NAOMH EOIN 3-7 EASKEY 2-10
EASKEY AND Naomh Eoin will have to do it all again after their U16 "A" county final finished all square in Markievicz Park on Monday evening. With drizzle and a slippery sod rendering conditions tricky for fast open hurling, the game was always going to be low scoring. Reigning champions Naomh Eoin were first to strike, two Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch points giving his side the early advantage. Easkey responded, first through Joe McHugh, quickly followed by an Eamonn O'Dowd effort to level proceedings.
With wind advantage, Naomh Eoin's forwards had a plentiful supply of ball in the first 30 minutes. But strong rearguard action by the west Sligo side led by full-back Bernard Feeney, wing-back Fergal Ryan and their superb centre-back Patrick O'Connor nullified many of Naomh Eoin attacking forays. However as half-time approached, Naomh Eoin began to get the upperhand and Sean Heaney was at hand to finish a ball to the net from close range. O'Kelly-Lynch stretched his side's advantage to four points with an excellent long range strike.
Easkey quickly responded to level the match again, thanks to a Joe McHugh pointed free and a well-struck goal from Mikey Gordon. Sensing that they needed to be ahead at the break, Naomh Eoin pressed forward. Their efforts were rewarded when first an O'Kelly-Lynch 60m free dropped under Kieran Devannney's crossbar, quickly followed by a welltaken point from the left wing by Conan O'Donnell. Although a McHugh pointed free reduced the margin, Stephen Henry found the net from a goalmouth scramble to give his side a 3-4 to 1-4 advantage at the interval.
The second half was equally as frantic. Wind the wind now at their backs, and with Finnian Cawley and Hayden Gilroy beginning to get a better grip of proceedings in the midfield sector, Easkey enjoyed the bulk of the territorial advantage but found it difficult to convert this advantage into scores.
If Patrick O'Connor was having a magnificent game at centre-back for Easkey, so too was his counterpart on the Naomh Eoin side, Ryan Feehily. In spite of Feehily's heroics and Donal Conlon's and Jack Keegan's best defensive efforts, points by Rory McHugh, Mikey Gordon and Rory McHugh began to made inroads into the Naomh Eoin lead. A Paul Kilcoyne briefly stemmed the Easkey scoring spree. Just as it looked as though Naomh Eoin would prevail, Easkey were given a life-line when Mikey Gordon caught a long delivery from his defence and drilled the sliotar to the top of the net from 25 metres.
With the game on a knife-edge, late points from frees by O'KellyLynch and McHugh resulted in the finishing level, 3-7 to 2-10. In the end, a draw was perhaps the fairest result on the night, and both sets of supporters will relish the prospect of another close and exciting encounter between the two sides in the replay.