Glenealy fight back
Glenealy 2-12 Thomas Davis (Dublin) 2-10
Few would have given Glenealy much hope of progressing in the Leinster Intermediate hurling championship on Saturday afternoon last in Parnell Park when they trailed Dublin's Thomas Davis by 2-10 to 0-09 with a little over 10 minutes left on the clock.
But there there's hurling ability, belief and courage there's hope. And Glenealy have plenty of all three.
Of that seven-point deficit, the father and son pair, Jonathan O'Neill Snr and Jnr, accounted for 1-03, the father firing over three excellent points from frees, the son showing lovely wrists to lash home a low shot to the bottom corner of the Thomas Davis net to level the game and bring the Glenealy following to their feet in the stand.
The remaining three points came from the hurl of Alan Driver who swung sweetly at a breaking ball and dispatched it to the back of the Thomas Davis goal to kickstart the Glenealy revival in a game where they looked like they were not going to do themselves justice.
For patches in this game it was as if the Wicklow Senior champions just couldn't settle. Shorn of the services of Leighton Glynn due to a hand injury, the Reds struggled at stages in this game with a hungry and very fit Thomas Davis side looking the more capable of the two outfits at times.
Glenealy began the game with several positional changes. Danny Staunton was named at half-forward but was deployed for a brief period at corner-forward. Ruairi O'Neill stood at centre-half back while James Manley came in for the injured Glynn.
Staunton, once the corner-forward experiment was concluded, had a superb game for the Wicklow champions, chipping in with three points and working his socks off all over the field.
Joining the Glenealy captain in the 'must be complimented' category is full-back Warren Kavanagh. What a performance from the teak-tough defender. It's widely accepted that he should be wearing the number six jersey and we can only wonder about the heights he could scale from that position but Kavanagh was immense on Saturday, showing toughness and class all through and he was a pleasure to watch.
A strong start had Thomas Davis flying in a 0-04 to 0-01 lead with John Manley registering Glenealy's only point after eight minutes of action with a fine effort from distance after a superb catch from 'Bosco' Jnr after a long clearance from the aforementioned Kavanagh, his second in about 30 seconds.
Thomas Davis had pulled their full-forward, Conor Molloy, off out the field from the start of this game and Glenealy decided to send Emmet Byrne in pursuit. This opened up space for the inside pair of Liam Sinnott and Cian Murphy but Warren Kavanagh and Robert Byrne coped reasonably well considering the quantity of ball that was coming in from the midfield, with Eanna O'Toole being particularly efficient.
A sweet Enan Glynn point after 10 minutes was followed by a brief barren period with Thomas Davis recording four wides to Glenealy's one before Danny Staunton showed all the skills of a master pickpocket to emerge from a cluster of bodies and wallop over from way out the field to bring Glenealy to within a point with 18 minutes of hectic action behind us.
Another Thomas Davis wide was followed by a pointed free from 'Bosco' to level matters and the Wicklow champions took the lead when the master tactician swung over after Emmet Byrne had been fouled.
A strong few minutes from the Dublin outfit saw them surge into a 1-06 to 0-05 lead. Kevin Ward started the run with a fine point following massive work by Glenealy in defence and midfield. The problem for Laffan's men was that the balls going in to the inside weren't sticking with Ryan Deegan and Colin Brown having fine games at six and three.
And then the first goal of the game arrived. Yet another Glenealy ball into the inside line was cleared with ease and Thomas Davis attacked. Yet again Warren Kavanagh cleaned up the mess but his one-handed swing was blocked down and all of a sudden there were two Thomas Davis men around him.
They won the ball, a little dink pass was played over the top and the ball broke to Daire Kerr who fired home low past Keith Snell. Eanna O'Toole added a point with 'Bosco' replying with a free to leave it 1-06 to 0-06 at the break.
Glenealy made two changes at the break, sending in Garry Hughes and Paul O'Brien for Enan Glynn and James Manley and O'Brien rewarded that decision with a fine point after three minutes thanks to good work from 'Bosco'.
Two Danny Staunton points kept Glenealy well in touch but they trailed by 1-08 to 0-09 after 12 minutes and were in serious trouble after 16 minutes when a Keith Snell clearance was gathered by Eanna O'Toole out the field and returned to the hand of Tom O'Dwyer. O'Dwyer's shot was saved on the line and scooped clear but Cian Murphy somehow got his hurl to the ball as Emmet Byrne went to drive it out and the ball ended up in the back of the Glenealy net to make it 2-08 to 0-09.
It was all Thomas Davis now. The earlier handling errors and unusual unease of some of the Glenealy men were proving much more expensive at this stage of the game and two further points created the seven-point gap with 10 to go.
A 'Bosco' free and Alan Driver's lovely pull reduced that lead to three and when Jonathan O'Neill Jnr walloped home to level the game after 24 minutes you could feel the surge in Glenealy belief on and off the field.
It was now time for experience and cuteness. Wayne O'Gorman and Leighton Glynn were deployed with O'Gorman causing all sorts of problems inside and Leighton Glynn getting on a bit of ball further out and steadying the ship.
Jonathan O'Neill Jnr won a free which the grandmaster pointed to give Glenealy the lead.
Now the Reds believed. And they started to dominate. Leighton Glynn showed all his skill to win a dirty ball and create some space before sending in a lovely ball to Alan Driver. Driver recycled to 'Bosco' who was out on the sideline and the sharpshooter lashed over a magnificent point to push Glenealy ahead by two.
Thomas Davis attacked and there were one or two hairy moments but Glenealy stood tall with Danny Staunton clearing one ball and this writer's man of the match without a shadow of a doubt, Warren Kavanagh, gathering and clearing the last Thomas Davis attack before the sweet sound of the final whistle.
Glenealy march on. They will face the Wexford champions away in the semi-final. It'll be tricky but it would be pure folly to bet against these fine hurlers.
Scorers - Glenealy: Jonathan O'Neill Snr 0-06 (6f), Alan Driver 1-00, Jonathan O'Neill Jnr 1-00, Danny Staunton 0-03, John Manley 0-01, Jamie Byrne 0-01, Paul O'Brien 0-01.
Thomas Davis: Kevin Ward 0-04 (2f), Daire Kerr 1-01, Cian Murphy 1-00, Liam Sinnott 0-02, Eanna O'Toole 0-01, Conor Molloy 0-01, Tom O'Dwyer 0-01.
Glenealy: Keith Snell; Emmet Byrne, Warren Kavanagh, Robert Byrne; Garry Byrne, Ruairi O'Neill, Tommy Doyle; Jonathan O'Neill, John Manley; Danny Staunton, Jamie Byrne, Enan Glynn; Jonathan O'Neill Jnr, Alan Driver, James Manley. Subs: Garry Hughes for J Manley (H/T), Paul O'Brien for E Glynn (H/T), Cian Staunton for K Snell, Leighton Glynn for J Manley.
Thomas DAVIS: Caelan Brennan; Jack McDonnell, Colin Brown, Dillon Joyce; David Keogh, Ryan Deegan, Gavin Carruth; Eanna O'Toole, Daire Kerr; Kevin Ward, Tom O'Dwyer, Sean Reilly; Liam Sinnott, Conor Molloy, Cian Murphy. Subs: David Newell for L Sinnott.