Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship Final

Kildimo/Pallaskenry 0-18 Blackrock 0-18
A serious battle in the Premier Intermediate Hurling Final in the Gaelic Grounds ended all square, and it means that ourselves and Blackrock must do it all again in three weeks time! The game ebbed and flowed, the intensity was huge and both sides certainly had chances to win it but we have to go again!

We had a bright start, took control of the opening stages and raced into an early lead! The ever-dangerous Darren O’Connell got our first score after being fed by Peter Nash. He broke the tackle and struck straight off the hurley to open the scoring inside the opening minute. Blackrock were quick to respond with a point of their own, but we would then get three of the next four scores. When Lorcan O’Leary broke a ball for Peter Nash to get onto, he was then fouled and John Chawke drove the free over the bar from deep inside in his own half. Our next score was also a score from distance: a Blackrock clearance was well-read by Cían Hayes, he burst forward and drove the ball between the uprights from the ’65! Blackrock reduced the deficit to just a point with the next score before Shaun Barry scored his first free of the afternoon, after Darren O’Connell had been dragged as he attempted to rise the ball.

This gave us a two-point advantage but over the next 15 minutes, Blackrock would hit a real purple patch and would reel off a number of scores without reply. We had opportunities during this period, but hit a couple of wides, while Blackrock were hitting some great scores from all angles. This meant they were able to turn our two-point lead into a four-point advantage for them. We needed a score and again it came from the stick of Shaun Barry, after Darren O’Connell was fouled once again. But Blackrock came back strong once more and managed to hit two points in the space of a minute which gave them a five-point advantage. During this period, they were getting a huge amount of bodies in the middle third and were winning a lot of dirty ball.

A clever steal of possession by Darren O’Connell saw him race in behind the Blackrock half-back line and tap the ball over the bar for his second point of the afternoon. We did really up the intensity in the final minutes of the first half and began to dominate that middle third sector where Blackrock had had the upper hand. Good work rate from our forwards forced Blackrock to concede a sideline on the right wing, and Shaun Barry cut the ball straight over the bar with the minimum amount of fuss, a wonderful piece of skill from the young Pallaskenry man. Conor Staff then did brilliantly to turn over a Blackrock half-back who received a short puck-out, then linked up with Kyle Hayes who played a lovely crossfield pass straight into the hand of Adam Butler. Adam showed deadly accuracy to strike the ball over his shoulder and straight over the bar. It was a run of three scores in a row which closed the gap to two points but Blackrock struck two more quick scores before the break which was a blow, leaving the half-time score: Kildimo/Pallaskenry 0-8 Blackrock 0-12.

We knew that we had only shown flashes of what we were capable of in the first half: we had got a couple of nice scores and our full-back line were defending admirably but there were some elementary skill errors at times which were punished clinically by Blackrock. Players on both sides were slipping and sliding throughout which was unfortunate; the heavy rain during the days previous making conditions treacherous even though the weather on the day was perfect for hurling. We started the second half well, with the likes of Peter Nash winning a couple of vital balls in the early stages before good work from Conor Staff and Cathal Downes saw them turn over a Blackrock back, with Conor then being fouled. Shaun fired the resulting free straight over the bar once more. Our supporters were then given risen to get to their feet when Cían Hayes met a Blackrock forward with an absolute bonecruncher of a shoulder, knocking the forward back; Barry O’Connell followed up with another excellent hit and Peter Nash completed the turnover and then won a free. The free was then brought forward to the Blackrock ’65 following dissent and Shaun Barry drove the ball straight over the bar once again!

Blackrock responded with a very well-taken snapshot but immediately after, Adam Butler did brilliantly to break the ball when surrounded by three Blackrock defenders and linked up with Liam Griffin but was fouled as he did so and once more Shaun Barry converted the free! Some brilliant defending then saw us win the ball in our backline, with the likes of Barry O’Connell and Peter Nash heavily involved before Shaun Barry did brilliantly to retrieve possession and deliver a perfect pass in front of Darren O’Connell. Darren escaped his marker and fired over the bar on the turn off his left side, an absolutely excellent score which cut the gap to just one point. However, Blackrock again responded instantly and although we were starting to get on top of a lot of the exchanges, they were determined not to allow us level the game.

John Chawke then did brilliantly to prevent a point as he put his hurley up and brought the sliotar down before it went over the crossbar. He then launched the ball into attack and although Blackrock won the primary possession, Shaun Barry did very well to intercept and popped a quick pass to Darren O’Connell, who flashed it straight over the bar. That was Darren’s fourth point from play on the day, again our top scorer from open play, not to mention having won three scoreable frees also. The gap was again one point, but again Blackrock struck back immediately and won a free just outside the ’45, which was converted with consummate ease. But straight from the puckout, Kyle Hayes brought the ball down deep in the Blackrock half and was immediately fouled. Again, Shaun made no mistake with the free to cut the gap to just one point again!

