WOLFE TONES...............0-16 KILMALEY.............1-9
By Michael O Connor.
Wolfe Tones face into their first minor A hurling final since the early 1990s. Kilmaley have been the competition specialists over the last half decade and this year after a vote John McMahon took over from Niall Romer as team manager at the champions AGM. Wolfe Tones won the Under 16A championship in this age group two years ago defeating Clarecastle with a certain ease.
The terrible conditions that preceded and continued albeit at a slower pace during the game favoured the stronger built Shannon men and it was Pat McAllen's men who were quicker off the mark in Sixmilebridge on Friday evening. The attendance was hit by the rainfall but boosted ironically by the cancellation of the second semi final in Shannon between Inagh/Kilnamona and Broadford/Smith O Briens. Brian Conway cut through the Kilmaley defence for the opening score in the first minute as Sean Costello and the impressive Jack Cunningham added more scores by the 4th minute.
Over the duration of the opening half Wolfe Tones squandered three clear goal chances and at least three easier to score than missed point opportunities. Kilmaley were impressive in their marshalling of Aron Shanagher but lady luck did serve them well as Dean Devanney missed a clear open goal after 12 minutes following being put clear by Shanagher. Scores from Aidan Kennedy who had fleeting cameos in the game and Eanna McMahon were matched by a brace of Shanagher frees as Cathal Darcy was now acting as sweeper for the defending champions. Brian O Connor struck over a well taken score as the Kilmaley defenders suffered with the high ball sent in long and depended as much for Wolfe Tones errors as accomplished defending. Eanna McMahon sent over his sides fourth score as Sean O Loughlin replaced Cillian Gregan as hopes were high that the 17 year old would ignite the champions.
Aron Shanagher hit a powerful effort across the face of Gary McMahon's goal. He converted a free after a foul on Devanney that was added to by another O Connor point. Kilmaley were living on the edge and required a truly great save from Gary McMahon from Shanagher to keep them in the game. Eanna McMahon added a brace of frees as Padraic McNamara sent over the last score of the first half to leave Shannon (0-8) to (0-7) ahead at the interval.
Surprisingly, Kilmaley changed their freetaker for the second half and whilst Eanna McMahon may have missed three in the first half he was still top scorer and in the second half the game was effectively decided by Kilmaley missing four eminently scorable frees. Jack Cunningham raced clear for the first score of the new half that was added to by another Brian O Connor point four minutes into the new half. No score materialised for over 10 minutes as the rain dipped and rose in its severity and both sets of defences were clearly dominating was a dour second half. Shanagher stopped the dearth of scores in the 48th minute as now four points was the difference. The game was transformed thankfully from the 49th minute to the end started by a stunning catch under pressure and a wristy goal by Aidan Kennedy to leave the minimum between the sides. To the credit of the airport men they struck back from the puck out as Ger Pettigrew scored from 50 metres only for Aidan Kennedy to do likewise seconds later. Joe Carmody was introduced at this stage and for such a high scoring freetaker at junior A club level and under 16A level it was perhaps a case that he should have been on early. Jack Cunningham and Dean Devanney eased the strain on the minds of the Wolfe Tones supporters with seven minutes to go. It was now apparent that John McMahon's charges required a goal to force a win or even a replay. Aidan O Brien sent over a great effort that drew applause aplenty from Kilmaley supporters yet it was the final notch on the scoresheet as Shanagher finished the game with two more frees one after Kilmaley full back Colin Hehir was redcarded. A hard encounter gathering of players in injury time took two minutes to dissolve and thankfully referee Johnny Healy decided that two yellow cards sufficed as the final whistle loomed.
Best for the winners were Evan O Gorman, Kevin Justice, Daniel Cleery, Sean Costello in the first half, Jack Cunningham, Brian O Connor, Dean Devanney in patches, Aron Shanagher and Brian O Connor. Kilmaley had high hopes of at least reaching the decider but fell short despite the best efforts of Gary McMahon, Tommy Barry, Sean Kennedy who had his moments, Cathal Darcy, Padraic McNamara who was below par and Aidan Kennedy.
WOLFE TONES: Evan O Gorman, Michael Hayes, Daniel Clair, Shane Neilan, Ger Pettigrew, Kevin Justice, Darragh McMahon, Sean Costello (0-1), Jack Cunningham (0-3), Brian Conway (0-1), Dean Devanney (0-1), Aaron Rudd, Dylan Frawley, Aron Shanagher (0-6), Brian O Connor (0-3).
KILMALEY: Gary McMahon, Ronan Cahill, Colin Hehir, Tommy Barry, Sean Corry, Oisin Cahill, Cillan Gregan, Sean Kennedy, David Lynch, Aidan O Brien (0-1), Andrew Kelly, Eanna McMahon (0-5), Cathal Darcy, Padraic McNamara (0-1), Aidan Kennedy (1-2). Subs: Sean O Loughlin for Gregan, Joe Carmody.
Referee: Johnny Healy (Smith O Briens).