O’Loughlin Gaels 2-16 Mount Leinster Rangers 0-13
By Paul Keane at Netwatch Cullen Park
A solid start and a fast finish did the trick for Kilkenny champions O’Loughlin Gaels on their return to the AIB Leinster club SHC, powering them beyond Mount Leinster Rangers and through to a semi-final spot.
O’Loughlin Gaels had only lost two of their previous 10 provincial games and having also defeated holders Ballyhale Shamrocks in the county final, they approached this game as strong favourites to progress.
Owen Wall’s early goal put the Brian Hogan managed side on the road to the nine-point win though it wasn’t until Luke Hogan’s second goal in the 56th minute that they truly breathed out.
That’s because underdogs Mount Leinster Rangers enjoyed a strong third quarter performance, whittling down a nine-point half-time deficit to just four at one stage.
In fact, a shock comeback win for the Paul O’Brien managed side who previously won the title a decade ago wasn’t out of the question.
But the 53rd minute red card dismissal of MLR substitute Diarmuid Byrne was a turning point with O’Loughlin Gaels ramming home their advantage in the closing minutes and outscoring Rangers by 1-4 to 0-2 after that episode – guaranteeing them a November 25 tie against Kilcormac-Killoughey of Offaly.
It was an intriguing red card too because Byrne’s first yellow, in the 41st minute, appeared to be in response to the substitute coming onto the field of play without full approval.
Aside from goalscorers Wall and Hogan, O’Loughlin Gaels were led in attack by former county forward Mark Bergin who struck 0-8 overall.
A giant question mark hung over Mount Leinster Rangers and how they would fare following three months without a competitive game as their county final win over St Mullins was way back on August 13.
Boss O’Brien said beforehand that he was confident they’d ticked all the boxes in terms of preparation and that they’d played a series of useful challenge games.
But they were powerless to prevent the Gaels from roaring into a 1-10 to 0-4 half-time lead, virtually killing the contest at that early stage.
In truth, Mount Leinster Rangers weren’t so much off the pace as unable to take the scoring opportunities that came their way in that opening half with nine wides in the first 30 minutes undermining their challenge.
All poor Mount Leinster Rangers could manage in the opening half from open play was two points, from Jon and Chris Nolan, with the latter accounting for their other two points from placed balls.
O’Loughlins, in turn, were boosted by that early Wall goal following a clever dribble and there were further scores from the visitors in that opening half in the form of points from Jack Nolan, county defender Mikey Butler, Mark Bergin and Cian Loy.
Mount Leinster Rangers required a big second-half performance and, for a while at least, they looked like they might pull themselves right back into it.
Brothers Chris and Jon Nolan sniped a series of points between them, eight in total, to leave the overall scoreline reading 1-13 to 0-12.
Then came the Byrne dismissal though and O’Loughlin Gaels took full advantage with a strong last 10 minutes or so.
Hogan burst beyond wing-back Jack Murphy before beating the ‘keeper with a low shot from a tight angle on the right for the second Gaels goal in the 56th minute.
Conor Heary and Bergin added further points to seal a nine-point win for the two-time Leinster champions and 2011 All-Ireland finalists.
Scorers for O’Loughlin Gaels: Mark Bergin 0-8 (4fs, 1 65), Owen Wall 1-0, Luke Hogan 1-0, Jack Nolan 0-3, Conor Heary 0-2, Paddy Butler 0-1, Mikey Butler 0-1, Cian Loy 0-1.
Scorers for Mount Leinster Rangers: Chris Nolan 0-9 (6fs, 1 65), Jon Nolan 0-3, Dean Tobin 0-1.
O’Loughlin Gaels: Stephen Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Anthony Forrestal; David Fogarty, Paddy Deegan, Jordan Molloy; Jack Nolan, Cian Loy; Conor Heary, Mark Bergin, Eoin O’Shea; Owen Wall, Paddy Butler, Seanie Bolger.
Subs: Luke Hogan for O’Shea 38, Jamie Ryan for Loy 45-f/t blood, Conor Kelly for Paddy Butler 51, Kevin Murphy for Jack Nolan 58.
Mount Leinster Rangers: Dean Grennan; Sean Joyce, Jack Murphy, Michael Doyle; Tony Lawlor, Kevin McDonald, Richard Coady; Fiachra Fitzpatrick, Evan Kealy; Ted Joyce, Donagh Murphy, Jon Nolan; Ciarain Kavanagh, Edward Byrne, Chris Nolan.
Subs: Paul Coady for Ted Joyce h/t, Diarmuid Byrne for Lawlor 41, Dean Tobin for Edward Byrne 51, Tim Brennan for Kavanagh 57, Michael Malone for Kealy 61.
Referee: Eamonn Furlong (Wexford).