The Clodiagh Gaels squad celebrate
There was a dramatic finish to the Offaly Senior B Hurling Final as a brilliant late point settled a game where there was little to chose between the teams from start to finish.
Molloy Environmental Systems Senior “B” Hurling Championship final
Clodiagh Gaels 2-10
CLODIAGH Gaels returned to top flight hurling when they edged out Tullamore in a drama packed Senior “B” Hurling Championship final in Birr on Saturday afternoon.
A brilliant Liam Langton point over two minutes into injury time won it for Clodiagh Gaels and a devastated Tullamore saw a Shane Dooley sideline fly to the left of the target and wide as they tried desperately for a second chance.
The game had an absolutely frantic end. Tullamore were 0-11 to 1-7 up at the second half water break and Clodiagh Gaels made their victory dash after the resumption. Dwayne Dunne equalised from a free, a few minutres after having a very bad wide and he duly dispatched a penalty in the 25th minute after sub Mark Dillon was hauled down.
A 29th minute from from another Dunne free put Clodiagh Gaels four clear and the title looked to be in the bag. Instead Tullamore rallied powerfully. The 60 minutes had just lapsed when Gareth Mann got in for an excellent goal to make it a one point game. With three minutes of injury time announced, the momentum was suddenly with Tullamore and Shane Dooley equalised with a fine free.
The veteran Dooley had a chance to put Tullamore ahead with two minutes of injury time played. It was the type of chance he would normally convert but on this occasion, it went wide and seconds later, Langton got the ball in a crowded midfield, found the space and fired over from near sixty metres.
Over the course of the hour, Clodiagh Gaels were the better team and very much deserved to win but this very nearly went wrong for them, they almost blew it on the day and would have had only themselves to blame if they did. Tullamore never truly found top stride. They worked tremendously hard throughout and had spells when they were the better team but their purple patch never really arrived.
Tullamore's best spell came early in the second half. Tullamore had been happy to be level at half time, 0-8 to 1-5 and they went three points up by the seventh minute of the restart. Clodiagh Gaels were in trouble at this stage and had a couple of more atrocious wides as they tried to settle down. It is to the winners' credit, however, that their heads didn't drop and they kept fighting for everything.
Tullamore went back to living on scraps and Clodiagh Gaels began to make life very difficult for them again. They took control with 1-4 without reply and held on for dear life as Tullamore came back at them with almost devastating intent.
It was a thrilling end to a game that had been mainly about honesty and commitment before that. The conditions were very difficult and it was not easy to produce good hurling but having said that, the weather can't be blamed for everything. The shooting was poor, especially by Clodiagh Gaels, there was plenty of scrappy hurling and a good few rucks.
Yet it made for engrossing viewing. It was close and the issue was always in doubt while that finish will ensure the game is remembered.
Clodiagh Gaels would have been very angry with themselves if they had lost. They won most of the battles on the day and had most of the possession but were always in danger of losing. Indeed, ten minutes into the second half, it looked like they would lose. They had seventeen wides over the hour plus and ten of these, if not more, could and perhaps should have been points. Some of their misses left a lot to be desired and Clodiagh Gaels had enough chances to have won by four or five points.
Tullamore were by no means innocent when it came to shooting. Their tally of wides, fourteen, was also too high but their chances were not as clearcut as Clodiagh Gaels, many of their wides did not seem as bad.
It was ironic that Liam Langton was Clodiagh Gaels' match winner as he had been one of their main culprits. If someone had told you before hand that Clodiagh Gaels would win, you would have quickly predicted a man of the match display from Langton. Instead he found the going tough and there were probably half a dozen Clodiagh Gaels players who played better than him. And possibly more but Langton was very important to the winners. Tullamore watched him like hawks all afternoon, double teaming him some of the time and they were always fearful of what he could do. The Offaly star's eye wasn't in and generally he couldn't get away but it is a very good sign of a player that his confidence didn't dip and when that last chance arose, there was no one else Clodiagh Gaels' would rather see with the ball in hand in that position than Liam Langton.
Clodiagh Gaels won because of a truly heroic defensive performance. Kevin Kinahan was brilliant in goals, making three top class saves, dealing so efficiently with any ball that came his direction and clearing well. Dylan Hyland and Peter Walsh were absolutely brilliant in their full back while Joey Keenaghan, who grew in stature as the game progressed and Clint Horan also stood up to be counted.
When things were going wrong for Clodiagh Gaels in the second half, Ruari Dunne was one of the players who helped turn the tide. Despite his young years, he was immense while Cathal Curran worked hard at midfield beside him. The Clodiagh Gaels attack didn't ignite. Conor Langton was their best player here while Dwayne Dunne did work hard and got crucial scores from placed balls, though he also had misses he will have been very disappointed in.
For Tullamore, it was a very disappointing defeat. They played five players who featured in the senior football final six days earlier, Aaron Leavy, Diarmuid Egan, Shane Dooley Michael Fox and Luke Egan, and the heavy volume of games took a toll on at least a couple of these.
They gave it their all on the day and they also had outstanding defensive performers. Michael Feeney and Aidan Bracken were excellent on their full back line while Cormac Martin cleared a lot of ball out the field. Diarmuid Egan had a fine first half at midfield for them but was one of the players who may have found it hard to recover from his football exertions while Ger Treacy got through a mountain of work beside him, doing the simple thing with great efficiency.
