Mulcahy strikes to secure spoils for gritty Kilmallock
KILMALLOCK 1-15 ADARE 0-15
LIMERICK SHC FINAL
JAKE Mulcahy got the goal which proved decisive in making Kilmallock the 2012 kingpins of Limerick hurling after a hard-fought decider at the Gaelic Grounds.
Mulcahy, a 20-year-old student, found himself in the right place at just the right time to land a killer blow to the hopes of Adare.
The game was screaming out for some decisive event to separate these evenly matched sides.
Just 13 minutes were left to play, with the sides locked on 0-11 each -- the fifth time that they had reached parity -- when Mulcahy ensured he'll be remembered forever in Kilmallock hurling lore.
The magic moment evolved out of a desperate scramble for possession of the sliotar in front of the Adare goal, one which Kilmallock's Shane O'Donnell and Eoin Ryan hurled themselves into with fire and passion.
The ball squirted out sideways from the melee, and Mulcahy was loitering with intent in clear space about 12 metres from goal.
He had a brief instant to steady himself and then first-timed the ball into the net.
Almost immediately afterwards, Ryan, one of the Kilmallock stars, extended the lead to four points with a point from play to make it 1-12 to 0-11.
Adare weren't giving up. They hurled themselves forward at every opportunity but formidable defensive work by the Kilmallock lads in the tight exchanges repelled all boarders, restricting Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughlin's team to just four points in the closing stages, all by the superb Declan Hannon.
Hannon scored 0-11 in total, five of them from frees and two from '65s', but his team-mates prospered only in patches.
At the other end, Kilmallock midfielders Paudie O'Brien, the captain, and Robbie Egan, capped a sterling display by tacking on two vital points to put some more daylight between the sides, and, in time added on, sub Kieran Kennelly rounded off the scoring.
Goalkeeper Barry Hennessy, who made a vital save from a goal-bound shot by Adare's Diarmuid Sexton in the 36th minute, full-back Mark O'Loughlin and centre-back Gavin O'Mahony were the pillars of their team's epic rearguard action.
Further up the field, Ryan, Kevin O'Donnell who played a deep-lying role, and Paudie O'Dwyer all made significant contributions, but all the players were heroes in the eyes of Kilmallock manager Tony Considine.
"We were under fierce pressure since the semi-final because we played so well. Everyone expects that again, but it doesn't happen in a final," he said.
"Adare weren't going to fade away, but the guys showed great character. They're a fantastic bunch of players," said Considine.
Kilmallock had to replace full-back Philip O'Loughlin with Liam Hurley before the game started as O'Loughlin aggravated a knee injury in the warm-up. Hurley played corner-back, with Philip's brother Mark taking over as full-back and doing a fine job.
After that, Considine called in only one sub -- Kieran Kennelly for Kevin O'Donnell just on the 60-minute mark, and, in time added on, Kennelly launched the insurance point over the bar.
"It was such a tight game you couldn't make subs, you didn't know if something would go wrong, but the man we put on got a fantastic point. He caught the ball and put it over the bar. Fantastic," said Considine.
Adare did miss a few chances and when they reflect on the match, will feel they needed a bit of luck and a greater spread of scores.
Declan Hannon's contribution was backed by only a single point each from four other players -- Donncha Sheehan (free), John Fitzgibbon, Jody Hannon, and Wayne McNamara -- over the hour plus time added on for injuries by referee Declan O'Driscoll in each half.
Kilmallock will celebrate for a couple of days, but must then prepare for an October 28 clash against whichever team emerges from the Tipperary championship.
In that respect, Considine called for a rethink by the GAA on the format of the club championships.
"They should experiment with an open draw on a trial basis for two years," he said.
"The benefit would be that lads would have it finished before Christmas time and it wouldn't be going on until St Patrick's Day, for whoever finishes up in it."
Scorers -- Kilmallock: J Mulcahy 1-1, P O'Brien, P O'Dwyer, E Ryan (1f) 0-3 each, R Egan 0-2, S O'Donnell, K O'Donnell, K Kennelly, 0-1 each. Adare: D Hannon 0-11 (5f, 2 '65's); D Sheehan (f), J Fitzgibbon, J Hannon, W McNamara 0-1 each.
Kilmallock -- B Hennessey; M O'Loughlin, L Hurley, K O'Mahony; L Walsh, G O'Mahony, B O'Sullivan; R Egan, P O'Brien; J Mulcahy, P O'Dwyer, E Ryan; G Mulcahy, K O'Donnell, S O'Donnell. Subs: K Kennelly for K O'Donnell (60)
Adare -- S O'Donoghue; J Lohan, M Clifford, S Lavin; R Kennedy, W McNamara, D Dillon; J Hannon, C Fitzgerald; J Fitzgibbon, D Hannon, A O'Rahilly; D Sheehan, P Keane, W Griffin. Subs: D Sexton for O'Rahilly (24); A O'Connell for Griffin (33).
Ref -- D O'Driscoll.