Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship - Round 7

Kildimo/Pallaskenry 1-24 Dromin/Athlacca 3-13 

Our Champion Hurleys-sponsored Premier Intermediate hurlers made a little bit of history in Ballingarry today by becoming the first ever team to go through the group stages of the Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship without losing a single game! It’s not a trophy, it’s only a minor milestone but it’s always nice to create a bit of history. This was a tough contest against a Dromin/Athlacca side who needed a result to make a semi-final, and they made life very difficult for us throughout.

Dromin/Athlacca started the better team and picked off some early scores, with a free from Shaun Barry our first score. An excellent puckout from John Chawke to the run of Kyle Hayes saw the intercounty man continue his fine scoring form with another point. Dromin/Athlacca struck another point before Darren O’Connell scored his first point of the afternoon. It would be a game to remember for Darren, who delivered a man-of-the-match display from full-forward, tormenting the Dromin/Athlacca backline. But our opponents were on top in the early exchanges and following that point, they would strike another point from play before a goal to give them a four-point lead! Our backline had been rock solid throughout the previous three games, not having conceded any goals but a breach was bound to occur eventually.

We did, however, respond very well to that setback and their four-point lead was wiped out within a matter of moments. Firstly, Darren O’Connell won a free from the puckout after the goal and Shaun Barry nailed another free. Then, we would strike with a goal of our own. Cían Hayes did really well to break the ball from the Dromin/Athlacca puckout, Shaun Barry was there to pick up the break and delivered a lovely ball inside to Darren. He took on the defence, was fouled on two occasions on the way through by separate defenders but referee Jonathan Hayes played an excellent advantage as Darren powered through and rifled the ball to the back of the net. That was Darren’s third goal of this Championship campaign and brought us back on level terms!

From there, we took control of the game and would never fall behind again. An excellent pass from captain Barry O’Connell picked out Cathal Downes in space, which allowed him to travel forward and fire the ball over the bar for an excellent score. John Chawke would then claim a ball in the goalmouth and burst out of defence but was fouled as he did so. The free was brought forward 13 metres and he himself would land a monster free that travelled the length of the Ballingarry pitch. Clever play from Jack O’Keeffe then saw him feed Kyle Hayes, who fired over his second point of the game. Our next score saw us reach 1-5 without reply to the Dromin/Athlacca goal and it was probably the score of the game. Conor Staff did well to link up with Cathal Downes and the minor star powered forward from his wing-back position, leaving defenders in his wake before throwing over a lovely point from the left wing off his left-hand side. It was an inspirational score from the youngster which gave us a four-point lead.

Dromin/Athlacca did reduce the gap to three points before we extended it once again. Jack O’Keeffe did well to win the ball under pressure, he popped the ball back to Cathal Downes who popped it inside and Cían Hayes opened his shoulders and let fly from the middle of the field to restore our four-point advantage. We had been totally dominant since the goal but Dromin/Athlacca would have another purple patch and hit a goal and a point without reply to level matters up again. It was a setback but again, we responded excellently: Dromin/Athlacca would not score for the remainder of the half and we would score four points without reply.

Adrian Garvey, into the team for his first start of the season, did well to pick up a break and fired over a nice score to restore our advantage. Lorcan O’Leary then delivered a lovely ball into the full-forward line, Darren O’Connell rose to catch cleanly over pressure and then showed excellent wrists to get a shot away while being fouled by a swarm of Dromin/Athlacca players. When Kyle Hayes was fouled around the middle of the field, Shaun Barry converted yet another free and he repeated the feat a couple of minutes later after Jack O’Keeffe won a free. It was an excellent response to the goal, we had taken back control of the game and led at half-time: Kildimo/Pallaskenry 1-13 Dromin/Athlacca 2-6.

We opened the scoring in the second half after good work from our two midfielders, Peter Nash and Adrian Garvey, linking up together and finding Cían Hayes in space and again the former Limerick senior hurler split the uprights with his shot from distance for his second point of the game. Dromin/Athlacca got their first score of the second half through a free before Adam Butler delivered a ball inside for Darren O’Connell, who again slipped away from his marker before firing over the bar on the turn. Another point for Dromin/Athlacca was responded to well by a brilliant score from way out on the left wing from the stick of Kyle Hayes.

We had maintained our four-point lead at the beginning of the second half but again, Dromin/Athlacca threw everything at us and hit us with another sucker punch in the form of a third goal, followed up with a point to level matters once again. Every time we looked to be opening up a gap, they hit back and credit must go to the South side for that, as they were fighting for their lives. Importantly, they never got their noses in front. Once Darren struck his goal in the first half, we would never fall behind for the entire game. Our response to those Dromin/Athlacca scores was to take on their defence again, and Darren was once more the man who was fouled, with Shaun Barry nailing the free. Dromin/Athlacca levelled things with a free of their own before we really started to kick for home, landing four scores in a row again.

Shaun Barry restored our lead after, again, Darren O’Connell had been fouled. We then had a big goal chance as substitute Dylan Corrigan did brilliantly to wriggle his past one defender then showed his pace by driving straight at the heart of the Dromin/Athlacca defence. Just as he was about to enter the large pallelogram, he was hauled to ground with Liam Griffin in space outside him. It was a cynical foul with a real goal opportunity on and the referee had no choice but to show the Dromin/Athlacca man a second yellow card. Shaun tapped the close-range over the bar to give us a two-point lead. John Chawke then landed another monster free from to give us a three-point cushion before Dylan Corrigan, who made a big impact from the bench, won another free which was converted by Shaun Barry.

Dromin/Athlacca had one last mini-surge as they struck two points in a row but we wrestled back control and saw out the victory in relative comfort. The likes of Luke O’Keeffe, Tony McCarthy and Barry O’Connell picked up a lot of breaks in our half in the closing stages and our forwards were always a threat. Darren was elusive as ever when he was picked out by Kyle Hayes and he stepped inside to make a little space for himself before popping the ball over the bar. He then stopped a defender emerging from defence with an absolute massive shoulder, landing the Dromin/Athlacca on his back and then forcing the free which was converted yet again by Shaun. Darren would also get the last score of the game, finishing off a great team move. Cían Hayes, Adam Butler and Dylan Corrigan were all involved before Darren picked off the point. This would bring his tally for the day to 1-5, not to mention all the frees he won, which capped off an excellent display from the Shanpallas man. Coincidentally, two years ago, the last time we played Dromin/Athlacca in Championship, the final score was 1-23 to 3-13 on a day where Barry O’Connell hit 1-5 from play. Today the scoreline was very similar, finishing 1-24 to 3-13.

1-24 is great scoring in sixty minutes of hurling but there is plenty of work to do also ahead of next week’s semi-final. But well done to all involved on today’s display and for making it through 7 group stage games without defeat and earning top spot. Congratulations to the management team of Chris Sexton, Peter Finn and Éanna McGarrigle for their efforts and best of luck from all involved with the club to the team for the semi-final!

Team: John Chawke (0-2, frees); Luke O’Keeffe, Tony McCarthy, Lorcan O’Leary; Cían Hayes (0-2), Barry O’Connell, Cathal Downes (0-2); Adrian Garvey (0-1), Peter Nash; Shaun Barry (0-9, frees), Kyle Hayes (0-3), Conor Staff; Jack O’Keeffe, Darren O’Connell (1-5), Adam Butler

Subs: Liam Griffin for Conor Staff (36 mins); Dylan Corrigan for Adrian Garvey (52 mins); Keel Moloney for Cathal Downes (58 mins)