In a low scoring encounter the two point advantage to Clara at the final whistle was probably a fair reflection on the way the game unfolded. Small margins were the only difference in what in truth could easily have gone O’Loughlins way..a different angle on that final delivery, the occasional fumble or a mere gust of wind at the wrong moment would ultimately mean that the Tom Walsh Cup was not going to St .Johns Park on this occasion. In fairness Clara too suffered the same ills in what was a poor game overall but recovered from those mishaps that bit better. Clara got a great start on the game going 1-3 to 0-2 in the first 10mins helped by a fine goal from Ciaran Prendergast who was one of two pre-match changes to their starting line-up. O’Loughlin Gaels took hold of the game for the next ten minutes with that man Martin Comerford lifting the troops with another massive performance. Martin’s performance along with good Brian Hogan assistance and a strong Paddy Deegan display opened up the game allowing for quick ball to move to the forwards where Mark Kelly and Sammy Johnston were causing problems in the Clara defence. A diagonal ball to the hard working Sammy Johnston allowed him the space to pick out Danny Loughnane with a high ball that he palmed to the net Diego Maradona style. The St. Johns crowd who gathered on the O’Loughlin road side of the park were feeling a little better after period of play, arguably the best of the match, which saw O’Loughlins draw level and go two points clear with two minutes of the half remaining. Clara to their credit saw the game changing and chose to smother the game. No space given and very little opportunity was afforded by the Clara defence who were happy to disrupt any flow the O’Loughlin forward line wanted to impose. O’Loughlins had survived the half on scraps the Clara defence were happy to give in frees and Mark Bergin was equally as happy to convert. With the wind in their backs O’Loughlins needed to keep their advantage but Clara finished the half the stronger and the sides went level at 1-9 apiece in a tense first 30mins.
The second half didn’t explode into life with both teams only managing four scores each but Clara taking the advantage with a goal from a loose ball in the O’Loughin Gaels defence four minutes into the half. A tussle for a high ball saw Eddie Kearns crash into the goal post after a wild overhead swing. The resulting scramble saw the ball reach the net while Eddie lay stretched on the ground. Not for the first time Eddie Kearns put his body on the line for the club and it won’t be for the last. The groundsmen at Nowlan Park however may be looking to replace the posts at the country end! It was disappointing to see but two fine saves from Stephen Murphy earlier could have meant the game was beyond reach. O’Loughlins fought as is to be expected of these lads and Andy Kearns stepped up to rally the troops with a brilliant performance from full back. Three occasions in the second half Andy rose to take ball in hand and clear his lines with precision ball to the hard working Martin Comerford. Martin gave it everything for his team and club. Emptied the tank and fought on through pain and exhaustion. When the final whistle sounded you could feel his heart sink and part of his soul was left on the field in Nowlan Park. A pure legend. It was gut wrenching when that final shrill sounded and although the players were emptied inside the large support that had been a very big part of this teams build-up flooded onto the field to give comfort. There was no hard luck. The boys did well..Clara are the victors but they know it could easily have been the other way around. Keith Hogan lifted the Tom Walsh Cup.. he and Brian played out a dual after a week-long build-up that saw the two brothers being the focus of much media attention. They were glad to get on with the game and both played well with neither one getting the better of the other… Only that Keith celebrates with his team mates. But not before an emotional embrace with his big brother at the games end. Only in GAA.
The year may have ended for the seniors with disappointment but the club is in a good place. This team will build from this experience and will come back stronger and more determined. With good people behind them and good support from a great club O’Loughlin Gaels will always be competing at the business end of the season for
Thanks to : S. Murphy, A Forristal, A Kearns, E Kearns, H Lawlor, B Hogan, P Deegan, M Bergin, S Mahony, D Burke, E Grant, M Comerford, S Johnson, D Loughnane, M Kelly, C Bergin, J Nolan, A O’Brien, B Leydon, P Butler, P Cantwell, S Parsons, D O’Connor, G Bryan, N Bergn, A Cantwell, S Cummins, J Doyle, T Gleeson, F Brennan, M Gibbons, G Kelly.
Manager: Aidan Fogarty. Selectors: Colin Furlong, Nigel Skehan, Derek Shelly, Michael Comerford.