There was a dramatic end to last Sunday’s All Ireland club hurling
semi-final when the St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield goalkeeper Christy O’Connor pulled off an astonishing last ditch save to send his team into their first ever final. The final score was St Joseph’s (Clare) 1-13,
Athenry (Galway) 1-12.
Both sets of supporters were on their feet at Semple Stadium in Thurles when Brendan Keogh steadied himself for the shot which would win the game for Athenry. It looked as if the unmarked Keogh could place the ball anywhere he wanted in the St Joseph’s net, but O’Connor bravely hurled himself into the firing line to make a brilliant block.
The referee blew for full-time immediately and O’Connor was engulfed by his teammates. “I managed to do the same thing in a Fitzgibbon Cup match a couple of years ago,” he said, “but there were only ten people watching then.”
Ironically, it was O’Connor, a Gaelic games writer with the Ireland on Sunday newspaper when he’s not performing heroics in goal for the emerging Clare club, who had earlier had appeared to be the villain of the piece. In the sixty minute, he misjudged a dropping shot by Eugene Cloonan before battling the ball straight to Cathal Moran who drove home a goal for Athenry.
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Playing into a strong wind, O’Connor’s mistake gave the Galway club a huge boost. “I suppose if we’d lost, fingers would’ve been pointed at Christy,” said Christy’s brother, the Clare All Star, Jamesie O’Connor who top scored with six points. “But that save at the end was unbelievable. It won the game for us”
There was also some controversy over a disallowed “score” by Moran three minutes from time. Moran’s shot for a point had the umpires in a state of confusion and it was left to referee, Pat Horan, to rule that the ball had gone wide.
“There’s no excuse for this happening again and again,” said Athenry selector, Sean Hynes. “It’s up to the GAA to find a more sophisticated method of determining what is a score and what isn’t a score. With today’s technology, there’s no excuse.”
Crossmaglen (Armagh) 1-10
Eire Og (Carlow) 1-5
The atrocious conditions at Navan couldn’t halt Crossmaglen’s march to another All Ireland club football final. Champions in 1997, the Armagh team are now favorites to win the title again.
It was another disappointing day for the Carlow men who have now lost five times in seven years during the closing stages of the championship. Despite only trailing by three points (0-7 to 1-1) at the interval, Eire Og were unable to take full advantage of a gale force wind in the second-half.
Instead, it was Crossmaglen who struck the vital blow in the 42nd minute when John McEntee made the most of a perfect pass from his twin brother Tony to fire home a goal. With Eire Og looking limited in attack, there was only going to be one result from that moment on.
Crossmaglen closed the game down and relied on the skills of Oisin
McConville to launch several counter-attacks. McConville hit five points, while Anthony Cunningham added four more as Eire Og struggled to build on a first-half goal by Leo Turley.
Ballina (Mayo) 0-8
Doonbeg (Clare) 0-4
Ballina qualified to meet Crossmaglen in the club football decider when they were too strong for Doonbeg in a semi-final at Ballinasloe which was spoiled by driving wind and rain.
With St Joseph’s dramatically booking their place in the hurling final, there was a chance for Doonbeg to pull off a remarkable Clare double, but inspired by veteran Liam McHale, Ballina adapted better to the conditions.
Their decision to play against the elements in the first-half proved a master stroke as the winners turned around armed with a 0-5 to 0-3 advantage. From then, all Ballina had to do was concentrate on defense.
“We knew that Doonbeg would come back at us,” said Ballina manager, Noel O’Dowd, “but it was a gamble that paid off.” McHale, who was brilliantly supported by full-back James Devenney, pulled the strings in a crowded midfield area.
National Hurling League
Cork got the defense of their National Hurling League title under way with a 0-14 to 1-9 win over Kilkenny at Pairc Ui Rinn. However, victory came at a price when All Star center back Brian Corcoran was rushed to hospital after suffering a facial injury.
Despite wearing a helmet and face guard, the ball somehow got through the bars of the guard and burst a blood vessel in Corcoran’s eye. He was replaced by Sean Og O hAilpin and Cork were able to withstand a late rally to claim the points.
Kilkenny’s experiment of playing DJ Carey in midfield failed to bear fruit and instead, it was Cork’s Pat Ryan who dominated the center of the pitch.
The winners appeared to be in complete control until Henry Shefflin crashed home a goal against the run of play.
That put the sides level with seven minutes left, but Cork responded immediately and three quick points by Timmy McCarthy put the game out of Kilkenny’s reach.
Elsewhere in Division 1B, Laois made a little bit of history with a first win over Leinster rivals Wexford since 1985. It finished 2-10 to 1-9 at Rathdowney as Laois surged into the lead in the closing minutes with a long range goal by PJ Peacock.
Waterford hammered Down by 5-14 to 0-4 at Dungarvan where Paul Flynn helped himself to three goals. It turned out to be glorified shooting practice as Down were without their Ballygalget contingent who are due to play in Sunday’s All Ireland club semi-final against Rathnure.
In Division 1A, Limerick got off to a flying start as they pulverized Antrim by 1-19 to 0-6 at the Gaelic Grounds. Veteran Mike Galligan was in good form and finished with an impressive 1-7 to his name, while Ciaran Carey brilliantly marshalled the defense. Clare, meanwhile, had a big 5-15 to 1-6 win over Kerry in Ennis where Alan Markham top-scored with 2-5.
Ten vital points by Donal Fitzsimons inspired Meath to a 1-16 to 1-8 win over Monaghan in Division Two and a late score from Trevor McGrath gave Wicklow the edge against Derry by 2-9 to 1-11 in a thriller at Arklow.
Roscommon were comfortable 4-13 to 1-6 winners over Carlow, Kildare hammered Tyrone by 4-11 to 0-10 and Westmeath held on to narrowly defeat London by 0-10 to 2-3.
In Division Three, Louth beat Cavan by 0-11 to 1-6, Fermanagh were 1-14 to 0-3 winners against Longford, Armagh edged out Leitrim by 1-5 to 1-4 and Sligo defeated Mayo by 1-4 to 0-3.