Four out of four for boys in blue

Band­wagon gath­ers pace

New Ross Standard - - SPORT - DEAN GOOD­I­SON

OYLEGATE-G’BRIEN CLOUGHBAWN

THE OYLEGATE-GLENBRIEN band­wagon gath­ered fur­ther pace as they out­lasted 2016 Pet­titt’s Se­nior hurl­ing cham­pi­onship fi­nal­ists Cloughbawn in a warm Belle­field on Satur­day.

Last sea­son’s In­ter­me­di­ate cham­pi­ons have been a breath of fresh air so far this sea­son and they added an­other im­pres­sive Group A scalp to as­sure them­selves of a favourable quar­ter-fi­nal draw.

Cloughbawn, on the other hand, are suffering. They can no longer qual­ify for the knock­out stages but can save them­selves the guar­an­teed sweaty 60 min­utes of a rel­e­ga­tion fi­nal if they can beat Glynn-Barn­town in their fi­nal group game.

On this show­ing their hopes of do­ing just that look less than 5050. They were right in this match up to the end of the third quar­ter. In­deed, they held a 1-14 to 1-12 lead when Bob Whitty pointed in the 43rd minute.

Then they blew up. Oylegate-Glenbrien have some re­ally classy young play­ers blended with their ex­pe­ri­enced heads but they needed their su­pe­rior fit­ness lev­els to kick-in and win them this game.

It’s all about hard work. M.J. Reck’s side could have rested on their lau­rels and coasted through a sea­son, won a cou­ple of games, found their feet at this level and ev­ery­one would have pat­ted them on the back for a job well done.

They didn’t do that, as they re­tained the ser­vices of highly-re­garded trainer Gerry McQuaid and put in the hard yards over the winter for days like this.

In the fi­nal 17 min­utes of nor­mal time, plus the five added on, those hard yards re­sulted in a 1-6 to 0-1 dif­fer­ence.

The sides went toe-to-toe in a tight, en­ergy-sap­ping first-half. Cloughbawn prob­a­bly got a lit­tle more space in the mid­dle third of the field than Oylegate-Glenbrien would have liked to al­low but credit also goes to Barry Car­ton and Con­nal Flood who were the pick of their per­form­ers in the first pe­riod.

De­spite a two-minute stop­page for an in­jury to Whitty, Cloughbawn still led by 0-4 to 0-3 af­ter just six min­utes.

That frequency of scores couldn’t con­tinue but when the game started to set­tle down it was Oylegate-Glenbrien who struck the first real blow.

It came off the hurl of Sea­mus Casey but it was a bit of a gift. Seán Keat­ing didn’t make good con­nec­tion with his eleventh-minute clear­ance, and it landed in the tal­ented at­tacker’s paw. He soloed in 20 me­tres and sent a rasp­ing drive high to the Cloughbawn net.

Oylegate-Glenbrien still held the lead (1-7 to 0-8) as the game moved into the fi­nal stages of the half. How­ever, great workrate from Paul Fo­ley helped his side win pos­ses­sion back high up the field.

Off bal­ance and seem­ingly at an im­pos­si­ble an­gle, Alan Car­ton caught his shot sweetly. Goal­keeper John Fo­ley got a hurl on the ball but couldn’t pre­vent the slio­thar from find­ing the net be­hind him.

Late in the half, Oylegate-Glenbrien flashed over two half-chances, the first from Podge Do­ran, the sec­ond from Conor Hef­fer­nan, but it was enough to be tied at 1-10 each at the in­ter­val. With the light breeze at their backs, Cloughbawn saw Páidí Cullen, Harry Ke­hoe, Fo­ley and Whitty all reg­is­ter by the 43rd minute.

How­ever, things were start­ing to change on the field. Damien Reck, who per­formed well through­out, was sud­denly hov­er­ing ab­so­lutely every­thing up. Oylegate-Glenbrien built from their solid de­fen­sive foun­da­tion and were soon purring.

Casey and Conor Doyle tied the game for the even­tual vic­tors. The sec­ond of those points said it all as Fer­gus Hef­fer­nan and Mark Ka­vanagh were able to work the ball horizontally across the field to Doyle for the score, with­out a de­fen­sive touch, 50 me­tres from goal.

The wilt­ing Cloughbawn fell two be­hind af­ter a pair of Casey points (1-16 to 1-14). There was a sense that the killer goal was just around the cor­ner and it duly ar­rived when Do­ran forced the ball past Keat­ing af­ter his ini­tial ef­fort was blocked down.

Oylegate-Glenbrien man­aged the last few min­utes of the game with great ex­pe­ri­ence and guile and ran out six-point win­ners. They face Rath­nure in their last game with the win­ner top­ping the group. Cloughbawn, on the other hand, have two chances to save them­selves from the dreaded drop.

Oylegate-Glenbrien: John Fo­ley; Mike Kelly, Michael Hef­fer­nan, Ciarán Houri­hane; Bryan McCor­mack, Damien Reck (0-2 frees), Shane Reck; Mark Ka­vanagh, Pa Cullen; Marty Kelly (01), Jamie Reck (capt.), Podge Do­ran (1-2); Conor Hef­fer­nan (0-1), Sea­mus Casey (1-10, 0-7 frees, 0-1 ‘65), Fer­gus Hef­fer­nan (0-1). Subs. - Conor Doyle (0-1) for Cullen (38), Jim White for F. Hef­fer­nan, temp. (44-46), White for F. Hef­fer­nan (53), John McCor­mack for C. Hef­fer­nan (56).

Cloughbawn: Seán Keat­ing; M.J. Fur­long, Tomás Fur­long, Johnny Cullen; Barry Ke­hoe, Colm Ke­hoe, Gavin Mur­phy; Páidí Cullen (0-1), Barry Car­ton (0-3); Harry Ke­hoe (0-2), Con­nal Flood (0-2), Bob Whitty (0-1); Conor Har­ring­ton, Alan Car­ton (capt., 1-0), Paul Fo­ley (0-6, 4 frees, 1 ‘65).

Ref­eree: Brian O’Leary (Cross­abeg-Bal­ly­murn).

Cloughbawn’s Harry Ke­hoe breaks away from a grounded Mark Ka­vanagh, and Shane Reck.

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