The final fifteen minutes of this contest were absolutely enthralling, the intensity offered by both sides was huge. Both sets of players fought desperately for every ball, the hits were hard and it was really what you would expect from a county final. We had a chance to take the lead when Shaun Barry again delivered a lovely ball from out on the wing toward the full-forward position, Darren O’Connell rose and plucked it from the sky and turned away from his marker, Richie McCarthy. He was one-on-one with the goalkeeper and although he did almost everything right: struck it hard, kept it low and beat the goalkeeper; unfortunately it just whistled past the post, inches wide! The drama in these minutes was huge; we hit a wide just after that goal chance and then Blackrock were awarded a penalty!

Their forward had caught the ball and looked like he had been well held up as he went to throw the ball up for his shot, but referee Eamonn Stapleton spotted an infringement. However, before Blackrock could take the penalty, the referee’s attention was called by his umpires at the other end of the pitch for an off-the-ball incident. This resulted in the Blackrock goalkeeper receiving a straight red card, which then saw the Blackrock corner-forward slot back into goal. In what were a couple of drama-packed minutes, John Chawke then stood tall and saved the Blackrock penalty, and flicked the ball away to safety! We were unlucky not to level the game during the same passage of play but Darren O’Connell was dragged to ground shortly after and Shaun Barry did level matters!

This left the game at fifteen points apiece with seven minutes of ordinary time remaining. As is often the case, the side with fourteen men dug deep and found a reaction. They scored a free almost immediately and moments later, a quick free was claimed by their full-forward, who popped it over the bar. Suddenly, a level game was now a two-point lead for Blackrock with the clock ticking away. They then went three points up when they won a free inside the ’45 which was converted once again. With three minutes of ordinary time remaining, we were three points down but having weathered the Blackrock storm, we kicked on again.

Experienced substitute Adrian Garvey made a very clever run inside the Blackrock ’21 and was picked out by Darren O’Connell; he was fouled as he bore down on goal, which gave Shaun Barry the chance to strike yet another free! The likes of Tony McCarthy emerged with the ball on a number of occasions in the closing stages, while the likes of Adrian Garvey and Shaun Barry made some big interventions. Another huge tackle by Cían Hayes won a sideline in our own half-back line and Liam Griffin cut the ball up the line to Dylan Corrigan inside in the corner, who was fouled. Shaun again kept his cool to fire the free over the bar. After another enthralling passage of play, Barry O’Connell did well to flick the ball away from a Blackrock man which was picked up by Adrian Garvey and once more, he took on his marker and was fouled.

Our bench made a huge impact once again, Adrian winning two frees in those vital last moments and Dylan Corrigan also winning one while himself and Jack O’Keeffe also won a couple of vital balls in the forward line. But this free gave the opportunity to Shaun Barry to level the game under huge pressure. He had had an immense game to date, winning an amount of dirty ball, creating a couple of scoring opportunities as well as nailing nine frees and a sideline. In stoppage time in a county final, the 19-year-old showed unbelievable nerve to strike the sliotar straight over the black spot to level the game, his eleventh point of the afternoon! Both sides felt they had chances to minute in the dying embers but perhaps a draw was a fair result in what was a pulsating encounter.

It means that we have to do it all again in three weeks’ time, with the replay fixed for Saturday, October 26 at 6pm under lights in the Gaelic Grounds. Many thanks to our incredibly vocal support who drove the team on in the final few minutes, and we hope to see you all again in three weeks’ time! The atmosphere in what was a very exciting contest was huge, and although the tension may have unbearable in those dying minutes! Many thanks also to our team sponsors Champion Sliotars/Team Car Flag Ireland and to all our others sponsors who contributed ads in the matchday programme, as well as our list of patrons; your support is always appreciated!

Team: John Chawke (0-1, free); Kevin O’Connell, Tony McCarthy, Luke O’Keeffe; Cían Hayes (0-1), Barry O’Connell, Lorcan O’Leary; Conor Staff, Peter Nash; Shaun Barry (0-11, 0-10 frees, 0-1 sideline), Kyle Hayes, Cathal Downes; Liam Griffin, Darren O’Connell (0-4), Adam Butler (0-1)

Subs: Adrian Garvey for Cathal Downes (42 mins); Dylan Corrigan for Adam Butler (46 mins); Jack O’Keeffe for Conor Staff (51 mins)

Panel: James Mason, Danny O’Sullivan, Keel Moloney, Mikey Dillon, Jai Chaudri, Evan Considine, Naoise McGarrigle, Jack Mullane, Evan McCarthy, Darragh O’Brien, James Pomeroy, Brendan O’Shea, Darren O’Shea, Paudi Hartigan, Kieran O’Brien, Matthew Lucey, Mikey Hayes, Ruairi Maher, Ciarán Downes, Eoin O’Brien, Ryan Kelly