County U21 'A' Hurling Final Kilruane MacDonagh 2-13 Thurles Sarsfields 1-13
Thurles Sarsfields' bid for three county u-21 hurling titles in a row was stopped by Kilruane McDonagh at Dolla on Sunday.
In a wonderful final, the North champions came from four down to win by three and claim their third title in five years.
Kilruane MacDonagh had awaited this game for many weeks but they had obviously put the time to good use as they displayed no sense of rustiness in the early stages. Points from Seamus Hennessy and James Williams got them moving after their keeper David Reddan had saved well from Tommy Doyle, and they were to control much of the half with Hennessy sweeping up a huge amount of ball at centre back. Curiously Sarsfields Denis Maher, his direct opponent, was also hurling quite well as both men went about their business without much concern about the other.
Sarsfields first score of the afternoon came from an unlikely source – corner back David Maher who was operating on the wing having been detailed to pick up county man Brian O'Meara. Denis Maher and Stephen Maher tagged on further Sarsfields scores, but with the sides locked at 0-3 apiece, a decisive moment arrived. A long ball in the Sarsfields defence saw a scramble for possession, but Kilruane MacDonagh corner forward Thomas Williams reacted quickest to fire a ground shot to the net past the helpless Bill McCormack.
Sarsfields reacted well to the setback and points from Michael Russell, Denis Maher and Aidan McCormack brought them back on terms as they began to find some flow to their play. However, Thomas Cleary shoved the North men back in front and even though Tommy Doyle flashed over a lovely point for Sarsfields in the 28th minute, Kilruane MacDonagh went in two to the good at the interval thanks to efforts from Hennessy and Brian O'Meara. The half time 1-6 to 0-7 Kilruane MacDonagh advantage was not of particular concern to the Thurleds lads, for whom Michael Cahill had hurled up a mighty storm from midfield.
Sarsfields were conceding a lot of possession in the central area of their attack though with Eanna Hogan and Seamus Hennessy lording it. They cleared a lot of ball and were making life difficult for the Thurles rearguard with so much ammunition making its way into the danger area.
Sarsfields were back on terms within six minutes of the restart – Michael Cahill getting a fine score from long range and Aidan McCormack pointing from a placed ball. The Thurles lads were awarded a penalty in the 9th minute after John Joe Burke was fouled but McCormack's screamer whizzed over the crossbar to give them the lead for the first time.
Infused by having hit the front, Sarsfields ploughed on and when Denis Maher burst through in the 11th minute and fired a wonderful goal, it looked as though the Thurles lads would add to their impressive trophy haul for the season.
But, Kilruane MacDonagh had other ideas and a Thomas Williams brace from frees cut the deficit. Then, a big catch from Brian O'Meara, having moved to full forward, resulted in Eoin Williams receiving possession and the sub made no mistake as he fired Kilruane MacDonagh back in front with a goal from a tight angle. They followed up with points from Thomas Williams and Niall O'Meara to go three up with nine to go.
Sarsfields character had been tested in this competition already this season and they showed that they had the stomach for the fight. They did so again on Sunday as they clawed their way back on terms with Aidan McCormack getting all three points – two from play with the equalising score a lovely effort from the left wing.
A draw was not beyond the bounds of possibility and with every morsel of possession being scrapped for, the players ripped into the action with ferocious intensity. And, when Hennessy landed a 65 three minutes into injury time, and followed up with another in the 34th, Sarsfields needed a goal. It wasn't to come and Kilruane MacDonagh held tough with their defence standing up to the onslaught and managing to clear their lines again and again. It was from one of those clearances that Brian O'Meara gained possession and fired the insurance point in the 35th minute to secure a seventh U-21 A hurling title for Kilruane MacDonagh – a record in The Premier County.
Seamus Hennessy was a tower of strength for them at centre back while Brian O'Meara also played a big role. Thomas Williams and James Williams also had busy afternoons while Justin Cahill, Eanna Hogan and William Cleary were very much in the contest too. David Reddan's first minute save from Tommy Doyle articulated Kilruane MacDonagh's defiance.
For Sarsfields, the awesome displays of Padraic Maher and Michael Cahill were a feature while Michael Russell, Denis Maher, Aidan McCormack, Rory O'Shea and Patrick Leahy were also in the thick of the action.
Kilruane - D Reddan, F Williams, E Hogan, P Kelly, W Cleary, S Hennessy 0-4, K Ryan, Justin Cahill, Jonathon Cahill, B O'Meara 0-2, T Cleary 0-1, J Williams 0-1, T Williams 1-4, N O'Meara 0-1, D Barrett. Subs: E Williams 1-0 for D Barrett; P Conway T Cleary.
Sarsfields: B McCormack, R O'Shea, K O'Gorman, D Maher 0-1, P Dunne, P Maher, P Leahy, M Russell 0-1, M Cahill 0-1, S Maher 0-1, D Maher 1-2, JP Dwan, T Doyle 0-1, J Burke, A McCormack 0-6. Subs: M O'Brien for JP Dwan.
Referee: F Horgan (Knockavilla Kickhams).