Kilruane 2010 U21 Champions – Westside Column (Clonmel Nationalist)

26 Jan 2011 by Gilbert Williams

There is a certain irony in the fact that a leftover final from 2010 turns out to be one of the
highlights of the departed season. The U21s of Sarsfields and Kilruane collided at Dolla on
Sunday last and produced a cracking encounter. The MacDonaghs went in as outsiders but
emerged as champs, a late flurry of points earning the club its third title in five years. It’s a record
that should see them making shapes at senior level in coming years.

What a game! The U21 grade is often derided as a pesky old category that causes headaches for
fixture committees. It does overlap awkwardly with several other grades but, you know, the one
unanswerable justification for its retention is that it regularly produces games of this quality. How
fitting then that in a year when we hold national honours in the grade the domestic competition
should throw up such a memorable final.

Sarsfields went in as strong favourites but those who knew Kilruane suspected the ‘Blues’ would
find their match in this one. Those who remember the golden era of Kilruane hurling in the
seventies and eighties recall a team of hardy lads who may not have been the most scientific
players in the game but were fearsome competitors who maximised their resources. They say
apples don’t fall too far from the tree and this newest generation of hurlers from Cloughjordan has
come from the same gene pool. Once again you have surnames like Williams and Cahill and
Hogan and Hennessy dotted throughout a side of typical tenacity.

The story of this game is one of sustained intensity between two well-matched, honest sides. It
was physical but fair. Referee, Fergal Horgan, takes major credit too for a most efficient job
striking a balance between allowing the game to flow and yet blowing when whistle was needed.
It all added up to an intriguing contest that went to the proverbial wire before the MacDonaghs
claimed the spoils with that late surge of points.

The early omens were good with Kilruane getting into it immediately and hitting the first few
scores off a Seamus Hennessy free and James Williams from play. Denis Maher, marking
Seamus Hennessy on the ‘forty’, got two back for Sarsfields before Brian O’Meara was grounded
en route to goal and free taker Thomas Williams converted the free. It was sturdy stuff even at this
stage with players getting little space or time and Sarsfields by now knew they were in a real
battle.

The first major break fell to Kilruane midway through the opening half when a high one was
dropped into the goal area and in the scramble Thomas Williams got the flick to the net to put the
North champs three-up. Earlier goalie, David Reddan, (a great goal keeping name) had denied
Tommy Doyle of Sarsfields. Play was swinging from end to end, though in truth Kilruane were
shading the exchanges even at this stage.

Back came Sarsfields with points from Michael Russell, Aidan McCormack and Denis Maher to tie
the game approaching half time. A further exchange of points and then Kilruane hit two before the
break from a Seamus Hennessy ‘65’ and Brian O’Meara from play. The North champs went in two-
up at the interval. It was riveting stuff with more to come.

Sasrsfields’ purple patch came in the first ten minutes of the second half. Michael Cahill pointed
from play and Aidan McCormack from a free levelled the match. Then came a Sarsfields’ ‘penalty’
and Aidan McCormack sent it sizzling just over the lath. It didn’t seem to matter much when Denis
Maher broke his way through for a Sarsfields’ goal a minute later. They’d gone from two-down to
four-up, the wind definitely in their sails now.

But this Kilruane side was made of stern stuff indeed and they weren’t about to fade. From frees
and play they battled back to within a point and then came a crucial goal, Brian O’Meara fetching
and feeding Eoin Williams for a fine finish. An instant point followed from Thomas Williams and

then another from Niall O’Meara, brother of Brian, to put them back three-up. It was that type of
game full of mighty endeavour and fluctuating trend.

At three-down into the final ten minutes it looked ominous for Sarsfields but once more they
rallied, Aidan McCormack the star of the moment. First he pointed from play, then from a free and
the leveller was a quality score off his weaker right side. Could these sides be separated? Into
injury time we went with the sideline timekeeper indicating four minutes of added action. The
tension was high now with a sense of ‘next score wins’ hanging in the air.

The encore was entirely Kilruane’s. About four minutes into injury time a sideline ‘cut’ was batted
away for a Kilruane ‘65’. Up stepped Seamus Hennessy to dissect the posts; he’d been faultless
on frees whereas Aidan McCormack missed a few crucial ones. From the puck-out a Sarsfields’
defender tried to bring the ball out but fouled the ‘sliotar’ for Hennessy to once more hit the target.
Play continued but again it was Kilruane who returned to the attack and Brian O’Meara closed it
all out with the final point. It was a rousing end to a great contest – the best club game in the
county over the past twelve months I’d suggest.

Sarsfields will be disappointed not to have capped a remarkable year with another trophy though
neutrals will be glad to see another force emerge on the county scene to break the Thurles near-
monopoly. Sarsfields had the outstanding individuals but Kilruane had the better team. Padraig
Maher was again immense for Sarsfields at centre back and Michael Cahill made a huge
contribution at midfield covering acres of ground. They certainly can’t be faulted for the failure.
Nor can Denis Maher, scorer of 1-3 off Seamus Hennessy, and probably the main threat in attack.
Aidan McCormack too takes credit but otherwise Sars’ were a bit too lightweight in attack. Michael
O’Brien came on during the first half though clearly not fully recovered from that thumb injury.

On the Kilruane side Seamus Hennessy hurled a lot of ball from centre back; he tends to play
loose rather than man-mark so his opponent, Denis Maher, too enjoyed a lot of scope.
Hennessy’s free taking was a major plus for the North champions on a day when every flag was
crucial.

Brian O’Meara got little change from the tight-marking David Maher early on and thereafter his
inputs were small in number though big in influence. In particular he created the crucial second
goal. His brother Niall looked impressive as did Justin Cahill. Thomas Williams ended top scorer
on 1-4 but overall it was the tight, competitive cohesion of this Kilruane side that proved too
stubborn for Sarsfields.

Kilruane were worthy winners. In the past six years they’ve won three county U21s and one minor
as well as losing this year’s county junior final to Holycross; a solid basis surely for senior
progress. Watch them.

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