Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship - Semi-Final

21/09/2019
Kildimo/Pallaskenry 2-20 Bruff 2-9 

It was far from pretty, but we’ve managed to reach a county final! The scoreline after extra-time probably doesn’t reflect what was a tough, dogged and often dour affair which was played in difficult conditions: the ground underfoot was slippy and the wind was high throughout. But we remain unbeaten and have qualified for a county final, a blitz of two goals and six points without reply in the ten minutes of the first half of extra-time proving crucial. This is the club’s first ever Premier Intermediate Hurling Final in our second year at the grade, and a chance to go senior!

We played with a strong wind in the first half, but we struggled to find our feet in what was a hard-fought half with a lot of rucks, a lot of mistakes by both sides and plenty of wides. The quality wasn’t high but we opened the scoring through a Shaun Barry free, after a free was won during a fight for dirty ball. Bruff levelled matters with a free of their own before Shaun converted another free; this time for a foul on Darren O’Connell. This would be a re-occurring theme as Darren was on the receiving end of many fouls throughout the game. But despite having a breeze at our backs, we struggled to settle in the early stages and slowly Bruff began to take some element of control. They levelled with another free before taking the lead with a good point from play. They then struck us with a hammer blow, as the Bruff player escaped inside the cover, popped the handpass to the man in space before firing the ball into the back of the net!

This was a blow but Bruff had been the better team thus far in the game and were deserving of the lead. However, we did well to respond and get the next score. Good movement from Darren O’Connell down the left wing saw him take on his marker, and once again he was fouled as he did so. Shaun Barry again stood over the free and fired over the bar! Shaun would also be the one to get our first score from play: there was good play from Tony McCarthy in defence, he fed Darren O’Connell, who linked up with Shaun, who showed nice wrists to pop over the bar. However, we did hit a few wides just after this period, from placed balls and from open play, which was frustrating and Bruff soon extended their lead again with another free.

Despite this, Bruff would not score again for the rest of the half as the likes of Luke O’Keeffe began to grow into the game in defence, nullifying the Bruff attack. Cathal Downes and Peter Nash were among those winning a lot of dirty ball as we started to get a bit of control towards the end of the half. The quality was never top quality, the sliotar was constantly slipping from players’ grasp and a lot of players on both sides were losing their footing. But shortly after Bruff’s third free, Kyle Hayes did well to break onto a long puckout and as he ran directly at goal, he was dragged down just outside the square with a goal chance on. Adam Butler popped the close-range free over the bar to narrow the gap to two points. Moments later, Luke O’Keeffe broke out of defence and was fouled; with John Chawke landing a monster free from deep inside his own half. Straight from that puckout, Kyle Hayes won the ball, broke in behind the cover and again he was pulled down. Again, Adam Butler converted the free to level the game as we headed into the half-time break. There was still time for another bit of goalmouth action as Bruff worked another goal chance. John Chawke stood strong to make the save and Luke O’Keeffe did brilliantly to flick away the rebound to prevent any further chances. This meant the score at half-time was Kildimo/Pallaskenry 0-7 Bruff 1-4.

There hadn’t been any real flow to the game, but we had responded well to the goal, keeping Bruff scoreless for the rest of the half. This would continue into the second half as our backs got on top of the Bruff forwards, and we would keep them scoreless for the first 21 minutes of the second half also. This was a superb achievement considering that Bruff were now playing with the strong wind and our forwards also exerted more of a threat, and there was an impact from the bench as the likes of Jack O’Keeffe, Dylan Corrigan and Adrian Garvey all made notable contributions. Jack O’Keeffe was unlucky not to open the scoring in the second half as he saw his effort come back off the upright but although Bruff were landing puckouts deep in our half, our backs were repelling them well and the likes of Cían Hayes, Barry O’Connell and Tony McCarthy tended to be the players coming out with the ball.

Darren O’Connell was again fouled as he tried to make his way through on goal and again, Adam Butler was able to score the free. Peter Nash was now sweeping up a huge amount of dirty ball and at one point, he linked up with Shaun Barry who delivered inside to the full-forward line. Cathal Downes read the break well, stepped inside his man and headed towards goal but was fouled, and again Adam Butler struck the free over the bar. We were still reliant on frees for scores at this point but Bruff were determined not to let any of our forwards get a run on their backs. But we showed what could we do when we put together a lovely move as Lorcan O’Leary picked out Shaun Barry down the wing and Shaun delivered a lovely crossfield ball into Adam Butler who scored a lovely point off his right-side, his fifth point of the day and his first from play.

Barry O’Connell then delivered a lovely ball down the left wing and Darren O’Connell once again took on his marker. He was fouled but flicked the ball across goal and it was swept home by Cathal Downes. However, the referee had already blown the whistle and decided to give the Bruff full-back a second yellow card, after another foul on Darren. Adam used the opportunity to fire the free over the bar and extend our lead out to four points. We extended it further after some good play down the right wing by Jack O’Keeffe; he found Kyle Hayes with a ball inside and continued his run into space. Kyle spotted that run of Jack’s, picked him out and Jack made absolutely no mistake with his first score since coming off the bench.

