Delight for Nolan after Gaels storm into decider
IT took them seven years, but Kilkenny side O'Loughlin Gaels finally scratched their All-Ireland club semi-final itch at Parnell Park on Saturday.
Cats star Brian Hogan delivered a masterful display in defence, as the Kilkenny champions saw off a fiercely committed Loughgiel Shamrocks side to reach their first All-Ireland club hurling final.
Beaten in a semi-final replay by Newtownshandrum in 2004, O'Loughlin Gaels' manager Michael Nolan revealed that their sole focus has been to go one better this year.
"That semi-final we lost in Thurles seven years ago still hurts and once we got out of Kilkenny, we were determined to put that right and thank God we are in the final," he said. "It was more workmanlike than classic -- but the most important thing was that we won. The goals came at the right time for us, but we'll need to improve a lot if we are to win the All-Ireland."
With Hogan moving between full and centre-back to great effect, O'Loughlin's scored three second-half goals to finally break the resistance of the Antrim champions, who had travelled in the hope of repeating their All-Ireland winning heroics of 1983.
With O'Loughlins corner-back Eddie Kearns doing an effective man-marking job on Loughgiel danger man Liam Watson, the losers struggled to make any headway and they were let down by their shooting from frees and general play.
Hogan made some timely interventions at full-back in a first half which O'Loughlins won 0-6 to 0-3 despite pulling six shots wide.
In front of their huge support, Johnny Campbell, Barney McAuley and Mark McFadden stood out in a tenacious Loughgiel defence, but up front they couldn't convert their possession into points.
When Peter Dowling crashed home a goal for O'Loughlin Gaels in the 41st minute, it seemed to relax the Kilkenny men and they started to play with more fluency.
Brendan McCarry, Joseph Scullion and Barney McAuley picked off fine scores to keep Loughgiel in contention, but when Danny Loughnane flicked to the net in the 50th minute following a long-range free by goalkeeper Stephen Murphy, there was no way back.
Alan Geoghegan finished a fine move with the winners' third goal on 55 minutes to seal victory.
Scorers -- O'Loughlin Gaels: P Dowling, D Loughnane 1-1 each, A Geoghegan 1-0, M Bergin 0-3 (1f), M Nolan, N McEvoy (1 s/l) 0-2 each, M Comerford 0-1. Loughgiel: L Watson 0-3 (2f), B McAuley (1f), E McCloskey 0-2 each, J Scullion, B McCarry, A Watt 0-1 each.
O'LOUGHLIN GAELS -- S Murphy; E Kearns, B Hogan, B Kelly; A O'Brien, B Murphy, N Bergin; P Dowling, M Nolan; N McEvoy, M Bergin, A Geoghegan; B Dowling, M Comerford, D Loughnane. Subs: S Cummins for B Dowling (47), C Bergin for A Geoghegan (58), E Grant for B Murphy (58).
LOUGHGIEL -- D Quinn; P Gillan, N McGarry, B McAuley; M McFadden, J Campbell, M Scullion; D Laverty, L McKillop; J Campbell, E McCloskey, J Scullion; L Watson, A McCloskey; B McCarry. Subs: C McKinley for McFadden (blood), A Watt for A McCloskey (h-t), C McKinley for J Campbell (h-t), O McFadden for McKillop (55), D Laverty for McCarry (55).
Ref -- C McAllister (Cork).