O’Loughin Gaels 2-19
They say that goals win matches.
Whoever ‘they’ are, they were proven right once more in Ballyhale on Saturday afternoon as O’Loughlin Gaels ruthlessness in front of goal was the key difference between two evenly matched sides in the quarter-final of the Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship.
O’Loughlin’s made the perfect start to the game when Paddy Deegan, who has been deployed as a full forward this season, made it 1-02 to 0-02 after five minutes with a well-taken goal following a start to the game that saw both sides exchange early points.
Mullinavat had a goal chance of their own soon after Deegan’s stroke but O’Loughlin Gaels goalkeeper Stephen Murphy made a superb save from close range to make sure that the town side held onto a slight advantage.
There were more scores traded between the teams throughout the opening quarter, but O’Loughlin’s struck again on the stroke of the first half water break as the experienced and in-form Mark Bergin scored the second goal of the game following a brilliant run from the vibrant Owen Wall who provided Bergin with a glorious opportunity to double Andy Comerford’s side’s lead. Unsurprisingly, the star forward made no mistake.
Those goals, despite coming early in the game, would prove to be the decisive factor between two teams who have been difficult to separate in both their league and championship games in 2021.
It was akin to the league clash between the two sides last month as frees were the main source of scores for both teams with John Walsh and Mark Bergin lethal as always from placed balls.
Those scores saw the half-time scoreboard reading 2-07 to 0-10.
Three Bergin frees and an excellent score from play from Conor Kelly saw O’Loughlin’s move six points ahead and while they constantly did their best to eat into that lead, Mullinavat simply could not recover from the first half goals that the 2016 champions had clinically dispatched of in the opening stages of what was an otherwise tight affair.
The southern club did come within two points of their opponents, 2-12 to 0-16, with less than ten minutes remaining, but Bergin continued to take advantage of ill-discipline with his expert free-taking as O’Loughlin’s finished strongly, while Mullinavat eventually faded as a result of their comeback efforts proving to be in vein.
O’Loughlin Gaels become the first team to qualify for the semi-finals and will await tomorrow’s results and draw to find out who they will be facing.
For Mullinavat, a wonderful season comes to an end. They can take consolation in the knowledge that the work done in the club has bared fruit this year with a shield final berth and a solid campaign on the whole.