BY NIALL SHERRY
ALL PIX DANNY LAHART
Glenmore senior bound after Freshford victory
Michael Lyng Motors Hyundai Intermediate Hurling Championship County Final
St Lachtain’s 2-9
UPMC Nowlan Park was again the venue for County final action last Sunday, as Glenmore took on St Lachtains in the Michael Lyng Motors Hyundai Intermediate Hurling Championship County Final.
Both sides arrived at the home of hurling confident of victory, following their semi-final exploits. St Lachtains had 8 points to spare in their win over Fenians, while Glenmore surprised the bookies favourites, Thomastown with a hard fought 3-point victory.
During the lead-up to the final, Freshford manager, Steven Farrell confirmed that Brian Kennedy had returned from Dubai, and would be part of the squad for the showpiece occasion. Indeed, when the teams were announced over the PA system, St Lachtains named Kennedy in their starting XV, at the expense of Simon Rafter.
Straight from the throw-in, the intent from both sides was clearly visible. County player James Maher opened the scoring inside the first minute, when his effort went over via the post. Almost immediately, Glenmore went on the attack. Liam Henessey slipped a lovely pass to Captain Ger Aylward, who got away from his marker, Harry Burke, before shooting to the net, to raise the first of five green flags on the day.
The action-packed opening continued with further Freshford scores from Alexander Rafter and the impressive James Maher. In a tactical move, manager Farrell had switched James Maher to centre-forward to try and negate the influence of county goalkeeper Eoin Murphy, who had been dominating from the No.6 role in the championship to date. In the early exchanges with Maher, Eoin didn’t look comfortable and could be seen looking to the bench for instruction.
Alan Murphy then sent over a free to restore his side’s lead, but this was too be short-lived. Following a bad wide by goal-scorer Aylward, Freshford took a quick puck-out and surged down the field. The ball found its ways to Cian Dawson who gave Thomas Dunne no chance and finished to the net.
St Lachtains were hunting in packs, and getting in the faces of their Glenmore opponents. This was causing problems for Declan Wall’s side, and seemed to be unsettling the Pairc Na Ratha side.
Things got even worse for Glenmore. Jack Cleere took a great catch and played a long ball into Liam Hickey, who cut inside with a touch of pace before passing to Shane Donnelly who blasted to the net. Glenmore were rocking. Alan Murphy then popped over another free to leave his side trailing by 4 points, 2-3 to 1-2 after an action-packed 12 minutes.
A foul by the Glenmore defence gave Liam Hickey a chance from the placed ball, which he duly converted to leave his side 5-up at the first water break.
When play resumed, Ian Byrne took his first possession of the day and slotted over a neat point. St Lachtains responded immediately, when James Maher knocked Eoin Murphy off the ball, before pointing. Freshford were dealt a big blow when the experienced Noel McGree had to be withdrawn with what looked to be a nasty hamstring injury and was replaced by Cathal O’Leary.
The accurate Liam Hickey then extended his sides lead with a well-struck free, low into the sun. With 20 minutes on the clock, Freshford led 2-6 to 1-3. Their backs were very much in charge, with the returning Kennedy particularly impressive. The battle between Eoin Murphy and James Maher was fascinating, Maher certainly winning the contest in the first quarter.
Robbie Fitzgerald then went a run and managed to take a lovely score on the run to get his sides fourth point of the day. Both sides were guilty of some poor passing to their inside forwards, and Freshford could well have been even further ahead. Ger Aylward then pointed from play to reduce the deficit.
The next instalment in the Murphy vs Maher battle saw Eoin claim possession before striding forward and hitting the best point of the day, to leave just 3 points between the sides. Liam Hennessey then took a great pass from his full-back, Eoin Aylward before striking a beautiful point.
Alexander Rafter then took a pass before pointing from distance for his second score of the day and that would be the final play of an enthralling first half, Freshford 2-7, Glenmore 1-7.
Declan Wall will have been much happier with his side’s efforts in the second period, and the fact that they were only 3 points down at the short whistle.
The Glenmore manager must have asked his team to increase their intensity and hunger, as the south Kilkenny side emerged a much more vibrant side in the second half.
From their first attack, captain fantastic Aylward chased down the ball before firing over his 2nd point of the game. Alan Murphy then found Philly Roche, whose pass was played perfectly to that man Aylward, who got out in front of Harry Burke before heading towards goal and pointing, to make it a 1-point game, 2-7 to 1-9. After some substitutions, Alan Murphy went into the engine room of midfield to try and push the Glenmore revival on. Jack Cleere, who had been performing well, then lost possession and was punished as Alan Murphy hit a glorious point from distance.
The Murphy influence was growing, Eoin was getting on top in his battle with James Maher, while Alan’s switch to midfield was proving to be a master-stroke by the Glenmore management. In the next play, Alan won possession near the sideline, before Fitzgerald found Liam Hennessey who burst through on goal before popping over a well-worked point.
Freshford then got their first score of the second period, when Brendan Quinn found Liam Hickey who managed to get his shot away over the bar. Philly Roche then passed to Shane Murphy who picked out Mark Aylward on the sideline who swung over a stunning point. Alan Murphy then stepped up some 90- yards out to slot over a fantastic long-range score, to leave it 1-13 to 2-8.
