Conor Mahon and Kilcormac/Killoughey are back in the final.
TRY and ignore the final scoreline here if you can. This was a far more impressive and convincing win that it suggests for Kilcormac/Killoughey even though a very brave Belmont did really well to create some truly anxious late moments before the winners returned to another senior hurling final.
For a good fifty minutes plus in this game, K/K were clearly the better team. They were on top in every sector with a brilliant full back line building a powerful foundation, Cillian Kiely running the show at midfield and the attack notching quality scores from all over the place.
Yet it went right down to the wire and it is hard to fathom how that happened. On the overall balance of play, this was not a four point game and K/K were more clearcut victors than that. For a few very fraught minutes, Belmont almost staged the most audacious of snatch and grab raids as they got it back to three points and went in search of an equalising goal. It didn't materialise but with Oisin Kelly around, even on an off day like this, that possibility was very much there and K/K were relieved to get over the line.
They were coasting to the final, 1-20 to 0-15 ahead and in complete control when Cillian Kiely again saw red, sent off for a second yellow card in the 56th minute – while he could have picked up a second yellow earlier in the half after pushing a Belmont player to the ground after being run into the boundary wall, none of his yellow cards were particularly bad on this occasion and his first half one was questionable.
It is doubtful if Kiely's loss had that profound of an impact but almost in the blink of an eye, K/K were gasping for air. David Nally tapped over the free after Kiely's yellow, Oisin Kelly finally found open space to get his first point from play and then sub Mark Cahill scored a fantastic goal after running at pace into clear ground and blasting to the net with two minutes left. Suddenly it was a one score game, 1-20 to 1-17 and everyone in the ground seemed at a loss as to how it had happened.
When Conor Mahon dropped an easy point chance short to settle K/K, their supporters were seriously worried but goal hero Mark Cahill spurned a good point chance at the other end and a sensational Cathal Kiely point put the winners four clear two minutes into injury time. Belmont, now playing with the momentum and urgency that had been missing for so long, got it back to three again with a David Nally sideline but they couldn't manufacture a goal and a great closing point from sub James Gorman finally got K/K across the line.
It was an extraordinary end to a game that had been memorable up that point for the general excellence of K/K's performance. Belmont had been game in the opening quarter, scoring the opening two points into a wind that was a help but varied in strength over the hour plus – the first four points came from the four midfielders. K/K got the next four to lead by two and Belmont got three of the following four to have it level, 0-5 each after 12 minutes.
However, K/K were clearly playing within themselves and things seemed to be coming that bit easier for them whereas Belmont had to work so hard for everything. Belmont had went into the game with a serious handicap after losing James Nally and David Kelly to injuries while playing Ferbane the previous week and they really needed their full quota of players.
As the half wore on, K/K began to motor very well. They got three on the trot and led by 0-9 to 0-7 before really stepoping on the gas coming up to half time. Cathal Kiely (two frees) and Cillian Kiely with two huge frees along with a point from the hugely industrious Conor Mahon put them ahead by double scores, 0-14 to 0-7 and they were completely dominant. Only a super first half display from David Nally kept Belmont alive as he got five points, four from play but it was difficult to see K/K being beaten when they led by 0-15 to 0-8 at half time.
A David Nally free and David Cox point from play cut it to five shortly after the restart but Cathal Kiely got a free and K/K's ability to keep the scoreboard ticking allowed them to retain control until those frantic closing few minutes. Cillian Kiely did thread dangerously with that reaction to being forced onto the wall but K/K were 0-17 to 0-11 clear when Cathal Kiely expertly drove a 42nd minute penalty to the net after Thomas Geraghty was fouled – surprisingly Thomas was replaced by his twin Peter Geraghty before the penalty was struck.
K/K were able to answer every Belmont score and were cruising with that 1-20 to 0-15 lead when the game had a dramatic and unforseen conclusion.
K/K, however, shouldn't spend too long analysing what went wrong late on. For 55 minutes or so, they gave a master class of how to control a game and they clearly had their game plan worked out well as they devoted considerable energy to ensuring that Belmont's danger man, Oisin Kelly was a peripheral figure. Tom Spain, a transfer from Erin Rovers this year, did a superb marking job on him with Jordan Quinn absolutely majestic at full back – Quinn's fielding and measured clearances were superb as he produced a man of the match display.
With Damien Kilmartin superbly composed at centre half back and Kevin Grogan in in top form beside him, the K/K defence was so good that it is strange to record that they conceded 1-18. Cillian Kiely was in mighty form at midfield, using his physical presence to good effect, as he dictated extended spells, though he will be disappointed not to see out the conclusion of another game. In attack, Cathal Kiely was flying at full forward, getting excellent scores from play and frees, Conor Mahon got through a huge volume of work and four points and Jack Screeney and Thomas Geraghty also did a lot of good things.
By contrast, Belmont had few players reaching the heights of K/K's best performers and it is a tribute to their determination that they made it so tight. It was just a game too far for them as their dual commitments with Ferbane seemed to take a big toll – apart from losing two players to injury, their energy levels and work rate did not match K/K's for much of the hour. Yet they were so honest, kept plugging away and if any club deserves to make a breakthrough and appear in a county final, it is Belmont. However, that ship may well have sailed for them as two of their veteran warhorses, David Kenny and Colin Egan are clearly in the end game of their careers with Kenny looking shook as he went off at the three quarter way mark and Egan only having occasional moments – that duo owe their club absolutely nothing and have been a huge factor in Belmont being so competitive in recent years.
David Nally was easily their best player, though his influence did dwindle a bit in the second half and while several others had good moments, Belmont have no complaints at the result.
Kilcormac/Killoughey: Cathal Kiely 1-8 (Goal from a penalty, 4f and 1 '65'), Cillian Kiely (3f) and Conor Mahon 0-4 each, Lochlann Kavanagh 0-2, Dylan Muray, Jack Screeney, Thomas Geraghty (sideline) and James Gorman 0-1 each.
Belmont: David Nally 0- 9 (4f and 1 sideline), Mark Cahill 1-0, Alan Egan, Oisin Kelly (1f) and Leon Fox (1f) 0-2 each, Damien Egan, Colin Egan and David Cox 0-1 each.
KILCORMAC/KILLOUGHEY: Conor Slevin; Stephen Leonard, Jordan Quinn, Tom Spain; Kevin Grogan, Damien Kilmartin, Enda Grogan; Dylan Murray, Cillian Kiely; Jack Screeney, Conor Mahon, Ciaran Slevin; Thomas Geraghty, Cathal Kiely, Lochlann Kavanagh. Subs – Ger Healion for Ciaran Slevin (35m), James Gorman for Murray (41m), Peter Geraghty for Geraghty (42m), Cathal Donoghue for Kavanagh (64m),
BELMONT: Barry Egan; Shane Nally, Liam Browne, Aaron Brazil; Paddy Clancy, Damien Egan, Mark Egan; David Nally, Leon Fox; Alan Egan, David Kenny, Colin Egan; Joe Maher, Oisin Kelly, David Cox. Subs – Cathal Flynn for Maher (43m), Mark Cahill for Kenny (45m), Kevin Nugent for Cox (57m),
Referee – Adam Kinahan (Clodiagh Gaels).