Four out of four for boys in blue
Bandwagon gathers pace
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.