Arravale Rovers 1-11
Two goals in the opening ten minutes set Loughmore-Castleiney up for victory over holders, Arravale Rovers, in a lively and high quality county under 21 A football final at Holycross on Sunday last.
Victory rests rightly where it belongs and it was a sweet one for the Mid champions who were beaten by Arravale in last year’s final and who also lost out to the Tipp town lads in the semi-final a year previously.
But it was those two goals which were to ultimately decide the issue and they left Arravale Rovers, who subsequently gave as good as they got, chasing the game. They were not helped by some slack shooting either, and their pursuit of goals to bridge the gap in the closing period, when points were available, but overall, they can not quibble with the result.
Loughmore-Castleiney were chasing their first crown since 2006 when they completed a hat-trick of championships. The experience of the past two years meant they were the hungrier for success and this was clearly evident in the opening exchanges, as with John McGrath dominating at midfield, and cousins Liam and Aidan a huge threat in attack, they took Arravale apart.
Aidan McGrath, a huge boost on his return from Australia, signalled his presence in style as he blasted home after three minutes. Three minutes later, Henry Maher was taken down and Liam McGrath was deadly accurate with the resultant penalty to give his side a 2-1 to no score lead after ten minutes.
Serious questions were now being asked of Arravale Rovers and they responded positively. David Heffernan pointed in the 13th minute and James Hogan, from a free, added another four minutes later. Game on.
With the fresh breeze helping them, Loughmore were in full flight and a brace of points each from Aidan and Liam McGrath had them 2-5 to 0-2 clear by the 25th minute. Again Arravale responded, Brian Lowry pointing twice, but Loughmore had the final say of the first half, Liam Treacy, with a great long-range effort, and Liam McGrath adding to their tally for an interval lead of 2-7 to 0-4.
Arravale Rovers were in deep trouble, and even with the breeze to aid them in the second half, they had a mountain to climb. They cannot be faulted for their endeavour, and when Brian Lowry netted for them in the 41st minute followed immediately by a Donagh Leahy point, to cut the lead to five points, their tails were up, and their task did not seem as daunting as at the break.
Typical of Loughmore however who showed admirable spirit under fire. An Arravale player was dispossessed, and with Liam McGrath orchestrating the move, Eamonn Connolly was the man in the right spot to shoot their third goal in the 45th minute.
Once again it looked all over, but once more Arravale took up the challenge. Leahy, Lowry and Gerard Mulhair pointed for them to leave them five adrift with as many minutes left. They sought goals in a couple of situations where points were readily available, and against a resolute Loughmore defence genuine goal opportunities were in short supply.
Eddie Connolly and Brian Lowry traded points before Liam McGrath rounded off a great day for Loughmore with the final point in injury time.
Loughmore-Castleiney delight with the victory was obvious and justified. After the disappointments of the two previous years, they will feel this was overdue, and all the more welcome for that. They have a wealth of young talent coming along, ably led by John, Liam and Aidan McGrath, Liam Treacy, Willie Eviston, Eamon Connolly, and John Ryan, all of whom had big games.
Arravale Rovers will be disappointed at their slow start which cost them the game. Had they been quicker off the blocks, who knows what might have happened. They too had great quality in their team, Gerard Mulhair, Sean O Meara, Donough Leahy, Niall Donovan(surprisingly withdrawn), James Hogan and the Lowrys, Ciaran and Brian being particularly prominent.
Loughmore-Castleiney – Richard Maher; Lorcan Egan, Willie Eviston, Joseph Hennessy; John Ryan, Tomas McGrath, Henry Maher; John McGrath(0-1), Joe Nyland; Eamon Connolly(1-1), Liam Treacy(0-2), Brian McGrath; Thomas Maher, Aidan McGrath(1-2), Liam McGrath (1-5); Sub Padraig Egan for Egan;
Arravale Rovers – Brian Kissane; Peter Mulhair, Gary O Callaghan, Killian Ryan; Shane Leahy, Gerard Mulhair(0-1), Cathal Donovan; Sean O Meara, Donagh Leahy(0-2); David Heffernan(0-1), Niall Donovan, Tony Byrnes; Ciaran Lowry, James Hogan(0-2), Brian Lowry(1-5); Subs- Diarmuid O Donnell for N Donovan; Johnny Lowry for Heffernan;
Ref- Derek O Mahoney, Ardfinnan