By Brian McDonnell at Dolla
County Minor A
Nenagh Éire Óg 2-10
Nenagh Éire Óg got the better of Holycross-Ballycahill in a thrilling county minor A hurling semi-final hosted at Dolla on Saturday.
There was little to choose between the sides following a terrific open half of hurling (1-5 to 0-8). Holycross-Ballycahill, who were now playing against a stiff breeze, made a significant stand in the opening eleven minutes of the second half and led 0-12 to 1-7.
With Seánie Nally, Jamie Woods, Brian Hanrahan and Tom Quinlan in superb form the Mid champions looked capable of forcing their way into the county final.
However Nenagh Éire Óg, driven by their ambition to win a seventh minor A county title and nourished by the disappointment of losing last year’s decider to Mullinahone, stormed back into this semi-final. Indeed, Nenagh Éire Óg out-scored Holycross-Ballycahill 1-3 to a single point when it mattered most.
Barry Heffernan, Conor Ryan, Donnacha Quinn and James Mackey caught the eye for Nenagh Éire Óg, but the key man proved to be fifteen-year-old Shane Hennessy who was absolutely outstanding.
Right from the start this was ferocious stuff. Three times in the opening six minutes Holycross-Ballycahill took aim at the Nenagh Éire Óg posts and scored - initially Jamie Woods cut over a sideline before Tom Quinlan and Ciarán Maher helped their side into a 0-3 to no-score lead.
Nenagh Éire Óg gritted their teeth however with an Andrew Coffey point getting his side off the mark in the seventh minute before Luke Kennedy flicked Barry Heffernan’s booming clearance past the advancing Liam Moloney in the 11th minute and Éire Óg now led 1-1 to 0-3.
Points from Jamie Woods and Tom Quinlan helped Holycross-Ballycahill back into a 0-5 to 1-1 lead by the 15th minute, but Éire Óg responded with a Donnacha Quinn free in a match which was fast developing into an exciting affair.
Jamie Woods set up Tom Quinlan for his third point from play in the 20th minute to hand Holycross-Ballycahill a 0-6 to 1-2 advantage. The powerful Brian Hanrahan then added to the Mid men’s tally, but Nenagh responded once more when James Mackey and Donnacha Quinn plundered excellent points to tie it up (1-4 to 0-7) in the 23rd minute.
Jamie Woods and Donnacha Quinn traded frees to close out the opening half, but before the sides retired Nenagh Éire Óg enjoyed a wonderful goal-scoring opportunity when Andrew Coffey picked out James Mackey with a searching delivery. Mackey rounded his man, but was denied a goal when ‘keeper Liam Moloney made a superb save at his near post.
Half-time: Nenagh Éire Óg 1-5 Holycross-Ballycahill 0-8.
James Mackey set up Donnacha Quinn for a point which helped Nenagh back into the lead after just nineteen seconds of the second half, but Holycross-Ballycahill responded superbly to the challenge. The Mid champions won two frees in quick succession, Jamie Woods converted and Holycross-Ballycahill led 0-10 to 1-6 by the 36th minute.
Éire Óg’s Shane Hennessy fired over a magnificent left-handed effort to level matters, but Holycross-Ballycahill appeared to hold the upper hand with a Paul Morris point and a Jamie Woods free helping their side into what appeared a significant 0-12 to 1-7 lead in the 41st minute.
Éire Óg were further frustrated by firing two poor wides before Shane Hennessy, who was now exacting a huge influence on the game from midfield, won the ball and fed Donnacha Quinn who raced through before passing to Bob O’Brien in the 44th minute. O’Brien then fired a left-handed shot into the roof of the Holycross-Ballycahill net - 2-7 to 0-12.
Five minutes later Nenagh’s Shane Hennessy won yet another fifty-fifty ball and passed to Donnacha Quinn belted over a great point to leave two between them.
Two more Éire Óg wides followed as Holycross-Ballycahill desperately tried to respond. In the 56th minute a Jamie Woods free cut the deficit to a single point (0-13 to 2-8), but Éire Óg responded almost immediately when Philip Hickey fired over a smashing right-handed effort. Then, in the 58th minute, Éire Óg harassed a Holycross-Ballycahill defender into over-carrying, Donnacha Quinn converted the resultant free and Nenagh led 2-10 to 0-13.
Holycross-Ballycahill charged forward during the closing minutes, but could not find the three-pointer which could have rescued the situation. They did enjoy half chances, but Darragh Gleeson saved well from Peter Gavin in the 61st minute and then Paul Morris was crowded out before firing wide of a crowded goalmouth.
Nenagh Éire Óg: Darragh Gleeson, Niall Kennedy, Michael Collins, Conor Ryan, Adam Grattan, Barry Heffernan, Aodhán Geaney, Andrew Coffey (0-1), Killian Gleeson, Bob O’Brien (captain, 1-0), Donnacha Quinn (0-6, 0-3 frees), Shane Hennessy (0-1), Gary Howard, Luke Kennedy (1-0), James Mackey (0-1). Subs: (35th) Philip Hickey (0-1) for Gary Howard, (58th) Gavin O’Connor for Luke Kennedy.
Holycross-Ballycahill: Liam Moloney, Jack Skehan, Kieran O’Dwyer, Conor Ryan, Ray Nally, Seánie Nally (captain), Pa O’Dwyer, Shane Ryan, Paul Morris (0-1), Páraic Russell, Jamie Woods (0-7, 0-6 frees, 0-1 sideline), Tom Quinlan (0-3), Luke O’Meara, Brian Hanrahan (0-1), Ciarán Maher (0-1). Subs: (51st) Peter Gavin for Ciarán Maher, (51st) Mattie Stakelum for Luke O’Meara, (60th) Callum O’Connor for Brian Hanrahan.
Referee: John O’Brien (Arravale Rovers).