Clonoulty/Rossmore qualified for the semi-final of the County Tipperary Junior (A) Hurling Championship thanks mainly to three outstanding saves by goalkeeper Michael â€˜Bonnyâ€™ Kennedy that helped his side overcome a battling Skeheenarinky by two points, 0-15 to 0-13, in New Inn on Saturday.
Skeheenarinky had height advantage in several positions and used it to good use straight from the throw-in with Tommy Sweeney registering the opening score. However, less than sixty second later Clonoulty levelled with Kevin Maher finding room to split the posts. With Skeheenarinky missing a number of chances, Clonoulty took the lead for the first time on 6 minutes with Adrian White finishing off a Kevin Maher pass. By the 10th minute Skeheenarinky levelled again through a Conor Sweeney free only for Patrick Ryan to restore Clonoultyâ€™s single point lead.
A minute later Clonoulty goalie Michael â€˜Bonnyâ€™ Kennedy produced a brilliant reflex save from Tommy Sweeney after the sliotar came off a post and Donnacha Ryan was on hand to clear the danger. A minute later Skeheenarinky did restore parity for a third time from a Tommy Sweeney free, but once again, Clonoulty answered with three points from Paul Hayes, Thomas Lyng and a free from Patrick Ryan to go 0-6 to 0-3 with ten minutes left.
Skeheenarinky reduced the deficit to one with a brace of frees from Conor Sweeney, but these were cancelled out by points from Seamus Carew and Kevin Maher. However, it was at the other end of the park that Conor Sweeney using his height to good advantage was denied not just once, but twice by brilliant acrobatic saves from Michael â€˜Bonnyâ€™ Kennedy as the full-forward had the goal at his mercy. The second one was put out for a â€˜65â€™ that saw Conor Sweeney reduce the leeway to two.
Clonoulty extended the gap again to three with a Kevin Maher point, but Skeheenarinky had the final say with two points from Tommy Sweeney and Danny Barrett respectively to leave just one between the teams on a scoreline of 0-9 to 0-8 at half-time.
Skeheenarinky started the second half as they finished the first with Conor Sweeney restoring parity for a fourth time with a free followed by a great catch and score from Niall Barrett to go ahead. Skeheenarinky opting to go for goals instead of taking points, allowed Clonoulty steady the ship with Kevin Maher levelling it for a fifth time after the South goalie Jason Cahill could only knock the sliotar into his path.
Skeheenarinky regained the lead with another Conor Sweeney free, but Clonoulty levelled it for sixth time when a relieving solo-run by James Ryan ended with Paul Hayes scoring. The West champions regained the lead through a Patrick Ryan set-piece and Seamus Carew opened up a two-point gap scoring from a rebound after the ball was batting away. Conor Sweeney brought it back to a single score with another free. With the Clonoulty defence quickly closing down Skeheenarinkyâ€™s path to goal the West Champions added two from the stick of Patrick Ryan that put three between the sides. Skeheenarinky did respond with a score from John Callaghan in injury-time, but it was not enough to stop Clonoulty/Rossmore reaching the last four.