Loughrea Lucky to Escape!

SHC Quarter-Final, Loughrea 0-14 Pearses 1-10: Going down by just one point, to a last minute free was a cruel way for Pearses to lose this Senior Hurling Quarter-Final. Loughrea surely would have been relieved to have a draw, when target man Johnny Maher seen red for a second booking with minutes remaining, but when the chance arose for the winner, Neil Keary was unerring.
The opening half of this game was a closely contested affair, with the sidesandamp;rsquo; level on no less than five occasions. Paul Huban had Loughrea off the mark early, with a first minute point from play. Then Fearghal Flannery came forward for an early goal attempt, from a twenty-one-yard free, blazing it just over the crossbar to level the game. Loughrea then opened a two-point lead, before Tomandamp;aacute;s Flannery had his first point of the game, from a free, on the ninth minute, 0-3 to 0-2.
Cormac Ward, again leading by example, notched two points in-a-row to put Pearses in the lead for the first time. It was short-lived, as young Jamie Ryan levelled from play at the other end, 0-4 each. Johnny Maher put Loughrea back in front. Tomandamp;aacute;s Flannery levelled at the other end, on the 22nd minute. Fearghal Flannery and Johnny Maher would trade points, before the teams retired for half-time, at 0-6 each.
Loughrea outscored Pearses 0-4 to 0-1 in the opening 20 minutes of the second-half to lead 0-10 to 0-7. Pearses first score of the second half arriving after 14 minutes, again from a Tomandamp;aacute;s Flannery free. Pearses were guilty of wayward shootingandamp;nbsp;in this period, that could’ve kept the game closer. Loughrea now looked to have shook off the Pearses challenge and the neutrals in the crowd were no doubt expecting them to push on and run out easy winners. How wrong they were!
Cormac Ward, now operating at full-forward, ran on to a breaking ball in the scoreboard side goal-mouth of Kenny Park, choosing to strike first time, but not connecting fully. He regained possession and some how from a tight angle stuck the ball in the roof of Nigel Murray’s net. Back to a one point game and suddenly the Pearses following in the stand were in full voice. County Minor Ronan Bellew pointed from 45 yards to put Pearses in front. Momentum was now with Pearses, with just eight minutes remaining.
Freetakers Tomandamp;aacute;s Flannery and Neil Keary would share the final five points of the game, in an epic finish. Johnny Maher seen red, to reduce Loughrea to fourteen men and the question now was how best for Pearses to utilise the spare man in the remaining moments. As the clock ticked over the allotted 60 minutes, into injury time Pearses lead by one, 1-10 to 0-12.andamp;nbsp;
Neil Keary then slotted over a Loughrea free to level the game and it seemed a draw would be the outcome. No one would have complained! However, in the third minute of injury time Referee Leonard Fay awarded a free to Loughrea on half-way line. It was by no means a tap over, but Neil Keary made it look easy and soon after Fay sounded the final whistle.
Loughrea had escaped, but only just. John Raftery and his men will be bitterly disappointed and there is little consolation for them in moral victories, Loughrea were on the ropes. Pearses have much to be proud of having transformed themselves from Relegation candidates three years ago to genuine contenders. Next year probably seems like a decade away at this point, but this Group of players have the wherewithal to make amends for the pain of this defeat. They will be back!
Pearses: Fearghal Flannery (0-2); Anthony Kenny, Tomandamp;aacute;s Kenny, Pandamp;aacute;draic Raftery; Shane Raftery, Cyril Donnellan, Kerrill Hardiman; Ronan Bellew (0-1), Jimmy Gelston; Seandamp;aacute;n Hardiman, Cormac Ward (1-2), Colm Raftery; Gary Lally, Emmet Ward, Tomandamp;aacute;s Flannery (0-5). Subs used: Richie Lally, Aidan Kilkenny.
Loughrea: Nigel Murray, Tom Regan, Damien McClearn, Eoin Mahony, Vincent Maher, Brian Mahony, Sean Sweeney (0-1), Gavin Keary, Emmet Mahony, Neil Keary (0-6), Johnny Coen (0-2), Paul Hoban (0-1), Johnny Oandamp;rsquo;Loughlin (0-1), Johnny Maher (0-3), Jamie Ryan. Subs used: Thomas Hoban.
Referee: Leonard Fay.