Kanturk edge an epic
SOMETIMES it just seems like the planets have aligned, all the ducks are in a row, things are like they should always be. To be fair, it's rare.
But last Saturday in Ballyhea was one of those times. A big crowd, perfect weather, a good pitch and one of the most exhilarating hurling matches that is ever likely to be played took place.
The protagonists? Kanturk and Fermoy. Up for grabs? A place in the IHC final against Éire Óg. And the winners? Everybody there. Of course, Fermoy players and fans will not agree with that right now, but with the benefit of time they should reflect back with fond memories of the day they faced Nash, McLoughlin, Walsh and Co and almost took them down.
If this game was televised it could be sent around the world as an advertisement for what Irish sport and Irish life should be. It really was that good. If you don't believe me just ask Anthony Nash.
Although he may be called upon more than the average keeper to influence a game, the nature of his position still means he has one of the worst vantage points from which to view a game – and he still saw an unfolding epic.
"Sometimes when your involved you don't get an appreciation for the all round picture," said Nash. "You are just focused on your job, keeping alert, but I think we could all see that this game was a cracker. Fermoy are a great young side, they deserve to be a Premier side and I know they will be soon."
Nash may well heap the praise on his young opponents, but that didn't stop him landing two monster points to end the Avondhu side's season.The county star landed his two wonder points – one on 50 minutes to edge his side in front and one to take the spoils on 61 minutes. Nash's brace was sensational, there are not enough superlatives to describe them.
He hit the target from over 70 metres out (80 for the first one) to break the hearts of a valiant Fermoy side, but just because he can puck a ball as far as Cú Chulainn doesn't mean he doesn't feel the pressure.
"Of course there were nerves," said Nash.
"I just hate to see a game decided by someone missing a free or something like that. There is huge pressure on a player when the game is on the line, players roaring at you - everyone watching, but that's what it is all about you just have to block it out and do your best, thankfully it worked out for me today."
While Nash's points claimed all the headlines from this one, there were plenty of other top class scores to drool over. Fermoy's brace of first half goals from David Geary and Jack Hutchings looked to be setting them up for victory but Aidan Walsh's brilliant goal on 24 minutes kept the game's see-saw nature flowing and helped his side go in at the break just trailing by a point (1-09 to 2-07).
McLoughlin's second half goal (40 minutes) may have finished the three pointers for the afternoon but there were plenty more sensational scores around with Fermoy's Liam Coleman and Brian O'Sullivan bagging top class points from distance.
It wasn't all about scores however, a exhibition of fielding from Kanturk's Walsh, McLoughlin and Lorcan O'Neill as well as wonderful catches from Fermoy's Paudie Shanahan increased the enjoyment for all and kept everyone on the edge of their proverbial seats. There are no two ways about this, last Saturday's game was sensational.
Some hand-bags inside two minutes gave all in attendance an appreciation of what this game meant to both sides, but not even a 20 man pushing match could prepare all at the ground for what was to follow.
Fermoy came into the game on the back of a wonderful display at the same venue against Milford a month previous while Kanturk's passage to the last four was only secured six days earlier after they saw off Meelin in another terrific contest in Kilbrin.
Prior to this game the questions that needed to be answered were simple: Was Fermoy's display against Milford a sign of what is to come? and would Kanturk be able to perform two weeks in-a-row? Both answers were emphatically affirmative.
Fermoy should feel aggrieved leaving the pitch, not because of any refereeing decision, but because you just shouldn't be able to play this well and still lose. However, lose they did and it is Kanturk that move on to face Éire Óg in the final in a final that surely cant be as good as this game was. Or can it?
KANTURK: A Nash 0-2f; S Walsh, D Duane, E O'Connor; L O'Neill, J McLoughlin, D O'Connor; L McLoughlin 1-6, (0-6f),, W Murphy; A Walsh 1-3, J Healy 0-1, J Brown, A O'Keeffe 0-2, M Healy 0-1, M O'Riordan. Subs: D Brown (half time), C Burke 0-1 (48), D Kenneally (55)
FERMOY: C Quinn; A Bagary, J Daly, J O'Sullivan; R O'Callaghan, D O'Carroll, M Brennan 0-1; B O'Sullivan 0-3, K Morrisson; J Hutchings 1-1, T Clancy 0-1, L Coleman 0-5 (2f); D Geary 1-3(1f), P Shanahan 0-1, M Flynn. Subs: A O'Connor (38)
Referee: D O'Leary (Watergrasshill)