U16 Final Replay Level Again

Pádraig Pearses 2-9 Mullagh/Kiltormer 1-12: Report by Martina Donnellan. It was a bit like ‘Taken’ or ‘Double Jeopardy’ or one of those edge of the seat movies where the unexpected happens! Duggan Park, Ballinasloe was simply heaving last night. This U16 B1 replay was an almighty game of hurling that had a bit of everything served up in one dish – a No. 14 andamp;amp; No. 11 on fire, some splendid free taking, some great sideline cuts, guts, raw passion, mighty block-downs, fist pumps, full value for a fiver and even fired up managers which kept the average hurling fan on the edge of their seat for almost all the game. A draw match between both sides last Thursday, a minor match in between, a draw after full-time last night and a draw again after extra time in what was an exhibition in sheer intensity. Nothing could separate Pearses and Mullagh-Kiltormer U16’s for the 2nd time and what’s more, if either team had sneaked a win; it simply wouldn’t have been fair.

Needless to say, Tony Walsh and his management team knew they would need to tighten up their defence if they were to win the U16 B1 title. To help out the defence, the work-rate would also have to improve in the forward line. And so it did. From the off, the rise in intensity was clear. A young Pearses outfit showed great hunger and hooked andamp;amp; blocked anything that moved. The defence lorded by Brian Kelly, Oisin Donohue, Mark Donnellan, Jack Reilly, Robert Hynes andamp;amp; Paddy Kenny (1st half) ensured only a sole player scored for Mullagh – Kiltormer in the first half – Dean Finnerty while the workrate of Luke Mitchell, Orin Burke, David Hillary, Conor Kelly, Ethan Lally, Niall Mac andamp;amp; Darragh Roche was phenomenal.

The game was only 18 seconds old when Cian Murphy got ahead of his man to meet Orin Burke’s delivery and tap over. Immediately Mullagh –Kiltormer’s talisman Dean Finnerty equalised from play. Ciano put Pearses ahead again on 7mins through a free after he was fouled himself. This was quickly cancelled out by Dean Finnerty’s point from play. Finnerty’s free pushed Mull-Kill a point ahead through a free and Pearses received a let-off when Cillian Finnerty slipped the ball under Oisin Donohue; it found its way to the unmarked Ben Bleahen but luckily he failed to connect and his fresh air pull failed to trouble Harry Mitchell. Ciano’s free spilt the posts on 16mins after Darragh Roche was fouled. Then a whopper of a sideline from Cian Murphy was batted down by Paddy Kenny to himself and his ground strike whizzed right across the mouth of the goal. An exact replica followed moments later when Ciano’s sideline cut found Paddy and as he struck the ball on the bounce, this time it sailed over the crossbar.

Immediately down the other end, Niall MacDonagh made a vital blockdown at the opportune time and the danger was cleared by Oisin Donohue. Mark Donnellan conceded a 65’ when a high ball slipped through his fingers and Finnerty converted the 65’ to level matters on 22mins. Finnerty added two more before the interval; his first from play as he weaved through a number of Pearses backs and converted a free just before the break to leave the half time score: Pearses 0-4; Mullagh-Kiltormer 0-6 in a closely fought first half.

The 2nd half was only 30seconds old when a quickly taken free from Luke Mitchell was met by Ciano who turned his man and spilt the posts. Conor Dolphin responded with an effort from play and Finnerty landed three frees and a 65’ by 42mins to open up a 6 point lead, by far the widest margin of the game; 0-11 to 0-5 Mull-Kill in charge as things were looking despairing for the Pearses lads. Then Ciano came of age as Orin Burke and Conor Kelly did the grappling in the ruck and the loose ball was picked up by Ciano underneath the stand and his high lobbing ball provided the game’s first goal as he lobbed the goalie to an emphatic roar. This urged on the Pearses lads and renewed hope and vigour. Suddenly Pearses were back in it. Conor Kelly’s hard work won him the ball which he ran in towards the endline, crossed to Paddy Kenny whose sweet lift and strike and bang… the back of the net. Draw match 2-5 to 0-11.

Conor Moran had half a chance after Paddy Kenny did the donkey work but his effort went harmlessly wide while Finnerty’s pop from play also tailed wide. ??Cian Murphy pushed Pearses a point ahead from a free after the workhorse Luke Mitchell was fouled. Paddy Kenny had another goal chance on 50mins after Cian Murphy floated in another superb sideline which was batted out by a combination of Ciaran Craughwell in the Mull-Kill goals and a defender and fell nicely for Paddy whose ground stroke went the wrong side of the post. Finnerty had another effort for the lads in blue which hit the post with the rebound cleared by Niall Mac but only as far as their forward who struck over to level the game. With 60mins on the clock Conor Dolphin’s free tailed wide and it was like an apparition to see the man in white wave his arms to flag the wide. Conor Moran had an effort with the clock ticking down which dropped short while Finnerty’s effort from play was wide with 63mins on the clock. All eyes were on Gerry Hurley as the game entered its final plays and eventually he blew up with 64’ on the clock and so to extra time.

A quick re-group by both sides hardly left the faithful diehards time for a cuppa to warm one up before throw in once again. Pearses were quickest out of the blocks in extra time as Orin Burke fired over after Darragh Roche was involved in the build-up while David Hillary found Ethan Lally who was fouled and Ciano dispatched the free relatively easy. Ciano converted his 5th free 8mins into the first period of extra time after Robert Hynes scooped the ball up nicely for him to latch on to and his almighty whopper of an effort was batted out by the goalie but as Darragh Roche followed up the resultant play he was fouled in the process. Ciano took his time to take the free as he had to nurse a bit of cramp in the meantime such was the intensity of this game. A minute later, Mull-Kill eased through the centre of Pearses defence and hand-passed to the unmarked Finnerty who scored a whopper past Harry Mitchell, his fists pumping as he ran back to his position. Then Rory Lyons had a go just before half time but thankfully again the ball sailed wide to leave the score at 2-9 to 1-12.

A short interlude and quick restart saw Finnerty shoot wide with another free while Cillian Finnerty’s effort landed in the safe hands of Harry Mitchell. Right at the end, Luke Mitchell ran through the heart of Mull-Kill and although he took a belt on the way, it looked like his effort sailed over but the umpire flagged wide. With Luke stranded on the ground, the ref went in to consult his umpires but upheld their ruling. With time up the ref blew for full time and so, yet another day out to see which team will prevail as U16B1 County final winners for 2019.

This was a classic and there’s no doubting that. If the next day serves up a similar feast, we could be set for another Meath-Dublin clash similar to 1991.

Scorers: Cian Murphy 1-7 (0-5f); Paddy Kenny 1-1; Orin Burke 0-1. ??Panel: Harry Mitchell, Robert Fahy, Mark Donnellan, Oisin Donohue, Paddy Kenny, Robert Hynes, Jack Reilly, Orin Burke, Brian Kelly, Ethan Lally, Cian Murphy, David Hillary, Niall McDonagh, Luke Mitchell, Conor Kelly, Conor Moran, Eanna Cunniffe, Darragh Roche, Peter O’Neill, Oliver Laheen, Ronan Hynes, Anthony Feeney (extracted from programme) although the team lined out differently on the night.