Kildangan force replay thanks to brilliant comeback

Clean Ireland Recycling County Senior Hurling Semi-Final

Clean Ireland Recycling

County Senior Hurling Semi-Final

Kildangan 2-19

Nenagh Éire Óg 4-13

The identity of the second participant in this year’s Senior Hurling Championship Final remains unknown as Kildangan and Nenagh Éire Óg played out a dramatic draw in Semple Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Although not living up to its pre-match billing, the drama that unfolded in the last quarter was worth the admission price on its own. With a quarter of an hour to go Éire Óg led comfortably by three clear goals (4-11 to 1-11). However, Kildangan drew strength from somewhere and outscored Nenagh by 1-8 to 0-2 in the final 13 minutes culminating in an equalising free from Ruairi Gleeson in the 61st minute.

While Éire Óg will naturally be disappointed to let such a commanding lead slip from their grasp, nothing has been lost at this stage and both teams start from zero in next Sunday’s replay. The obvious nerves on both sides will no longer be an issue and we can expect a far more free flowing game. Kildangan will be relieved to have a second bite at the cherry and feel that they did not do themselves justice.

Indeed it was the more experienced Kildangan that showed the greater nervousness and tension in their play, bickering with their opposite numbers and uncharacteristically fumbling with first touches. With just two starting forwards, Tadhg and Joe Gallagher scoring from play, Kildangan were heavily reliant of the accuracy of Ruairi Gleeson and Darragh Egan from placed balls. Éire Óg too had 7 scores from frees and a 65 but, in addition to Michael Heffernan’s 3-1 from play, had a much greater spread among the forwards.

The opening exchanges, although nervy, were even enough until Michael Heffernan broke the deadlock with a goal in the 17th minute to give his side a 1-4 to 0-3 lead. Heffernan struck again two minutes later, this time from 40 metres out when his bouncing effort deceived Darragh Egan between the Kildangan posts. Egan quickly repaid for his lapse with a superb goal from a 20 metre free in the 21st minute to reduce the deficit to four (2-5 to 1-4). While Michael Heffernan converted a 65 in the 25th minute it was Kildangan who finished the stronger with four unanswered points before the break to leave the interval score at 2-6 to 1-8 in favour of Éire Óg.

Kildangan continued in much the same vein in the opening minutes of the second period with Jack Loughnane popping over a nice point. Ruairi Gleeson had a goal shot well stopped by Michael McNamara in the 32nd minute but converted the resultant 65 to give Kildangan the lead for the first time since the 6th minute of the game. However it was to be a further 12 minutes before the North Champions raised a flag of any colour. Mikey Heffernan grabbed the initiative with a point from play while a couple of Kevin Tucker frees and a neat James Mackey effort put a goal between the sides (2-10 to 1-10). Paddy Murphy combined with Donnacha Quinn for a point in the 39th minute and the same duo caused havoc in the very next play when Quinn’s goal bound effort was well saved by Egan but Murphy followed up to finish the rebound to the net.

In the 44th minute Kildangan were awarded a free and Darragh Egan made the journey upfield once more. His well struck free was stopped by John Brennan at the expense of a 65 which was converted by Ruairi Gleeson. A high delivery from Billy Heffernan was plucked from the air by Michael Heffernan and smashed to the net to leave the score at 4-11 to 1-11 with a quarter hour remaining.

Kildangan kept in touch through Ruairi Gleeson (free), Joe Gallagher and Eoin Gleeson while Richie Flannery had a point for Nenagh. Joe Gallagher put the cat among the pigeons with seven minutes left when grabbing a long Ger Slattery delivery to fire home a goal. Egan and Gleeson frees reduced the gap to two but a Kevin Tucker free settled Nenagh once more. The final three minutes belonged to Kildangan. First, Tadhg Gallagher cut swathes through the Éire Óg defence for a point. Tommy Connors landed a point from centre field to leave just one between the sides before Gleeson nonchantly landed the equalising free.

Kildangan: D. Egan (1-1F); F. Hayes, D. Sweeney, M. Minehan; H. Flannery, G. Slattery (0-2), G. Byrne (0-1); J. Loughnane (0-1), T. Connors (0-1); T. Gallagher (0-3), J. Gallagher (1-2), W. Connors, R. Gleeson (0-5F, 0-2 65s), D. Hackett, E. Kelly. SUBS: Eoin Gleeson (0-1) for Kelly (41), P. Kelly for Hackett (54).

Nenagh Éire Óg: M. McNamara; M. Flannery, N. Moloney, J. Brennan; D. Quinn, H. Moloney, Barry Heffernan; Billy Heffernan (0-1), K. Tucker (0-6F); P. Morris (0-1), M. Heffernan (3-1, 0-1 65), K. Gleeson; B. Quinn, R. Flannery (0-1), P. Murphy (1-0). SUBS: Donnacha Quinn (0-1) for B. Quinn (HT), J. Mackey (0-1) for M. Heffernan (34-37), Mackey for Gleeson (37), S.Geaney for Barry Heffernan (57).

Referee: Johnny Ryan (Boherlahan Dualla).