Ian Byrne was then fouled and converted the free himself. Eoin Murphy then collected the ball before hitting a long pass into his full-forward Aylward who turned Harry Burke, only to have his shirt pulled by his marker – PENALTY GLENMORE!! Alan Murphy stepped forward and gave the impression that he was going to tap it over for a point, but caught everyone by surprise, including St Lachtains keeper Darren Brennan and riffled the ball to the net. Advantage Glenmore! From the puck-out, Mark Aylward then found Ian Byrne, who made no mistake and pointed. Freshford shell-shocked at the second water break, with only one point to their credit in the first period of the second half. Glenmore led 2-15 to 2-8.
Alexander Rafter was then hooked when trying to clear his lines by Davy Burke, who passed to Mark Aylward, whose effort sailed between the posts. Alan Murphy then hit another long-range effort from about 65 yards out. Eoin Murphy then read the breaking ball, before launching a great pass into his captain, Ger Aylward who slipped the ball to his brother Mark, who finished in style. 3-17 to 2-8, the battle was won.
St lachtains needed goals and went in search of green flags. Liam Hickey’s ball into the danger zone was captured by corner-forward Ian Byrne, who cleared down field to Hennessey who in turn found captain Aylward who struck another fine score. Eoin Murphy then got on the ball and picked out the impressive Ian Byrne, who split the posts. James Maher then popped over a point his 4th of the day, but only his side’s second score the second half, and that stat would be Freshford’s undoing.
Just as the officials signaled the additional time, Eoin Murphy left the field injured, the next whistle would be the long one. Glenmore Kilkenny Intermediate Hurling Champions 2021, but more importantly back in senior hurling.
Glenmore: Alan Murphy (1-5, 0-4f), Ger Aylward (1-4), Mark Aylward (1-1), Ian Byrne (0-4, 0-1f), Liam Hennessey (0-3), Robbie Fitzgerald, Eoin Murphy (0-1 each)
St Lachtains: James Maher (0-4), Cian Dawson, Shane Donnelly (1-0 each), Liam Hickey (0-3, 0-2f), Alexander Rafter (0-2)
Glenmore: Tomas Dunne; Sean Duggan, Eoin Aylward, Shane Doherty; Colm Doherty, Eoin Murphy, Shane Murphy; Phillip Roche, Billy Reid; Mark Aylward, Liam Hennessey, Alan Murphy; Robbie Fitzgerald, Ger Aylward, Ian Byrne. Subs: David Burke for Reid 36 mins, Darragh Hartley for Doherty 55 mins, Ethan Phelan for Fitzgerald 58 mins, Richie Hennessy for Roche 59 mins, Cathal Beirne for M.Aylward 59 mins.
St Lachtain’s: Darren Brennan; Criomhthann Bergin, Harry Burke, Paul White; Jack Cleere, Brendan Quinn, Brian Kennedy; John Fitzpatrick, Alexander Rafter; Liam Hickey, Noel McGree, James Maher; Darragh Maher, Cian Dawson, Shane Donnelly. Subs: Cathal O’Leary for McGree 17 mins, Padraig Donnelly for D.Maher 35 mins, Mark Donnelly for White 44 mins, Patrick Killeen for Dawson 55 mins.
Referee: Conor Everard (Graigue-Ballycallan)
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
For the first time since 2005, Glenmore will be dining at the top table of Kilkenny club hurling.
What a game fans were treated to in UPMC last Sunday. Having witnessed Mooncoin’s victory in the Junior final, the stage was set for the county’s second biggest club prize.
Freshford welcomed back Brian Kennedy from his middle-east adventure and he started the game for Steven Farrell’s side. In Liam Hickey, St Lachtains had the intermediate championship’s 2nd highest scorer. Their hopes were high. They came in as underdogs.
Despite Ger Aylward’s goal, Freshford settled the better. They were roaming around the pitch like men possessed. Glenmore struggled to cope with their opponent’s intensity early on. James Maher was winning his personal battle with Eoin Murphy, and in doing so, was blunting one of Glenmore’s most useful weapons.
The Kilkenny netminder needed to respond, and boy did he. Coupled with his brother Alan’s move to midfield, this partly proved the catalyst for Declan Wall’s sides victory. Glenmore would outscore their final opponents 2-10 to 0-2 in a savage second half showing.
Alan Murphy would hit 1-5, captain, Ger Aylward was inspirational, finishing the day with 1-4, his brother Mark notched 1-1. Ian Byrne hit 0-4, Liam Hennessey 0-3.
The performances of Eoin Murphy at No.6 this season, will no doubt have some supporters asking Mr. Brian Cody if one should be playing outfield for county as well. That’s a matter for another day, perhaps over a pint or two across Kilkenny.
Glenmore can celebrate their title. This side will enjoy a rattle against the likes of Ballyhale and O’Loughlin Gaels next season.
Comhghairdeas Glenmore, or as they say in the deep south, ‘Hon the Glen!