Conway wizardry seals replay for Lixnaw
Timmy Sheehan takes a look back at least weekend’s breath-taking county senior hurling final and considers what it might mean for this weekend’s replay
IT was always on the cards that a draw might well transpire given the number of times that the game was level and, indeed, delicately poised.
At the end of such a result there’s always a feeling, of maybe, a bit of anti climax. The reaction of the supporters is muted, with the players having nothing really to celebrate or, indeed, be disappointed about.
There was a bit of reaction I suppose to the amount of added time, but it was half hearted, because really when encounters finish all square a pretty subdued mood almost inevitably prevails.
Nobody knows initially when the replay will be, so it’s very much a glass half full or half empty depending on how one views the situation. Of the two teams Lixnaw will probably be more relieved to get a second bite of the cherry.
Shane Conway’s sideline stroke was essentially their get out of jail card and it wasn’t an easy opportunity by any stretch of the imagination even for some of the marquee performers such as the likes of Joe Canning.
Doubly so given the circumstances, because the result of his effort was going to be the difference between victory and defeat, the margin which was going to decide where the championship crown would rest for twelve months.
And this is just a teenager starting out on a career, which promises many more highlights and memorable moments, but he is a special talent a player who has really fulfilled his potential ever since he burst on the scene as a seventeen -year old. Like Pádraig Boyle at the other end he almost inevitably delivers, especially on the big occasions.
Lixnaw got the better start, Conway’s goal after PJ Gorman had initially denied him with a superb save from close range afforded them an early advantage. However, Pádraig Boyle was simply unplayable at the other end in a variety of situations, whether it was high or low, diagonal or otherwise. Quite simply, he had all of the skill set to capitalise from all angles and distances.
Maybe, Lixnaw deliberated a little bit too long in terms of addressing the situation, but then was there any player capable of curtailing Ballyduff’s master craftsman?
Darragh Shanahan if fully fit would have been assigned the task and it was inevitable that he would eventually be introduced from the bench. It stemmed the tide, to an extent, but it was partly as a result of the supply lines being curtailed.
John Griffin was proving to be extremely industrious and effective in all quarters of the pitch, but possession overall wasn’t fully transferred onto the scoreboard with Ballyduff’s rearguard
unit proving to be pretty resolute and compact.
Level at half-time, it probably reflected the overall exchanges throughout a first half, which was competitive, evenly matched, but a little bit short on quality reflected by the scoring returns with both Shane Conway and Padraig Boyle registering the bulk of the scoring tallies, for the respective sides.
Pádraig Boyle’s second goal in the thirty fourth minute certainly put a little bit of daylight between the teams, a five point difference being a pretty significant gap at this particular juncture.
However, Lixnaw were pretty composed and resourceful in terms of clawing back the lead, and, such was the level of their combination play that, one felt that they could exert a grip once again on proceedings and reduce the deficit on the scoreboard, which they did.
However, such as Padraig O’Grady epitomised Ballyduff’s determination and, with Ally O’Connor sweeping up to great effect, they regained the lead once again with Pádraig Boyle landing some monstrous efforts from distance.
Jack Goulding and Mikey Boyle also chipped in with a few spectacular efforts and it looked as if Ballyduff, momentarily were sailing and Lixnaw struggling.
Martin Stackpoole was instrumental in terms of keeping his side in touch, as Ballyduff endeavoured to add the insurance point to the three point lead which they held, with just six minutes left.
As the clock ticked down it looked as if Lixnaw might need a goal to salvage the situation. Two points adrift, Mike Conway was denied by PJ Gorman quite brilliantly with a gilt-edged goaling chance, with James Flaherty having his effort rebound to safety off the butt of the upright in the ensuing play.
Such passages of play quite often prove to be hugely significant in terms of determining the outcome.
At the time it looked like being the last throw of the dice as far as Lixnaw were concerned until their scorer in chief conjured up a magical equaliser.
How the situation will pan out on this coming Sunday nobody really knows, even if, both backroom teams should have learned from what was their second meeting in this year’s championship.
However, sometimes, one doesn’t have the players at their disposal to rectify any particular weaknesses. In terms of team selection and positions on the pitch there might be a rethink on the part of Ballyduff relative to the location of Jack Goulding, who might well be a lot more influential if positioned closer to the goal.
Also consideration might be given to whether it might be better to start Liam Boyle and Gary O’Brien or keep them in reserve. Lixnaw will be hoping that Darragh Shanahan will be able to start as they endeavour to limit the effectiveness of Padraig Boyle, while consideration will be given to maybe starting either James Flaherty, Colin Sheehy or Jason Wallace.
But, then, there was a lot to admire about the endeavour of both Raymond Galvin and Jeremy McKenna last Sunday. It’s not always about the best individuals, it’s basically trying to select fifteen who complement each other and play best together as a unit.
Who then is it going to be, with very little likely to separate the sides once again? Many are unwilling to look beyond Ballyduff when it comes to finals given their impressive record in such situations down the decades, but after that somewhat indifferent semi-final performance Lixnaw were much better last weekend.
After that prolonged break, they are now playing regularly once again and they might well shade the verdict in a replay as indeed they did in 2014.
There was a lot of admire about the endeavour of both Raymond Gavin and Jeremy McKenna last Sunday
Ballyduff’s Mikey Boyle in action against Lixnaw’s Michael Conway during Sunday’s county senior hurling final in Austin Stack Park Photo by Domnick Walsh / Eye Focus