Senior Hurling championship Final 2016
O’Loughlin Gaels 0-19 to 1-12 Ballyhale Shamrocks
Sunday Oct. 30th 2016 - Nowlan Prk, 3-15pm – Referee Richard Dowling
O’Loughlin Gaels GAA are Senior Hurling County Champions for 2016 ..and are more than worthy of their status!. A crowd of circa 10,000 looked on in anticipation of a mighty battle between the two most consistent hurling teams in the county over the last number of years. O’Loughlin Gaels were going in to the game as the underdogs…but today they’re the dog’s bo%&#x!! (oops was that too much?!)..sorry about that but passions took over me…and passion is exactly why this game was never going to have a different result. Our lads played with passion and a belief from the get-go that this was going to be O’Loughlins Day.
It was a nervous first half. The Shamrocks started well. They missed their first two chances but TJ started proceedings with a pointed free on 3mins. Mark Bergin returned the first of his unerring day’s free-taking a minute later before TJ Reid stole past the O’Loughlin Gaels defence for the only time this year and hit a 3 pointer. The Shamrocks got the perfect start…and it would make for a nervous first 30minutes. Ballyhale tried to go for the jugular but O’Loughlin’s defenders were not in the mood. After the goal Mark Bergin returned another converted free and that was much of how the first half unfolded. Each time the Shamrocks threw something..O’Loughlins threw it back!. Paddy Butler caught ball and threw his weight around mid-field time and time again earning himself a point reward before the half was out. His partner at mid-field Paddy Deegan was immense ..while his workrate in the first half served to disrupt any momentum his counterparts might build the second half was going to be Paddys’ to own. Ballyhale were happy to prevent our forwards from building a head of steam and were banking on Mark Bergin having an off day with the placed ball. They should find another bank because Mark’s freetaking was flawless -10 placed balls returned 10 points throughout the game – and Mark deposited every one of them onto the 2016 Champion’s account!!.
At half time the score stood at 0-8 to 1-7. Ballyhale were surely wondering what happened as it was they were under the impression that they were doing all the hurling. TJ’s early goal was proving to be the only difference. But 5 frees from Mark Bergin , including 2 from distance were added to with a point from play by the same player, and ones by Paddy Butler and Sammy Johnston. The deficit was at two points and though the St. Johns’s Parish supporters around Nowlan Park were wondering, the players and management certainly weren’t. They knew there was more to offer. Inspirational words in the dressing room came from new faces and as they retuned to the pitch each player knew there was a job to be done.
No sooner had the ball been thrown in when Martin Comerford laid down the first marker with a point to half the lead. More Ballyhale indiscipline led to another conversion through Mark Bergin and it was all square. The St. John’s support were now believing!. TJ Reid missed a free from 40 yards moments later and the cracks were beginning to show. The O’Loughlin Gaels defence was rock solid. The half back line, as they did in the first 30mins, hunted and harried their opponents to distraction. Brian Hogan was lifting the Tom Walsh cup today and everyone around him knew it. Anthony Forristal had the game of his life, he rose to catch ball and everytime he cleared, it he did with intelligence. Ballyhale did go ahead by three points again as the game began to open up. But that was that..Michael Comerford’s fitness training was beginning to reap it’s rewards. All six backs were on fire. Mark Kelly and Mark Bergin were beavering deep and claiming possession. The three point lead was quickly nullified through Bergin’s faultless placed ball. Another fine clearance from the irrepressible Andy Kearns resulted in Danny Loughnane putting the Gaels ahead for the very first time. The St. John’s parish support were sitting up now..straining their necks…something great was about to happen. But before it did Ballyhale equalized with a minor. Here’s the something great; a fine fetch by Alan Geogheghan took him on sniping run. As he approached the 21 yard line he offloaded towards Martin Comerford ..the ball got away from him but he got control of it close to the sideline under Ardán de Grás. As several hundred supported roared for Martin to pass it crossfield to the unmarked Bergin, Martin just casually struck over his shoulder for a crowd pleasing point into the country end. It was chest pumping time now. Ballyhale did return again but it was to be for the very last time. As the southerners searched for some rhythm a long ball was met by the hand of Anthony Forristal – again!. There was no one else going to win it ..it was his! A little side step, a carry and sublime handpass to the brilliant Paddy Deegan and its over to you Paddy. Paddy fended off his marker and headed for the 40. Danny Loughnane recieved the pass in space and guided it between the posts.. The Tom Walsh Cup was getting closer to St. John’s Park.
Ten minutes remaining and the management turned it on. They introduced Sean Bolger and he immediately rewarded them with a point. The Shamrocks coudn’t deal with the fresh legs and Seanie was in their faces now. Paddy Deegan added to the score board next and suddenly the Gaels were three points to the good. Henry Sheflin struck wide next when it was needed to lift his team and Mark Bergin finished the scoring with his 11th point (10 perfect frees!!).
Three minutes of added time seemed like a lifetime. O’Loughlin Gaels hit two wides towards the country end but it didn’t matter ..so long as the ball was up there they were as good as any scores. Maybe the lads were trying to send the match ball over the road to St. John’s Park. It didn’t matter..once the final whistle sounded it was the Tom Walsh Cup that was heading to Johns Park for one hell of a party.
It was a great win..richly deserved by a great group of players and a fantastic management team. No doubting that the best team won on the day and were surely the best team in the county all year. Well done all…Lovely Lovely hurling!
Team: S. Murphy, A. Forristal, A. Kearns, E. Kearns, A. O’Brien, B. Hogan, H. Lawlor, P. Diegan (0-1), P. Butler (0-1), A. Geoghegan , M. Kelly, D. Loughnane (0-2), S. Johnston (0-1) , M. Bergin (0-11, 9f,1'65), M. Comerford, (0-2). S. Bolger (0-1), D. Burke.
B. Leydon, S. Mahony, G. Bryan, S. Bolger, P. Cantwell, e.Grant C. Loy, N. Bergin, T. Gleeson, D. Lenihan, F. Brennan, M. Gibbons, S. Parsons, D. O’Connor, G. Kelly, J. Nolan, P. Byrne.
Manager: A. Fogarty
Selectors: N. Skehan, D. Shelly, M Holohan
Fitness Trainer: M.Comerford