O'Loughlin Gaels had to battle right to the end of this pulsating Junior B Final in Thomastown against a gallant and hard working Graignamanagh side. The City side won this game probably because of a very healthy, never give up, attitude which is been seen across all teams in the Club at present.
During normal play, the City side dominated for long periods and at half time were leading 0.10 to 1.3 having played with a decent breeze.. By the 52nd minute O'Loughlins were ahead by 6 points and one sensed the cup was only going one way, but frees were to become very rewarding for the Graig men and ace sharpshooters Cathal Dunne(3) and Lee Kinsella(3) took advantage of all that came their way in the second half. The Graig men drew level and had momentum and Cathal Dunne and Terry Dreelan popped up to the mark and brought the match to extra time.
O'Loughlins had started in a flourish with Stephen Tyrrell picking up two loose balls around centre-field and slotted both over with class. Fergal Brennan and James Lenehan added two more beuts as the Graig men failed to find their range. A blunder in the O'Loughlin's defence allowed Ken Walsh to tap in for a handy goal to bring Graig right back into it after 12 minutes. Barry Hogan scored the first of his 8 frees next which was followed by a James McGrath score for the hoops.
Barry Hogan with three converted frees and John Doyle increased the O'Loughlin's lead to 5 points after 28 minutes. O'Loughlins had dominated for long periods with the half back line of Kevin O Brien,Rick Leydon and Andy Cantwell driving ball after ball back to their forwards. Mick Lambert is a very solid full back and was flanked by one of the Club's greatest ever hurlers Brian Kelly on one side and minor starlet Eoin Croghan on the other, both of whom were excellent in protecting goalkeeper Mark Croghan at all times. A free converted by Lee Kinsella and a tidy point by Dane Flood reduced the margin before Barry Hogan added another for the 'Loughs to leave the half time score O'LG 0.10 Graignamanagh 1.3
Graig opened the second half tally through the impressive Cathal Dunne and a free by Lee Kinsella. Fergal Brennan,Danny Bolger and James Lenehan always looked dangerous and popped over three consecutive minors for the continent side. Hard-working half back, Kevin O Brien popped up for a good score on the the midway point of the second half and the city side looked to be cruising. Barry Hogan's 22nd minute free divided two more from Lee Kinsella. Cathal Dunne added another from play. Vinny Wallace scored what looked to be a match winner on 26 minutes but in the closing 4 minutes Graignamanagh dragged themselves back into it with 4 scores from Cathal Dunne,including 3 frees, and a brilliant equaliser from Terry Dreelan.
Final Score O'LG 0.16 Graignamanagh 1.13
Ten minutes a side of extra time declared referee John Walsh of Rower Inistioge. Vice Chairman of the County Board was on hand to present the cup but had to wait another while to do the official duties. The game started much the same as it ended with Cathal Dunne converting two frees for Graignamangh which were divided by a good point from substitute Ben Leydon. The final six minutes of the now nervy extra time produced no more scores Half time in extra time and Graig were up by a point.
No player wanted to make a mistake or concede a free now but after 30 seconds Barry Hogan had one converted to level it. Lee Kinsella did the same a minute later before Dane Flood increased Graig's lead. Time was ticking away and O'loughlins were now working harder in the forward line.Barry Hogan popped over another free but the ball went up the field and Jamie McGrath scored, what might have been curtains for the city siders, but for their brilliant attitude. Evan Walsh was introduced at full forward and his quick intelligent play led to the last two scores of the game and ultimately landing the spoils for a famous O'Loughlin's victory.
James Lenehan ran onto the end of a well weighted pass from Walsh and point to leave one between the sides, Referee John Walsh held his index finger aloft indicating to all and sundry the time remaining. One more attack, maybe the chance of an equaliser one thought...... Ah no.. why bring us back for another day thought Club minor Ben Leydon ???? Latching onto another good pass from Evan Walsh in nearly the same position as Lenehan previously he got close to the goal and end line and somehow got a strike away which, may not have been his sweetest ever, but surely, he will not have scored as important a goal in his fledgling adult career. The O'Loughlins faithful jumped as high and shouted as loud as a last minute county final winning goal deserves. With only seconds remaining the City side were not going to relinquish a two point lead. Final score O'Loughlin Gaels 1.20 Graignamanagh 1.18
Credit to O'Loughlin Gaels management of Davy Ward (who played in 1999 the only other time O'Loughlin Gaels won the Junior B County Championship), John Joe Cullen, Michael Lambert, Gerry Buckley and Seanie Tyrrell.
O'LOUGHLIN GAELS; Mark Croghan, Brian Kelly, Michael Lambert, Eoin Croghan, Kevin O Brien, Rick Leydon, Andy Cantwell, Stephen Tyrrell, Martin Gibbons, Barrie Hogan, James Lenehan ,Fergal Brennan, John Doyle, Michael Hennebry, Danny Bolger. Subs: Shane O Neill(Capt.), Evan Walsh(used), Andy Smith ,Joe Walsh, Chris Lambert, Michael Twomey, David Rice, Ben Leydon(used),Stephen Wall, Kevin McGarry, Paul Denniffe, Jamie Kavanagh, Richie Moylan, Alan O’Brien (used), Vinny Wallace (used).
O’Loughlin Gaels would like to congratulate both Kilkenny teams on their remarkable displays in Croke Park last Sunday. Well done to Ross Butler and Daniel O’Connor who have earned the right to call themselves All-Ireland Minor Champions. Best wishes also to Brian Hogan and Mark Kelly who now must set about preparing for the senior replay on sat 27th Sept.