Kerins O’Rahillys 2-20 St Brendans 3-20 (after extra time)
A young O’Rahillys squad gave it everything against their divisional opponents in this rip-roaring contest and were just pipped for victory in the 37th minute of the second half before St Brendans prevailed in extra time. Played on Tuesday last at Strand Road, the evening remained fine throughout after the showers earlier in the day. There was a stiff wind blowing into the Basin End which favoured the Blues in the first half of normal time and they were quickly into their stride when Tom Hoare pointed a free after a foul on Conor Hayes. St Brendans levelled from play two minutes later but Hoare landed another free from 45 metres and then Hayes won possession from the resulting kickout and floated the ball over the bar to extend the lead with six minutes gone. The next six minutes belonged to St Brendans though and they made it count by scoring three points without reply, despite the best efforts of Jordan Foley and Seán Griffin. The first came when a free dropped short but they retained possession and fired over. This was followed by a fisted effort before a fingertip save from Shane Foley prevented a likely goal, but the visitors recycled the ball and struck for another point to lead by 0-4 to 0-3. O’Rahillys were level by the 15th minute when Hayes intercepted a kickout and transferred immediately to Gearóid Savage who slotted over and Hayes put the home side back in front with a tidy point after a fine move featuring the McElligott brothers, Darragh and Shane. St Brendans equalised once more but a beautiful kick-passing move from O’Rahillys saw Donagh O’Brien pick out Savage who in turn found Hayes and the corner forward cut in from the left and curled the ball between the sticks. Hayes repeated the feat two minutes later with an almost identical score after the diagonal ball was supplied by Hoare. St Brendans immediately reduced the gap to the minimum when a goal looked the more likely outcome and on 25 minutes they came close to another major but this time Shane Foley darted off his line to smother the goal attempt. O’Rahillys rallied though and two minutes later Hoare pointed a 20-metre free after a foul on Hayes and then Savage got on the end of a flowing move but saw his shot just flash past the post. The full forward then drew some consolation in injury time when he struck for a point after Aaron Roche’s accurate pass and this proved to be the final act of the half with the teams retiring at the break on a scoreline of O’Rahillys 0-9 St Brendans 0-6.
The home side were dealt a huge blow when full back and senior panellist, Sean Collins failed to appear for the second half through injury and St Brendans started like they had every intention of using the wind to their advantage. They opened the scoring with a fine point from 40 metres but by the ninth minute O’Rahillys had added two more points from frees by Tom Hoare following fouls on Conor O’Sullivan and Conor Hayes. Yet, St Brendans were far from a busted flush and by the 11th minute they were level following a lovely point from 35 metres and a move down the left wing which resulted in a delivery into the danger area that was punched into the net. O’Rahillys replied within two minutes when O’Brien, Savage and Daniel Bowler combined to set up Hayes and although the corner forward still had an awful lot to do, he managed to clip over a beautiful score from close to the left touchline. Undaunted, St Brendans swept back downfield and although Darragh McElligott brilliantly deflected the original goal-bound effort, the ball fell kindly an inrusing forward who finished first time to the net to make it 2-8 to 0-12 in favour of the divisional side. With the wind rising and St Brendans adding another point in the 20th minute, the omens didn’t look good for Strand Road, but they had moved O’Brien to the half forward line at this stage and he started to link the play between defence and attack and five minutes later, a sweeping move saw O’Brien pick out Roche who then found Hayes and the attacker burrowed his way along the end-line before passing to O’Brien who had followed up, only to be fouled at the expense of a penalty with the goal at his mercy. Gearóid Savage hammered the spot kick into the roof of the net and with five minutes of normal time left the scores were level at 2-9 to 1-12, but added time was already clocking up due to injuries to Rory O’Connor, Shane McElligott and Conor Hayes to name but three on the Strand Road side alone. Spurred on, the home side turned over the next kickout and Savage fastened onto a loose ball to fire his team ahead and the surge continued when Shane McElligott batted down the next kickout to Hayes who offloaded to O’Brien on his shoulder and the defender turned attacker split the sticks from 30 metres. Perhaps with thoughts of the finishing line in their minds, O’Rahillys tried to protect possession at this stage but they were turned over in the last minute of normal time and St Brendans reduced their lead to the minimum before levelling the game on 33 minutes after what appeared to be a harsh call on Kieran Mangan when in possession. With excitement at fever pitch, St Brendans had a chance to go in front but fluffed their lines after O’Rahillys were penalised following a short kickout. The home side immediately surged upfield and a move involving Savage, Bowler and the McElligott brothers climaxed with a fabulous point from Roche from 20 metres out and close to the right touchline. That could have been the winning score, but St Brendans came downfield one more time and despite a massive defensive effort from Barry Foley and Aidan Mangan, they moved the ball from left to right before levelling the game from 20 metres out to leave the scoreline reading Kerins O’Rahillys 1-15 St Brendans 2-12 at the end of normal time.
The first period of extra time saw the wind again favour the home side and one felt that they needed to make it pay if they were to ultimately triumph. However, it was St Brendans who pointed within seconds of the restart. Back came Strand Road though and Hoare and Hayes combined to set up Conor O’Sullivan who kicked a lovely point. Savage then restored the Blues advantage with a pointed free and O’Sullivan kicked another point to double their advantage. Then, in a two-minute spell, St Brendans kicked three points without reply as their noticeable physical advantages began to tell. But O’Rahillys were not finished either and Shane McElligott combined with Savage to place young O’Sullivan who kicked an absolutely fantastic point from 35 metres. Still, the visitors’ combination of kick-passing and strong running was giving them the edge and they kicked two more points from play in the final two minutes of the first half to leave them leading by that margin at the break.
The first minute of the second period of extra time proved to be decisive with St Brendans cutting down the left with the very first play before transferring the ball inside and finding the back of the net. They followed this up with a point from another impressive move to lead by two clear goals 3-19 to 1-19. Gearóid Dillane reduced the deficit with a fine point from the right flank but St Brendans countered with a point of their own before O’Rahillys pressure was finally rewarded when Dillane got his fist to a long delivery to make it a one-score game once more. With time ticking away, Strand Road tried all they could to salvage a draw with the young legs of TJ McMahon and Darragh Fitzgerald adding to their challenge, but in a truly epic contest the clock became their enemy and after a total of 94 minutes, the referee called time on a memorable clash in which both sides gave their all.
Kerins O’Rahillys: S Foley, J Foley, S Collins, K Mangan; A Mangan, R O’Connor, D O’Brien; T Hoare, D McElligott; A Roche, S McElligott, S Griffin; G Dillane, G Savage, C Hayes. Subs: C O’Sullivan, B Foley, D Bowler, TJ McMahon, D Fitzgerald.