It took 21 minutes for Bruff to get on the scoresheet in the second half, which is testament to the work rate all over the park from our players: our forwards did their best to curtail the deliveries going in, our midfielders picked up a lot of breaks and our backs won most of the 50/50 balls that went in. But Bruff were spurred on that score and would follow it up with two more, as they began to throw players forward in a desperate attempt to pull themselves back into the game. They did manage to cut the gap to just two points, before Darren O’Connell was fouled for a sixth time and once more, Adam Butler did the business with the placed ball, firing straight over the bar. It meant that we were three points up heading into stoppage time and although we had never pulled clear, we had exerted a lot more control over this half than we had in the first half.

However, deep in stoppage time, Bruff launched the ball long and managed to win a free about twenty metres out. With almost the last puck of the ball, their substitute corner-forward drove the free low and hard and into the back of the net! This was a very disappointing end to the game for us and meant that Bruff had forced extra-time with the final score after sixty minutes: Kildimo/Pallaskenry 0-13 Bruff 2-7. Bruff were now restored to fifteen players after extra-time, and it was a whole new challenge ahead of us but it was one that we really stood up to!

Our substitutes had made an impact towards the end of the second half but they really delivered in the first period of extra-time and it was two of them who linked up for the first score of the half. The experienced Adrian Garvey delivered a good ball inside to the full-forward line: Dylan Corrigan picked, wheeled and fired the ball over the bar for an excellent score. Straight from the puckout, Adrian was onto the break again; Dylan was involved once more before the ball made its way into Darren O’Connell. Darren was fouled once more as he made his way through on goal and Adam Butler made no mistake with the free. Darren had hit 1-5 from play in the previous game; he did not score in this match but won 7 scoreable frees and there was even better to come!

We really started this half like a whirlwind; there was no let-up and we managed to rack up eight scores in just ten minutes. John Chawke landed another monster free from inside his own ’45 straight over the crossbar before Bruff did have a shot at goal, but it went wide. Straight from that puckout, Kyle Hayes won possession and did very well to keep it in play. He linked up with Darren O’Connell who managed to knock it back outside to Kyle advancing towards the square, and Kyle popped over his first score of the afternoon! Barry O’Connell then showed his class when breaking onto a ball from the puckout, he delivered another good ball inside to Darren, who fed Adam Butler, who did brilliantly to strike over the bar from out on the right wing!

Suddenly, we were five points up but the next score was possibly the most crucial of the game! Bruff hit another wide and a long puckout from John Chawke bypassed Darren O’Connell; the ever-lively Dylan Corrigan broke onto it and, quick as a flash, rifled the ball into the roof of the net for our first goal! It meant that Dylan had not hit 1-1 in the opening minutes of extra-time and his work rate, pace and directness were causing nightmares for the Bruff full-back line. Cathal Downes then drove onto a ball and delivered down towards Dylan. There was some interplay between Dylan, Jack O’Keeffe and finally the ball reached Adam Butler, who made no mistake with his third point from play and his tenth in all. Bruff were now reeling, and we delivered another hammer blow on the stroke of half-time in extra-time. Shaun Barry read the puckout brilliantly, breaking it down and knocking it to Adam Butler. Adam had moved into space and cleverly delivered the ball into Darren O’Connell. Darren had a new marker by now, and had been fouled all day but this time, he escaped inside his man. He was able to offload a nice handpass to Shaun Barry, who had continued his run from breaking the puckout originally and he made no mistake with the opportunity, burying the ball pat the goalkeeper at the near post.

A sublime ten minutes of hurling showed what we could do, scoring 2-6 without reply to give us a 12-point lead. John Chawke made a great save at the start of the second period of extra-time to deny any hope of a Bruff comeback; he got down low to block the drilled shot and deflected it over the bar. Adrian Garvey was now getting on a huge amount of ball in the middle third, Barry O’Connell was sweeping up in defence and Kyle Hayes was prominent in attack. Bruff did get another point but as they launched balls in looking for goals, our backs held firm and we saw out the victory. We would get the final score of the game, as Dylan Corrigan’s fine run ended with him being fouled and Adam struck his 11th point of the game to give us an 11-point victory.

There is plenty of improvement needed ahead of a county final, but that is a great position to be in and the team did show flashes of the quality that they can offer and whiin ech they have offered this season. The final scoreline is tough on Bruff; they battled very hard and credit to them for that: with 14 men, they did brilliantly to drag the game to extra-time when lesser teams may have let the heads drop. We can be very pleased with our freshness and energy in extra-time as well as the impact made by the bench. Well done to all involved: to all the players; to manager Chris Sexton, to coach Peter Finn and all those who have helped get us back into a county final!

A special mention to a true legend of the club, Mr. John Chawke. He played this game two days after the birth of his son, Billy; scored two massive frees from inside in his own ’45 and made a couple of crucial saves, particularly the one in extra-time! So, thank you John and everybody involved with the club would like to wish you, April and Billy the very very best!

Team: John Chawke (0-2, 0-2 frees); Luke O’Keeffe, Tony McCarthy, Kevin O’Connell; Cían Hayes, Barry O’Connell, Lorcan O’Leary; Conor Staff, Peter Nash; Shaun Barry (1-4, 0-3 frees), Kyle Hayes (0-1), Cathal Downes; Liam Griffin, Darren O’Connell, Adam Butler (0-11, 0-8 frees)

Subs: Jack O’Keeffe (0-1) for Liam Griffin (half-time); Adrian Garvey for Conor Staff (53 mins); Dylan Corrigan (1-1) for Luke O’Keeffe (56 mins); Keel Moloney for Cathal Downes (75 mins)