James Stephens 1-17 4-9 O’Loughlin Gaels
By Patrick O’Flynn
Rarely does a replay live up to the hype of the drawn classic that took place in Jenkinstown where Cian Kenny rescued the Village in the dying embers of the game but by god did this replay live up to expectations.
The Duggan Steel U-16 Roinn A Hurling championship came down to the 64th minute in Palmerstown where James Stephens leading since the 5th minute of the match seemed to have held off O’Loughlin Gaels when Jamie Reid again denied Conor Kelly with a smart save but from the clearance Kelly again found possession and his pass to Niall Higgins save the midfielder take a chance with a spinning shot from distance which landed up in the back of the net. Cue delirium from the St Johns outfit who after 130 odd minutes hurling stood atop the podium.
Huge crowds had gathered in Palmerstown and Conor Kelly got the show on the road with a fine point almost straight from the throw in which was followed by fellow O’Loughlin’s player Ethan Kerwick sending the white flag waving.
For the rest of the half it belonged to one man, probably one of the smallest on the field – James Stephens Eoin Guilfoyle.
In the space of four minutes and 21 seconds the live wire full forward landed five points in a row – one a real gem from out on the side line before the men clad in Green & White eventually came for air with a pointed free from Kelly.
Soon after Guilfoyle showed huge temperament and class before offloading possession to Leon a Hayes to rifle the sloithar home.
Guilfoyle again added a further two points and was threatening to turn into a one man show but again Kelly added a pointed free.
Aodh O’Connor & John McNamara swapped points before O’Loughlins Ronan Lavelle pulled a point back. Jamie O’Keeffe scored a storming point from midfield for the Village men.
Jamie Reid pulled off the first of a superb hat trick of saves from Kelly with Kelly pointing the resulting free but Guilfoyle had the last say of the half landing a point to end the half 1-11 to 0-7 ahead. Admittedly having played with a strong breeze.
Guilfoyle began the half with two pointed frees sandwiched between a Kelly free.
O’Loughlins thought they had come back into the game when Kelly split the defence finding Kerwick in space and the corner forward duly found the back of the net.
The Village men were not about to panic with Guilfoyle landing a hat trick of points by the 41st minute to negate the effect of the goal and possibly the winning surge of the match but then again anything can happen in hurling.
Sensing they needed goals to get back into the game Kelly again went at the heart of the Village defence, his shot stopped by Reid but Lavelle picked up the rebound to send the green flag waving.
Seconds later it was like an action replay with Kelly’s shot this time rifling to the back of the net. He soon followed up with a pointed free as the Village defence decided he was not going to get past the 3rd time.
Wisely the Village mentors decided to cut out the space which lead to no score until the 53rd minute when Cian Kenny landed a sweet point from out on the wing for the Kells Road outfit.
The game seemed to be going the way of James Stephens till those dramatic few moments and they’ll be haunted by it but they had hugely contributed to two exciting games and an exciting championship with Guilfoyle being abley assisted by Aodh O’Connor, Jason Butler, Jamie Reid & O’Keeffe.
O’Loughlin Gaels will take great joy from this Houdini act and can largely thank Conor Kelly, Ethan Kerwick, Ben Tyrell and Jamie Young for this win.
James Stephens: 1 Jamie Reid, 2 Michael O Brien 3 Jason Butler 4 Cian Russell 5 Thomas Nugent 6 Jim Ryan 7 Sean McKee 8 Jamie O’Keeffe 9 Ben O Shaughnessy 10 Leon Hayes 11 Aodh O Connor 12 Cian Kenny capt 13 Naill Mcevoy 14 Eoin Guilfoyle 15 Chris O’Connor.
Subs Sean Ruth for O’Brien 24th Min
1. Declan Murphy
2. Donal O’Leary
3. David Fogarty
4. Ian O’Keeffee
5. Peter McNamara
6. Jamie Young
7. Ben Tyrrell
8. Niall Higgins
9. Declan Coffey
10. John McNamara
11. Conor Kelly
12. Jack Sheridan
13. Ronan Lavelle
14. Vinny O’Grady
15. Ethan Kerwick
Charlie Maher for O’Grady 51st minute, William Slattery for McNamara 60th minute
Ref: Stephen Delaney (Graigue Ballycallan)