a tad harsh. Screeney punished the wing-back’s indiscretion and in doing so, notched his first point of the game.
The Noresiders restored their 6-point lead in the 23rd minute when full-forward Paddy Butler benefited from his team battling hard before unleashing a lovely shot from out on the left under the stand. Everything was going right for Brian Hogan’s outfit and things got better a minute later when Owen Wall got his second score of the provincial semi-final having taken a clever pass from Eoin O’Shea. Mikey Butler then ventured forward on two occasions only to see both his efforts tail wide, but the defender was still smiling!
The remaining action in the first half saw Kilcormac-Killoughey players pick up yellow cards, first up was the frustrated figure of James Gorman for a wild slap across the legs of his marker, Huw Lawlor, while Cillian Kiely’s shoulder into Conor Heary’s chest also resulted in a booking. O’Loughlin’s went into the interval with a commanding seven-point lead in Tullamore on a scoreline of Kilcormac-Killoughey 0-3, OLG 0-10.
K-K manager Shane Hand and his backroom team would have been disappointed to have given such an interval lead to their opponents and must have read the riot act to his charges as they had a little more spring in their step in the third quarter. Both sides chose to make a change at the break, The Loughs replaced Paddy Butler with Conor Kelly and K-K sent on Cathal Kiely for Leigh Kavanagh.
From the throw-in the Offaly side attacked, and Jack Screeney rifled over a long-range effort to stir his teammates and supporters. The younger Screeney, Adam then split the opposition posts with a placed ball effort after Charlie Mitchell was stopped in his tracks by Jordan Molloy. Mitchell then got in on the scoring act soon after when he struck over one of the points of the game to make it a two-score game.
From the next puck-out, Loughs number 5 David Fogarty ran onto the loose ball before composing himself to strike a fine score from out on the right. You could sense that Kilcormac-Killoughey had been told to push-up more on OLG and bring a little more physicality to proceedings as they were hunting in packs and putting Hogan’s men under much more pressure than during the first half.
The next passage of play highlighted this subtle, but effective change in tact. Jordan Molloy was in possession of the sliotar but was being harried by a couple of K-K players and while I thought the wingback was being fouled, referee Stack though differently and awarded the free to the Offaly side which Adam Screeney popped over.
Brian Hogan then made his second change which saw Like Hogan replace Eoin O’Shea as the Kilkenny side sought to add more of a physical presence to the forward line. OLG midfielder and first-half point scorer, Cian Loy then became the latest recipient of a yellow card for a naughty flick of the hurl to the hand of Damien Kilmartin. K-K used this break in play to send on Peter Geraghty for the largely ineffective James Gorman, for what might be his last senior outing for his club. Other than one early score, the veteran No.14 got no change out of the towering and commanding presence of the finest full back in the country, Huw Lawlor.
Adam Screeney then fired over the resulting long range free as the K-K supporters came alive and started to believe that their side was well and truly in the contest. That belief was cemented further when the lively Charlie Mitchell fired over a cracking effort from out on the left to reduce the deficit to just two points with about 17 minutes remaining at O’Connor Park.
Kilkenny’s finest were in danger of seeing their interval lead wiped out, but like all good sides do, they steadied themselves and got the scoreboard moving again. Not to be outdone by his fellow wingman, Jordan Molloy showed a nice turn of pace and some delightful stick work before sending over a classy point. The Lough’s built on this with another quickfire score, this time from Seanie Bolger who combined nicely with the roving Owen Wall before striking over.
Sub Conor Kelly was then blown up for a foul close to the Kilcormac-Killoughey ‘65. Cillian Kiely, who despite having missed his last couple of efforts stepped up and dissected the Loughs posts with a monstrous effort. Another booking arrived in the 55th minute, this time for K-K half back Jordan Quinn following his challenge on Cian Loy. Captain Mark Bergin put some uncharacteristic misses out of his mind to get back in the groove and added to his personal tally. With just two scores separating these county champions, things became a little frantic again, with hits going in here and there and possession being coughed up by both sides as the nerves appeared to kick in.
The impressive Charlie Mitchell then pointed for the Offaly champs before Adam Screeney converted another placed ball, this time after Tony Forristal was blown for a throw ball as the gap was back to two points as the game approached additional time of which there was to 5 minutes of.
From this point on, O’Loughlin Gaels managed the game brilliantly. The exceptional Paddy Deegan sent a long pass into Owen Wall which he gathered well before trying to shake off his marker. Wall’s strength and determination was rewarded with a free which Mark Bergin sent over to leave a goal between the sides.
County panelist Conor Heary who had put in a deadly shift in Tullamore then showed great skill and awareness to flick the ball over his opponents before collecting it and driving forward before striking the point that effectively ended the Kilcormac-Killoughey challenge. In the closing seconds, Owen Wall found Mark Bergin in space about 50 metres out and fittingly it was the Loughs captain that delivered the final score to send his beloved club to the provincial decider in Croker tomorrow. Final Score from Glenisk O Connor Park, Tullamore, Kilcormac-Killoughey 0-12 O`Loughlin Gaels 0-17.
Kilcormac-Killoughey: Conor Slevin; Brecon Kavanagh, Oisín Mahon, Tom Spain; Enda Grogan, Cillian Kiely (0-02, 0-01 65, 0-01 free), Jordan Quinn; Colin Spain, Damien Kilmartin; Jack Screeney (0-01), Conor Mahon, Leigh Kavanagh; Charlie Mitchell (0-03), James Gorman (0-01), Adam Screeney (0-05 frees).
Subs: Cathal Kiely for L Kavanagh (half-time), Peter Geraghty for Gorman (42), Thomas Geraghty for Kilmartin (57), Ter Guinan for J Screeney (60+2).
O’Loughlin Gaels: Stephen Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tony Forristal; David Fogarty (0-01), Paddy Deegan, Jordan Molloy (0-01); Jack Nolan, Cian Loy (0-01); Conor Heary (0-01), Mark Bergin (0-06, 0-05 frees), Eoin O’Shea (0-01); Seán Bolger (0-02), Paddy Butler (0-01), Owen Wall (0-02).
Subs: Conor Kelly for P Butler (half-time), Luke Hogan for O’Shea (38), Jamie Ryan for J Nolan (58).
Referee: Seán Stack (Dublin)