Parlon puts Coolderry on path to glory
COOLDERRY started yesterday's showdown in Nowlan Park as outsiders, but neatly manoeuvred their way to the inside track from where they grew in power, en route to winning the title for the first time.
It was, said Coolderry manager Ken Hogan, a victory for character, a prize for combining ambition with a relentless work ethic by a group that had been portrayed as underachievers over recent years.
Now they stand on the Leinster summit, eyeing even higher peaks in the New Year when the adventure takes them into an All-Ireland semi-final against Galway champions Gort.
It's such a different scene from the bleak landscape the Oulart-The Ballagh squad will see for as long as it takes them to get this latest setback out of their systems.
"Losing two Leinster finals in 10 months (the 2010 decider against O'Loughlin Gaels was delayed until January because of the bad weather) is very disappointing," said Liam Dunne as he handed in his club managerial bib to turn his attentions to Wexford.
However, he graciously acknowledged that Coolderry were the better side on the day and fully deserved their victory.
"Look, it's all about taking your chances and we didn't do that today. Coolderry did and that's why they won," he said.
The wides count (Oulart 14, Coolderry 5) made grim reading for the Wexford champions and in addition to missing the target so often, they dropped several shots short, all of which were capably dealt with and despatched back with interest by goalkeeper Stephen Corcoran.
He was a reliable presence behind a compact defence, where Joe Brady, Trevor and Alan Corcoran did extremely well, while in attack Cathal Parlon, Damien Murray and Brian Carroll scored 1-12 between them.
Oulart's attack was much less productive and while David Redmond, Darren Stamp and Keith Rossiter did well in defence, it wasn't enough to undermine Coolderry.
Still, it looked early on as if Oulart would live up to their 8/13 favourites' rating when they ran into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after nine minutes.
It was a testing period for Coolderry, but once they settled into a rhythm, they picked off some excellent points. For all that, Oulart should have been ahead at half-time as they shot eight first-half wides.
Instead they were a point adrift (0-6 to 0-5) and, equally importantly, had allowed Coolderry's confidence levels to soar.
"We were very calm at half-time. Oulart had missed a few scores, so we knew that we were in a much better position than we might have been," said Hogan.
Oulart levelled it up 30 seconds after the restart, but it was to be the last time they were on an equal footing with their rapidly-improving rivals. Coolderry made a decisive break in the 32nd minute when Parlon's persistence took him through a forest of tacklers before he whipped the ball to the Oulart net. Coolderry added two points, leaving Oulart facing a five-point deficit and a real challenge.
The margin had extended to six points after 39 minutes before Oulart enjoyed their best spell of the second half, scoring three points in five minutes which hauled them right back into contention.
It was as close as they got because Murray scored two points to extend Coolderry's lead and, as their superiority grew, they took a seven-point advantage (1-15 to 0-11) into the final 10 minutes.
Oulart battled on and were handed a lifeline in the 51st minute when a late tackle on Stamp resulted in a 21-metre free which yielded a goal off a sweet strike by corner-back Paul Roche.
There was still plenty of time for Oulart to complete the revival, but despite applying intense pressure, they failed to score again.
Neither did Coolderry, but they had a four-point cushion which they guarded doggedly all the way to the finish line to crown the best day in the club's illustrious history.
"Days like this are to be cherished. When you're written off like we were, it gives you a huge incentive. That wouldn't be enough on its own, but these lads are great competitors and they showed it again today," said Hogan.
"The effort they put in all along has been unbelievable. You can have all the ability in the world, but the character has to be there too and this panel definitely has it.
"And then there were lads who weren't on the squad, but who came down to the field to make up A v B games. That's the sort of spirit you have in this club, so today's win is a victory for everyone in the parish," he added.
It was a bitter disappointment for Oulart and a sad way for Dunne to end his tenure before moving on to the inter-county scene, but he remains convinced that they can still make the provincial breakthrough.
"We were down before and we came back. We won the three-in-a-row in Wexford for the first time this year and now the lads have to go on and make it four-in-a-row next year.
"That's the only way they can get another shot at the Leinster championship," he said.
All that seems a long way off right now for Oulart who must first come to terms with the reality that they didn't do themselves justice yesterday.
Their wayward shooting proved particularly costly, but, in fairness, it must be pointed out that the strikers were usually under immense pressure from the marauding Coolderry men.
Coolderry had a goal disallowed in the 46th minute and while it might have proved significant on another day, it had no real bearing this time as Oulart were unable to match the hectic pace and intensity produced by the Offaly champions.
"These deserve everything they get," said Ken Hogan, who played down his own role in the success even if it will be fully acknowledged by a grateful club.
The official attendance was 4,610.
Scorers -- Coolderry: C Parlon 1-3, D Murray 0-6 (4f), B Carroll 0-3, K Connolly, B Teehan, E Ryan 0-1 each. Oulart-The Ballagh: E Moore 0-4 (3f), N Kirwan 0-3 (2f), P Roche 1-0 (f), D Nolan 0-2, R Jacob, S Doyle 0-1 each.
Coolderry -- S Corcoran; B Kelly, T Corcoran, A Corcoran; K Brady, J Brady, B O'Meara; K Teehan, D King; B Carroll, B Teehan, M Corcoran; E Ryan, C Parlon, D Murray. Subs: K Connolly for M Corcoran (46 mins), S Connolly for Kelly (54), M Bergin for K Brady (59).
Oulart-The Ballagh -- B O'Connor; P Roche, K Rossiter, B Kehoe; D Redmond, D Stamp, L Prendergast; S Murphy, M Jacob; F Cullen, G Sinnott, D Nolan; E Moore, R Jacob, M Kirwan.
Subs: S Doyle for Moore (41), D Mythen for R Jacob (53), P Murphy for Cullen (53), A Kavanagh for Nolan (58).
Ref -- J McGrath (Westmeath)