John Doyle (the Great John Doyle!) threaded a point in the second minute to settle any early nerves and level proceedings after a T.J. Reid opener. There were early signs we were in for a thrilling encounter. Eoghan Grant made a defiant catch in the full back line to lay down the gauntlet. The ‘Rocks took the lead in the fifth but it wasn't to be for long. Mark Bergin won the ball in the middle of the field and released his other half – Paddy Deegan, who fired straight and true. Stephen Murphy put the St John’s Parish boys ahead with an audacious free from all of eighty yards against the wind! Stephen’s compass was set fair and this would prove telling, by the end of the sixty minutes.
Ballyhale are not the successful outfit they are however – without knowing how to dig in. They enjoyed a dominant ten minute spell that yielded five unanswered points – the pick of these being a Cha Fitzpatrick special. The Loughs kept battling into that bitter wind however. Mark Bergin grafted to release Sammy Johnston. S. J. turned on the engines in order to bear down on goals. His rasping shot was saved by Richie Reid. The same Mark Bergin pointed a free, minutes later - to keep the City boys to within a single score of Ballyhale at the end of the opening thirty.
H/T: O’Loughlin Gaels 0-04, Ballyhale Shamrocks 0-07
T.J. Reid opened the scoring in the second half with a pointed dead ball and Mark Bergin returned the compliment to restore the three point deficit. Then, seven minutes in.... came one of the decisive moments of the game. The ref awarded the Loughs a twenty one yard free on the back of overly robust Ballyhale defending. M. B. steeled himself and fired a bullet to the net. Cul! And now the sides were level. Sammy Johnston then fired unerringly from the half forward line. The Loughs were in the lead and the run for home was on. Single points were then exchanged before Ballyhale struck three in a row, to wrestle back the advantage in this pulsating affair.
Cool heads and inspiration were called for in equal measure. And cometh the hour.......you know the rest! Stephen Murphy went short with his puck out to find Paddy Deegan. Paddy moved into space and sent a rapier into the sky that bisected the Ballyhale posts. Whatta score! There was only one between the teams now and with fourteen minutes to go; it was the City boys who were doing all the pressing. Ballyhale would go on to score only two more points as opposed to a seven point blitz from O’Loughlins that would prove the difference. The winning scores in this period came from John Doyle (two), Stephen Murphy (two) and Mark Bergin (three).
It’s difficult to single out players in what really was a tremendous team performance. Gary Bryan, at the tender age of seventeen and a half – can be proud of his senior league debut. Stephen Murphy’s long range points were crucial to the outcome. Mark Bergin was as imperious as ever in the middle of the field alongside the industrious Paddy Deegan. Jason Quan made telling runs in the second half, when introduced and linked up well with John Doyle, who was unerringly accurate. Mark Kelly moved deeper at a vital stage in the match and stamped his county class on the outcome of the game – as a result. The real man of the match however, was the combined work ethic of the entire team and subs on a cold bitter evening in Thomastown.
F/T O’Loughlin Gaels 1-15, Ballyhale Shamrocks 0-14
Stephen Murphy 0-3 (3 f’s), Gary Bryan, Eoghan Grant, Eddie Kearns, Paddy Butler, Brian Hogan, Martin Gibbons, Paddy Deegan 0-2, Mark Bergin 1-06 (1-3 f’s & 1 65), Conor Bergin, Jack Nolan, Sammy Johnston 0-1, Davy Burke, Mark Kelly, John Doyle (0-3) Subs used: Jason Quan.