Friday 24 February 2017

Hogan hails Maguire's heroics as Ballyboden survive Clonkill storm

Ballyboden St Enda's 2-12 Clonkill 1-13

Ballyboden St Enda's were made to fight all the way by Westmeath champions Clonkill at Mullingar yesterday, before qualifying for the provincial semi-final.

On a very pleasant afternoon for hurling, it was clear from an early juncture that the home side were going to be competitive and the teams were level at 0-4 apiece after 20 minutes, with the winners' All Star goalkeeper Gary Maguire needing to be at his best on a couple of occasions, including pulling off a brilliant save early on from Brendan Murtagh.

In the 24th minute, an error from Stephen Nulty in the Clonkill goalmouth gifted Conor McCormack a goal.

Two minutes later, a great move ended with a rasping shot to the net from Simon Lambert, and the Dubliners looked set for a comfortable win, going in at the interval leading by 2-7 to 0-6.

However, Clonkill -- who won the All-Ireland intermediate title in 2008 -- came right back into contention with a wonderful goal from their marquee player, Murtagh, within three minutes of the restart.

Ballyboden St Enda's were relying on the accuracy of Paul Ryan from placed balls to keep their noses in front as the hosts -- who started the game as 5/1 underdogs -- went in search of a famous victory.

Indeed, it needed heroic defending from the visitors' half-back line in particular -- where Malachy Travers excelled throughout -- to keep Clonkill at bay.

With Ballyboden St Enda's a goal to the good in the 58th minute, Darragh Spain produced a great block on the impressive Eoin Price, who had a goal on his mind.

Late points from Andrew Mitchell (free) and Murtagh (a marvellous score from play) left the bare minimum between the sides ahead of three minutes' added-time.

Clonkill went all out in search of an equaliser, but a Ballyboden St Enda's counter-attack ended with a late free for Ryan, which the corner-forward converted for an insurance point.

Winning manager Liam Hogan must now prepare for a penultimate-round tie with his home club Coolderry next Sunday and he picked out Maguire's "fantastic save" and Spain's "absolutely vital block" as key incidents in his team's narrow win.

"We had three games in Dublin where we weren't tested," Hogan stated, "but we were tested today in no uncertain terms and Clonkill can consider themselves very unlucky."

Scorers -- Ballyboden St Enda's: P Ryan 0-8 (5f, 1 '65'), C McCormack, S Lambert 1-1 each, M Travers, D O'Connor 0-1 each. Clonkill: B Murtagh 1-5 (1 f), A Mitchell (1f, 1 '65'), A McGrath (3 fs) 0-3 each, A Price, A Dowdall 0-1 each.

Ballyboden St Enda's -- G Maguire; S Nagle, D Spain, M O'Sullivan; M Travers, S Nolan, D Curran; D Curtain, S Durkin; J Doody, S Lambert, D O'Connor; E Carroll, C McCormack, P Ryan. Subs: N McMorrow for Doody (39), T Sweeney for Carroll (41), D Sweeney for Nagle (53), P Buckeridge for Curran (59).

Clonkill -- S Nulty; S Cleary, A Price, J Fagan; K Reilly, P Dowdall, A Mitchell; E Price, L Folan; A Price, A McGrath, A Dowdall; S Loughlin, B Murtagh, E Loughlin. Subs: C Scally for A Price (inj, 39), L Donoghue for Folan (50).

Ref -- F Smith (Meath).

Irish Independent

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