O’Loughlin Gaels 0-17 Kilcormac-Killoughey 0-12
By Kevin Egan at Glenisk O’Connor Park
A young and up-and-coming force in Leinster club hurling ran smack bang into a mature, talented group that is ready to challenge for silverware right now, in the first of this afternoon’s AIB Leinster club semi-final clashes.
A strong second-half showing from Kilcormac-Killoughey was enough to cause O’Loughlin Gaels to endure a nervous finale and the Offaly club will take a lot of heart and future confidence from the manner in which they asked stern questions of Brian Hogan’s side, but ultimately the Hebron Road men showed the composure and class that they needed to advance, firing over the last three points to clinch their win.
Kilcormac-Killoughey’s big win over Naomh Éanna a fortnight ago only served to heighten the sense of excitement around the Offaly club in advance of their short trip up the N52 for today’s game, and with five members of this year’s successful county U-20 side in their starting 15, there was plenty of hope that this could be a contest worthy of the TV cameras that rolled into Tullamore.
Instead what viewers got was a masterclass from O’Loughlin Gaels, particularly in the first half, before the action got much more competitive after the interval.
At least, it was a masterclass in almost every aspect of play, other than shooting.
Close to their own goal, the Kilkenny city side had their hands full with the energy and tenacity of the Kilcormac-Killoughey forwards, and Huw Lawlor and Mikey Butler certainly didn’t have things all their own way.
However the Paddy-Deegan-led half-back line was imperious, aided by the ferocious pressure exerted on Kilcormac-Killoughey players further outfield. That forced the home side to play a lot of high, hit-and-hope deliveries forward and they were duly hoovered up by the O’Loughlin Gaels backs.
With Jack Nolan and Conor Heary in incredible form around the middle third, picking up breaking ball and playing excellent targeted deliveries into the two corners, O’Loughlin Gaels came through a tense opening ten minutes and then opened up with some superb scoring.
The two sides were very evenly matched in those opening exchanges and when James Gorman struck over an excellent solo score to register the game’s first point from play, the sides were tied at 0-2 apiece.
For the next 20 minutes, O’Loughlin’s hurling was sublime, as they moved the ball with precision and pace through the lines, creating excellent scoring chances both from frees and from open play. Owen Wall and particularly Seán Bolger picked off some good points, Mark Bergin nailed several frees, but in between those scores there were also plenty of errant shots, with nine wides in total from the Kilkenny champions as they racked up an 0-10 to 0-3 interval lead.
Even though a breeze would favour Kilcormac-Killoughey after half-time, it looked like there was too much of a gulf in quality. However the Offaly club dug deeper and found a spirit of real resilience, turbo-charged by a fast start. Jack Screeney got them going with a point after just ten seconds, and with just three minutes gone, they had doubled their tally, cutting the gap to four points, 0-10 to 0-6.
A fine score on the run from David Fogarty steadied the O’Loughlin Gaels ship, but all over the pitch, Kilcormac-Killoughey were faring better in their individual match ups. Charlie Mitchell was a huge threat close to goal, Colin Spain was increasingly influential at midfield, and the strength of Oisín Mahon and Cillian Kiely along the spine of the defence gave the Offaly side a solid platform on which to build.
O’Loughlin’s defensive strength in the full-back line ensured that Stephen Murphy never really had a save to make, but even at that, the Offaly club worked with ferocity and forced enough chances to cut the gap briefly to two points.
That was to be as good as it got as Seán Bolger earned a free that Mark Bergin converted, a clever flick and powerful run from Conor Heary served as the insurance point, and with the last puck of the game, Bergin struck his first from play to clinch the win and send his side through to a provincial final.
Scorers for O’Loughlin Gaels: Mark Bergin 0-7 (6fs), Seán Bolger 0-2, Owen Wall 0-2, Eoin O’Shea 0-1, Paddy Butler 0-1, Cian Loy 0-1, David Fogarty 0-1, Jordan Molloy 0-1, Conor Heary 0-1.
Scorers for Kilcormac-Killoughey: Adam Screeney 0-5 (5fs), Charlie Mitchell 0-3, Cillian Kiely 0-2 (1f 1 65), James Gorman 0-1, Jack Screeney 0-1.
O’Loughlin Gaels: Stephen Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tony Forristal; David Fogarty, Paddy Deegan, Jordan Molloy; Jack Nolan, Cian Loy; Conor Heary, Mark Bergin, Eoin O’Shea; Seán Bolger, Paddy Butler, Owen Wall.
Subs: Conor Kelly for P Butler (half-time), Luke Hogan for O’Shea (38).
Kilcormac-Killoughey: Conor Slevin; Brecon Kavanagh, Oisín Mahon, Tom Spain; Enda Grogan, Cillian Kiely, Jordan Quinn; Colin Spain, Damien Kilmartin; Jack Screeney, Conor Mahon, Leigh Kavanagh; Charlie Mitchell, James Gorman, Adam Screeney.
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).
Referee: Seán Stack (Dublin).