NEWMARKET'S minor hurlers despite a heroic effort, fell agonisingly short against Éire Óg in the County Minor A Hurling League Final played at Coachford on Saturday evening.
A titanic struggle went to extra time, in which Newmarket showed skill and spirit to overcome a half time deficit before almost clinching victory towards the end of normal time. The thrilling encounter eventually ended 0-20 to 1-14 in favour of Éire Óg.
Éire Óg played with the aid of the breeze in the first half but Newmarket opened the scoring when Barry O'Connor raced forward to clip the ball over the bar in the fourth minute. Éire Óg were on level terms two minutes later before they took a two point advantage by the ninth minute. Newmarket had their second point when Donal Hannon scored his first point of the afternoon. The next two points were shared as Donal Hannon found the range once again. Éire Óg led midway through the half by 0-4 to 0-3.
Newmarket's defence had to stem a growing impact from the Éire Óg attack but Eoin O'Connell, Liam Birtley and Paudie Allen held firm and led their team mates with valuable interventions and clearances. Two Éire Óg points stretched their lead to three points but Donal Hannon was in superb form and kept Newmarket well in touch with eight minutes remaining to the interval. Éire Óg finished the half strongly and showed a fine ability of taking points and three further white flags gave them a lead of 0-10 to 0-4 at the turnover.
Facing an uphill task, Newmarket resumed in defiant manner. Donal Hannon found the target within a minute and three minutes later Gavin Forde added a stunning pointed free from deep within his own half. Newmarket gathered momentum and Michael Cottrell added a fine point from a difficult angle. Éire Óg stemmed the tide with a point but Donal Hannon ensured that Newmarket were back to within three points, ten minutes into the half. The sides exchanged the next two points with Donal Hannon adding to his ever growing scoring return, and the game was finely balanced at 0-12 to 0-9 going into the final quarter.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Donal Hannon launched a long range free dangerously goalwards and as the ball broke around the square, Barry O'Connor was on hand to lash home an equalizing goal. Donal Hannon completed the comeback as Newmarket edged in front with five minutes remaining. Éire Óg restored parity within a minute from a pointed free as a grandstand finish unfolded. Once again, Newmarket were on the brink of victory when Donal Hannon once more pointed superbly but straight from the puck out, Éire Óg again mustered an equalizer instantly. Both sides held on to the end and having being level on four occasions, extra time beckoned after a stirring Newmarket second half display.
Despite the cool conditions, both sets of supporters were gripped as the extra time commenced. Newmarket regained the lead again as excellent second half substitute capped a fine personal display with a well taken point. Both sides toiled in the exchanges to gain a stranglehold but significantly Éire Óg added three points in succession as the opening period progressed. The half concluded with a truly inspirational solo point from Gavin Forde who stormed forward on a solo run from his centre half back position before dispatching a memorable strike between the posts. The issue was still delicately poised at 0-17 to 1-13 entering the final ten-minute period.
Tired limbs obviously prevailed and Newmarket's squad which was significantly fewer in numbers began to feel the strain. Two Éire Óg points again stretched the gap to three points but instantly Donal Hannon brought Newmarket to within two points again. Newmarket pushed hard for another salvaging score but Éire Óg withstood the pressure and as the game ticked into injury time an insurance point followed to conclude a compelling encounter for the Muskerry side.
Though obviously disappointed, Newmarket will reflect on an outstanding effort with great credit due to the players and their mentors on a fantastic season.
The Robert Emmets team was Shane McAuliffe, Eoin O'Connell, Jamie Hayes, Liam Birtley, Pádraig Allen, Gavin Forde (0-2), Jack Guiney, Alan Ryan, Conor O'Keeffe, Barry O'Connor (1-1), Jonathan Flaherty, Michael Cottrell (0-1), Daniel O'Doherty, Donal Hannon (0-9), Danny O'Connell. Subs: Patrick Kelly (0-1), Jeremy Murphy.