Eoin Kelly's brilliance just not enough as Mullinahone lose out to Thurles Sarsfields

Eoin Kelly's brilliance just not enough as Mullinahone lose out to Thurles Sarsfields

Eoin Kelly scored 1-7 for Mullinahone in the defeat to Sarsfields.

 

Mullinahone and Thurles Sarsfields served up a thriller in the County Junior 'B' Hurling Championship semi-final at Gortnahoe on Sunday afternoon with Sars just edging it after extra time, 1-17 to 1-12.

Battling Mullinahone put up a wonderful display of gutsy hurling on a sunny but bitterly cold afternoon and had their chances to win it in normal time.

But the Thurles side proved stronger in extra time to claim a place in the final.

Ironcially Mullinahone faded a little in extra time when restored to the full fifteen players.

They more than matched the Thurles side with fourteen players for all of the second half after Ger  Horan received a straght red card for a clash with Seamie Doyle that saw the Sars player get a yellow.

In one of the most exciting games of the year in any grade, former All Ireland winning captain Eoin Kelly rolled back the years to hit 1-7 for the South champions, 1-2 from play, 0-4 from frees and one 65.

Form is temporary but class is permanent and there was nothing more that Kelly could do for the side.

He pointed  two frees in the first two minutes to give Kickhams men the ideal start but after points from Tom Tierney and David Bourke drew Sars level, they were tied on three more occasions to the closing stages of the first  half.

Then despite going a man down, Mullinahone upped the pace and two Kelly points, one from a free and a super effort from play, and another fine score from Daniel Luttrell put the South side three up at the break, 0-8 to 0-5.

They had been playing with the aid of a stiff breeze and the Thurles men used it to their advantage in the second to draw level after ten minutes from sub Matthew Kelly with two, and David Bourke.

Seamie Doyle gave them the lead at 0-9 to 0-8 but the South side hit back with three in a row from Eoin Kelly, the hugely impressive Niall O'Brien and Luttrell to go 0-11 to 0-9 up.

Kelly and Michael Murphy tied it up again, sub Sean Fitzgerald restored the Mullinahone lead but Kelly ensured extra time when Mullinahone keeper  Brendan Kearney brilliantly deflected his goal-bound shot over the bar for the leveller.

But things went wrong for Mullinahone in the first period of extra time - they failed to score as Thurles tagged on four points to establish the game's biggest margin, all four from Pa Crone, three from frees.

In a roller coaster of a game that had the crowd in fine voice, it looked to be all over for Mullinahone until Eoin Kelly threaded a shot through the Sars defence and into the back of Matt O'Brien's goal in the second period.

That brought it back to a single point again, 0-16 to 1-12, with time for the leveller. But as players went down with cramp in the trying conditions, Mullinahone just couldn't find the space to score the equaliser. 

Sarsfields were the more powerful team in the closing stages and the superb Pa Crone wrapped it up with two late scores - he took a pass from Matthew Kelly to send an unstoppable shot to the net and then lobbed over a point.

Two committed teams had given it everything. Sarsfield's extra time dominance tilted the game in their favour, with super displays from Crone, Kelly, David Bourke and Jim Corbett, but Mullinahone lost nothing in defeat. 

Their defence was outstanding, Kearney a rock in goal, Ciaran O'Shea solid at fullback, Darragh Kelly and David Walzer outstanding at wing back, and Niall O'Brien, Daniel Luttrell and Eoin Kelly battling to the end.