Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship

Kildimo/Pallaskenry 1-18 Pallasgreen 0-11

A victory in Kilmallock against Pallasgreen means that in our first year at the Premier Intermediate grade, we have sealed our place in the semi-finals of the competition with a game to spare! It is a great achievement for the club, all credit must go to all the players and management for their role in making this happen. We certainly have the talent within the team, the first part is done; now there is a chance to re-focus and have a real go at winning this competition!

Playing with a strong wind in the first half, we felt we would have to take a decent lead in at the break but the first ten minutes were a very stopstart affair. There were lots of extended scraps for possession as well as plenty of niggly fouls with neither side able to build any momentum. A Pallasgreen free opened the scoring before Adam Butler responded with one of his own. Conor Staff then opened the shoulders to get our first point from play before a good run and score from Kyle Hayes. But Pallasgreen kept in touch with scores of their own and also hit the back of the net but the goal was ruled out as their forward threw the ball past John Chawke. Darren O’Connell was a constant threat inside with his movement and he won a couple of frees in succession which were pointed by Adam Butler which gave us a lead by the narrowest of margins just as we passed the midway point of the first half.

We then finally managed to get a bit of momentum and to prevent the stopstart nature of the game halting our flaw, as a great run from Conor Staff opened up the Pallasgreen defence right through the middle and he finished brilliantly off the hurley. Adam Butler then got his first point from play, as he broke onto a ball in the left corner, stepped outside to give himself a better angle and then fired the ball over with a lovely flick of the wrists. At this point, we now had a three-point lead but the game was then lit up by one of the best goals you will ever see.

It began with great work rate, which has become emblematic of this team, with Darren O’Connell winning the turnover on the left touchline. Darren himself picked the loose ball out of the ruck and set off on a run away from the Pallasgreen defenders. At this point, Darren was a long, long way out from goal and way out on the left wing but he showed wonderful pace, balance, poise and skill as he weaved his way through the defence. A Pallasgreen back came across to challenge and Darren met the tackle brilliantly, flicking the ball in front of him but maintaining control on the other side. At this point, having beaten three defenders, things had opened up, and Darren bore down on goal, the ball still balancing on his stick and he took the strike off the hurley without catching, and buried it past the Pallasgreen goal. It really was a moment of pure class, a goal of individual brilliance from the tackle and turnover to the mazy run to the clinical finish. You won’t see many better goals than that in any hurling game, at any level.

It gave us a huge boost, and we finished out the half strongly also. Although Pallasgreen were to get another score, Darren would follow up his goal with another powerful run; this time the Pallasgreen defence were delighted to see him settle for flicking it over the bar. He was fouled shortly after, for a free which was converted by Adam and Adam also managed to tag on another free before the break to leave the half-time score: Kildimo/Pallaskenry 1-10 Pallasgreen 0-5.

That was an eight-point lead but the wind was significant and the test would always be, could we keep the scoreboard ticking over in the second half against the breeze? It was a question that we did come up with an answer; for a finish we actually outscored our opponents in the second half, which was an impressive feat and credit must go to our defenders for that also. The work rate begins in our forwards but Tony McCarthy and his colleagues in the full-back line were safe as houses while our half-back line fought like dogs throughout. Barry O’Connell, operating in midfield during the final twenty-five minutes, had a superb second half, leading by example throughout.

Adam Butler opened our account in the second half with a very nicely-taken point from out on the right wing and he was a constant threat inside. The second half was a low-scoring affair for the first fifteen or so minutes but at this juncture, this suited us as we got a strong foothold in the game, Adam also converting a free after Barry O’Connell was fouled. But we prevented Pallasgreen from ever getting a run of scores; good work rate a constant key. Another foul on Darren O’Connell saw Adam extend our advantage before really clever play at puck-out time saw Kyle Hayes create the opportunity for Ruairí Maher to pick up the ball in space, and Ruairí was as deadly accurate as ever, splitting the uprights.

The game continued in a similar tone; Pallasgreen never got the run of scores they needed to really instigate the fightback. We kept them at arm’s length without ever killing the game. It was a professional performance from our players without being sublime. Barry O’Connell got on yet another ball, then broke down the right wing with a strong run, but took a hefty hit and was fouled. Adam took the opportunity to score another free. We did finish with the last two scores, after a shot at goal from a 20-metre free for Pallasgreen was deflected over the bar. Jack O’Keeffe was very lively off the bench, and he spun away from his marker to fire a snapshot high over the bar before Adam Butler rounded off a great individual display of scoring with a delightful point from way out on the right touchline, from a very hard angle. Our support was right behind it and they knew from the moment it left his stick, it was destined to go over. That was Adam’s twelfth point of the game, his third from open play.

After a veteran in the form of Adrian Garvey made his first appearance of the season last weekend and played a big role in our victory, Adrian was sprung from the bench again. But this week also saw the first appearance of the season from another experienced head, Mikey Dillon. He also nearly made a big scoring impact as a ground stroke looked as if it may raise a green flag, but the Pallasgreen keeper stood tall and made the save. There was also a Championship debut for Naoise McGarrigle, he came off the bench to make his first ever appearance in Premier Intermediate hurling as we ran out victors on a margin of ten points.

After winning the Intermediate title last year, I suppose the first aim was to ensure that we stayed up. We did that last week, earning enough points to stay in the division. After that, we always believed this team was good enough to make the semi-final stages and now we’ve done that too. But there’s no point settling for that now; this is a very talented group, with a good backroom team behind team and we have every chance of winning this competition outright now that we have made the semi-final. Congratulations to all involved on what the team have achieved to date. As I have said, a very good group of players who are really starting to hit form now. And well done also to the management team: Chris Sexton as manager, Damien Gillane as coach and also Paudie Daly, Jim Maher, Pat Enright, Éanna McGarrigle and Alan Fitzgerald. Best of luck to all involved; we’re out again next weekend against Blackrock to see if we can secure top spot in the group stage! That match is on Saturday October 6 at 4pm in Ballyagran with our semi-final set to be the weekend after! It really is an exciting time for the club!

Team: John Chawke; Luke O’Keeffe, Tony McCarthy, Kevin O’Connell; Robert McKeogh, Lorcan O’Leary, Keel Moloney; Conor Staff (0-2), Peter Nash; Kyle Hayes (0-1), Ruairí Maher (0-1), Barry O’Connell; Darren O’Connell (1-1), Shaun Barry, Adam Butler (0-12, 0-9 frees)

Subs: Jack O’Keeffe (0-1) for Shaun Barry (52 mins); Adrian Garvey for Ruairí Maher (58 mins); Mikey Dillon for Darren O’Connell (59 mins); Naoise McGarrigle for Adam Butler (60 mins)