From here up, Tullamore were also in bother. Shane Dooley was very good on frees and began to come into the game in the second half without dominating like old. James Houlihan had a good first half, getting two points but as a unit, it didn't really happen for the Tullamore attack,
The sides were level at half time, Tullamore 0-8, Clodiagh Gaels 1-5 and the Killeigh-Killurin outfit would have been the more disappointed of the two at this scoreline.
Clodiagh Gaels were the better side in the first half but shot too many wides. They had nine first half wides, some of these were fairly shocking and Clodiagh Gaels had enough possession to have warranted a three point half time lead,
Liam Langton's eye was off in the first half. The Offaly star won plenty of ball but he had three of their wides as well as having a goal shot blocked when he probably should have been taking the point,
Tullamore were by no means spectators in the first half, forcing Clodiagh Gaels to work very hard for everything. Tullamore started well with points from Shane Dooley (free) and Diarmuid Egan but Clodiagh Gaels took the lead with a fine tenth minute goal from David Buckley after he cut in from the right.
Clodiagh Gaels led by 1-3 to 0-3 before Tullamore got three on the trot to level it up – goalkeeper Kevin Kinahan made a fantastic save to deflect James Houlihan's shot over as well as denying Michael Fox for a “65” that Dooley pointed.
It was nip and tuck from here to the break with Conor Langton putting Clodiagh Gaels ahead. Tullamore struck back with a James Houlihan point and Dooley free to leave before Conor Langton's second point levelled it up at the break.
The second half continued in a similar vein though Tullamore were now winning a lot more ball. Daniel Fox and two Dooley frees put them 0-11 to 1-5 up as David Buckley, Shane Dolan and Dwayne Dunne (free) had bad wides for Clodiagh Gaels with them crying out for a score. Kevin Kinahan made another great save, stopping from Aaron Hensey, who was just on the field and a Dunne free and fine Joey Kinahan point made it 1-7 to 0-11 at the water break.
Clodiagh Gaels: Dwayne Dunne 1-5 (Goal from a penalty and 4f), David Buckley 1-0, Joey Keenaghan and Conor Langton 0-2 each, Liam Langton 0-1.
Tullamore: Shane Dooley 0-7 (7f), Gareth Mann 1-0, James Houlihan 0-2, Diarmuid Egan, Jack Dooley and Daniel Fox 0-1 each.
TULLAMORE: Adam Cleary; Michael Feeney, Niall Houlihan, Aidan Bracken; Aaron Leavy, Cormac Martin, Ger Crowe; Ger Treacy, Diarmuid Egan; James Houlihan, Shane Dooley, Jack Dooley; Daniel Fox, Gareth Mann, Michael Fox. Subs – Luke Egan for Leavy (HT), Aaron Hensey for Jack Dooley (42m), Shane Kelly for Daniel Fox (52m).
CLODIAGH GAELS: Kevin Kinahan; Clint Horan, Dylan Hyland, Peter Walsh; Joey Keenaghan, Killian O'Brien, Aaron Flanagan; Cathal Curran, Ruari Dunne; Shane Dolan, Cathal Brady, David Buckley; Conor Langton, Dwayne Dunne, Liam Langton. Subs - Ryan Casey for Flanagan (29m), Mark Dillon for Buckley (33m), Sean Beatty for O'Brien (45m).
Referee – Richie Fitzsimons (Birr).
MAN OF THE MATCH
Peter Walsh (Clodiagh Gaels): Three outstanding contenders here and all in the Clodiagh Gaels' defence. Goalkeeper Kevin Kinahan, full back Dylan Hyland and corner back Peter Walsh were a major factor in the Clodiagh Gaels' win – special mention also to wing back Joey Keenaghan. Kinahan's saves were crucial, Hyland was sensational in the first half in particular while Walsh turned in a heroic hour and gets the nod. Walsh blocked, won ball and cleared like a man possessed and he never wilted for a moment in this.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Liam Langton's winning point. The ability to score a point like this in a game where things aren't going your way is a great attribute to have.
Richie Fitzsimons had a good game. He let the play go and both sides had frees that should have been given but these balanced out. The only real complaint is that he played over four minutes injury time at the end – three minutes had been announced and the final whistle should have been blown before Shane Dooley had a last gasp sideline to try and draw it. He was right to give Clodiagh Gaels their penalty and consulted with umpires before awarding it.
Liam Langton has made vast improvements this year under Michael Fennelly, getting a new found level of consistency. This was far from his best game of the season here but Fennelly will have noted the way he was still able to get the winning point.
There was plenty of debate in Tullamore and Clodiagh Gaels oer this match being fixed for Birr rather than O'Connor Park. With rain falling and the weather deterioriating, this proved to be the correct decision as it was important to have the pitch in tip top shape for the biggest game of the weekend, the senior decider between St Rynagh's and Coolderry on Sunday. Once again, Birr hosted this game well. The pitch was heavy and cut up but Christmas is now looming on the horizon and it is that time of year. There was a messy row before hand when Tullamore insisted on warming up on the pitch even though they were told not to by Birr officials. Teams in St Brendan's Park warm up in the boys school, just behind the ground – Clodiagh Gaels warmed up there. It is not ideal having to prepare elsewhere but a warm up in this weather didn't help the pitch, even if the damage was miniscule in the broader scheme of things, and the instructions and wishes of the host club should have been honoured.
Clodiagh Gaels are at home to the Meath champions in the Leinster club IHC on December 4.
Wides: Clodiagh Gaels – 17 (7 in first half); Tullamore – 14 (7 in first half).
Yellow cards: Clodiagh Gaels – 0; Tullamore – 1 (Shane Dooley).
Red cards: 0.
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