By Brian McDonnell at the Ragg
County Under-21B Hurling Semi-Final
Portroe 3-12 Cashel King Cormacs 2-14
Portroe edged out Cashel King Cormacs in a thrilling county under-21B semi-final at the Ragg on St Stephen’s Day.
The men from north Tipperary over-turned a five-point half time deficit and had Michael Sheedy, John Sheedy, James Ryan and Mark Gennery to thank for outstanding efforts.
Cashel however were left cursing their misfortune. The men from the west were leading by six points in the 38th minute (2-12 to 2-6) when outstanding centre-back Lee Burke was forced off through injury.
Thereafter Portroe came at Cashel in waves and although it is difficult to ascertain whether Burke could have changed the course of the final third of this encounter it certainly is an argument worth making.
Portroe hurled into a stiff breeze in the opening half and enjoyed a dream start when Mark Gennery plundered a goal following some very sloppy Cashel defending in the very first minute. Cashel responded with smashing points from Dylan Fitzelle and Adrian Cummins, but Portroe looked the stronger and franked their dominance with a John Sheedy brace (one free, one ’65) before Michael Sheedy worked a quick free into the hand of his brother and John flashed over a cracker of a point in eighth minute - 1-3 to 0-2.
An Adrian Cummins ’65, a long-range Gearóid Slattery effort and another Adrian Cummins free cut the margin to a single point by the 19th minute, but Portroe surged away from Cashel in a devastating 20th minute when James Ryan smacked over a great point and seconds later Michael Sheedy gathered a quick puck-out from Ciarán Quilligan and picked out John Sheedy who raced through before lashing an unstoppable shot into the roof of Daniel Murphy’s net - 2-4 to 0-5.
In an extraordinary turnaround Cashel, finally making clever use of the elements, then hit Portroe with 2-5 and led 2-10 to 2-5 at the break.
An Adrian Cummins point set Cashel on their way in the 21st minute and David Shiels added another from play three minutes later before Eoin Ryan scrambled home a goal after Portroe failed to clear in the 25th minute.
Portroe responded with a John Sheedy free, but a superb individual effort from Robert Anglim got Cashel moving in the right direction before Eoin Ryan laid off to Alan Coughlan in the 29th minute and the full-forward absolutely buried a three-pointer. Two minutes into first half injury time an Adrian Cummins free forced Cashel into a 2-10 to 2-5 interval lead.
Adrian Cummins and John Sheedy traded frees in the opening minutes of the second half before Portroe’s Ciarán Quilligan made a vital save to deny Cummins a goal in the 36th minute.
An Adrian Cummins ’65 helped Cashel into a 2-12 to 2-6 lead by the 37th minute, but within seconds of that score Cashel centre-back Lee Burke was forced off through injury.
Portroe were now winning possession on a regular basis at half-forward with a John Sheedy point cutting the deficit to five points in the 44th minute.
Four minutes later the margin was reduced to two points in spectacular fashion - John Sheedy’s searching delivery picked out Mark Gennery on the edge of the square, Gennery won it and with two Cashel defenders swinging out of him managed to lash home a priceless three-pointer.
Five minutes later a John Sheedy free left just one between them and within seconds of that effort Portroe’s Jack Keating was fouled and Sheedy smacked over the equaliser from long-range. In the 55th minute Mark Gennery was pulled down in unceremonious fashion and the unerring Sheedy fired his side back into the lead - 3-10 to 2-12.
In the 61st minute, fully 24 minutes since they had last scored, Cashel re-introduced Lee Burke to the fray, this time at full-forward, and Burke had an immediate impact when winning a free which Adrian Cummins belted over.
A minute later Michael Sheedy won a puck-out and fed John Sheedy who fired his side back into the lead - 3-11 to 2-13.
Cashel responded however when Dylan Fitzelle embarked on a mazy run which culminated when Fitzelle landed a terrific point in the 63rd minute, but Portroe responded once more when second half substitute Thomas Knox helped his side back into the lead - 3-12 to 2-14.
Cashel enjoyed one final opportunity to rescue the situation - in the 65th minute Simon Delaney won the ball, charged forward and opened the shoulders. Delaney’s effort looked certain to drop over the bar, but Ciarán Quilligan denied Cashel a dramatic equaliser when he, somehow, managed to block out the ball and clear his lines. A wonderful piece of goalkeeping.
Portroe: Ciarán Quilligan, Nigel Flood, Andrew McCloskey, Conor Leo, Niall Gleeson, Michael Sheedy, Cormac Shouldice, Christopher O’Riordan, Jack Keating, Stephen Kennedy, Mark Gennery (2-0), Cathal O’Brien, John Sheehy (1-10, 0-6 frees, 0-1 ’65), Ian O’Donnell, James Ryan (0-1). Subs: Thomas Knox (0-1) for Ian O’Donnell (52).
Cashel King Cormacs: Daniel Murphy, Paddy Morrissey, Kevin O’Leary, Declan Horan, Michael Killian O’Dwyer, Lee Burke, John Darmody, Simon Delaney, David Shiels (0-1), Gearóid Slattery (0-1), Adrian Cummins (0-9, 0-4 frees, 0-2 ‘65s), Dylan Fitzelle (0-2), Eoin Ryan (1-0), Alan Coughlan (1-0), Robert Anglim (0-1). Subs: Fionán Ryan for Lee Burke (41), Niall Fitzgerald for Robert Anglim (52), Lee Burke for Alan Coughlan (60).