After two epic clashes last weekend where St. Mullins and Bagenalstown Gaels earned their place at the ultimate stage of the Carlow Senior Hurling Championship.
The O’Connor Cup would certainly be making its way from the confines of Mount Leinster Rangers after their shock semifinal defeat at the hands of Gavin Nolan and his Gaels. St. Mullins are no stranger to these occasions though, boasting 27 titles to their name.
The news would reverberate around Carlow that the Carlow talisman and St. Mullins stalwart that Marty “Mouse” Kavanagh would be returning from his American dalliances for this final. St. Mullins boss Maurice Alyward was coy when he spoke with Scoreline the day before, and indeed there was no sign on the hitman in the starting line up.
The Sun shone down on Netwatch Cullen Park, as Carlow fans proudly sang Amhran Na Bhfiann along with the musical stylings of the Killeshin pipe band. Before the inevitable roar from the crowd egging on their soldiers, signaling the war has begun.
Martin McDonald got Bagenalstown Gaels off to a flyer after just 20 seconds, as if to say we have arrived. Paddy Boland replied tapping over from a Jack Kavanagh pass to make it a point a piece, but McDonald went up the other end and immediately put the Gaels back on top. It was a proper back and forth now with St. Mullins drawing level before James Doyle put them ahead with five minutes gone.
St. Mullins started charging ahead when Jason O’Neill doubled St. Mullins lead. A clever foul by Darragh Nolan stopped a possible goal, taking one for the parish, when he fouled Paddy Boland who may have been through on goal, with James Doyle putting the resulting free over the bar to make it. JP Tracey made it a two-point game, trying to stop the ascension of Naomh Moyling. It was a case of you score, we get a score as John Doyle, who scored 1-02 last week for St. Mullins, grabbed a great ball from the air showing why he is a top prospect for the county. It was John Doyle again for St. Mullins with the next score, but Bagenalstown’s Jack McCullagh got a much-needed score for the Gaels next making it 0-07 to 0-04 after just eleven minutes.
Hectic stuff, John Doyle once again proved pivotal for St. Mullins, picking the ball out of the air, laying it off for James Doyle third point of the game to make it a two score game. The Doyles were on fire, on both sides, Bagenalstown boasted five Doyles in the starting lineup and it was Craig Doyle who got the next point.
Then a huge blow occurred for Bagenalstown Gaels as St.Mullins put the ball in the back of the onion net. Philip Connors carried the ball down the left wing before putting it in for Jason O’Neill to run onto it. Almost like a volley on his stick, a tennis strike if you will, O’Neill got the first goal of the county final. Making it 1-08 to 0-05 points. I can barely keep up, and unfortunately for Gavin Nolan his side could not keep up as James Doyle continued St. Mullins dominance grabbing the next score with a point from a free.
From the far side, Jason O’Neill put St. Mullins into double digits in the points, before the game went into a lull for the next few minutes, four to be exact. After that Jack McCullough had a fantastic score for Bagenalstown, however the roar from the crowd seemed to indicate the ball went into the back of the net. Unfortunately for them it did not, but the much needed score was welcome regardless. James Doyle replied immediately getting his fifth, three from play and two from frees. JP Treacy was solid as concrete for his second point as the game seemed to be getting back into gear.
It was another one for McCullagh as the halftime whistle blew, giving hope for his side as they headed down the tunnel to the dressing room. However St. Mullins do still have an ace up their sleeve, Marty Kavanagh awaited his introduction.
Half time: St. Mullins 1-12 Bagenalstown Gaels 0-08
James Doyle got the first on the half, turning the seven point deficit to eight. The scoreboard did not reflect the point, and many wondered did just the second wide of the game occur. It was rectified, but it would need to be changed very quickly after as the 22 year old plumber Jason O’Neill plunged Bagenalstown into further darkness. He picked a ball out of the air, hit in by Oisin Boland, caught it, and smacked it in the back of the net to get the second goal of the game
Then the inevitable change happened. There was a mouse in the house, Marty Kavanagh made his introduction to the game.
Jason O’Neill continued his surge on the field grabbing another three points for himself and the cup now looked destined to go to St. Mullins. James Doyle added to the misery making it 2-17 to 0-08 points, as the Gaels struggled to get going in the second half. Jason O’Neill certainly got going though adding another point to his tally.
Craig Doyle got the first point for Bagenalstown of the half after 21 minutes. They were not waiting as long for their second, and they hit double digits, unfortunately sandwiched between that was Marty Kavanagh picking a point for himself.
The match petered out, as to be expected. All though neither team threw in the towel, the blistering pace of the first half combined with the sun no doubt a huge drain on the players. The well blew his whistle and thus brought the Carlow Senior Hurling Championship.
Full time score: St. Mullins 2-22 Bagenalstown Gaels 0-11
Commiserations to Bagenalstown Gaels, it is not easy to lose a final, but they will undoubtedly use this as a building block for next year. St. Mullins and their fans will no doubt be buoyed by the win obviously, but also the performance. They were dangerous throughout the whole game and now they can look on with hope to the Leinster Championship.
In five weeks’ time St. Mullins will battle for provincial success, when they go up against whoever will be named as Wexford champions.