ST SYLVESTER’S 1-18
NAOMH MEARNOG 3-12
A PICTURE paints a thousand words and that was certainly the case at Drumnigh on Saturday.
There was one photo captured by GAApics man Peter Hickey which summed it up.
It was a moment frozen in time - a St Sylvester’s supporter leaping high from the far railing to celebrate his side’s last-gasp goal.
If any reminder was needed about what hurling means to the club, this was it. They had snatched a draw out of the jaws of defeat against their next-door neighbours.
Fourteen-man Naomh Mearnog must have thought they had done enough to hang on for victory when Sylvester’s staged one last attack eight minutes into stoppage time.
The slip pass into full forward, Eoghan Buckley created the opening, he had only one thing on his mind and duly blasted into the top corner of the net.
When the sliotar went in they danced a merry jig on the sidelines. Two minutes later it was all over and the two teams must go at it once more this coming Saturday at the same venue (3pm).
After two years of Covid, this was what we needed - the crowds back in full voice - and you could argue that they had a big impact on the game.
Two instances stood out. There was Cian Hendricken’s challenge on Sean Graham 17 minutes into the second half.
On that occasion the Syls sideline erupted and moments later Mearnog’s captain received his marching orders. Trailing at that stage by four points, having halved Mearnog’s lead, they reeled off three more points before Mearnog were awarded a penalty with four minutes to go. Off a long ball played in from the left, Mark Phelan was dragged down - albeit it looked as if he was going away from goal at the time.
In any case there was a huge roar from the Mearnog line and supporters, a penalty was awarded and up stepped former Dublin underage defender Tommy Kinnane to convert past the keeper.
And when Shane Kavanagh added a point soon after to move Mearnog’s lead out to five points, Sylvester’s goose looked well and truly cooked.
However that groundswell of support from the sideline would prove crucial in the remaining period, and following a free from Graham, impact sub Alan Kenny sent over two fantastic points to put just a score between the sides.
And while Eamon McLoughney had underhit a free intended for the back of the net, Sylvester’s never gave up hope and their perseverance was rewarded in the end with Buckley’s epic strike.
It will be interesting to see if this weekend’s replay follows the same pattern.
Mearnog had got off to a terrific start, with Phelan very much to the fore as they built up an early six-point lead.
Following a free from Liam Mullen, Mearnog found the back of the net when Phelan got in behind his marker before beating the keeper from the right side of the square.
Further points from Mullen and Shane Nangle put greater distance between the two before Graham opened the Sylvester’s account with a well taken score from the right six minutes in.
With right half Darragh McLoughney winning some good possessions, Sylvester’s continued to turn the screw, with a free from Dan Murphy and a point from their captain Cillian O Flynn narrowing the gap to three.
Phelan, however, was having a big game at full forward and his strength on the ball created a number of frees which Mullen duly converted.
And with Shane Nangle driving over a fantastic point from the right, Mearnog began to pull away again as the first half came to a close, their lead out to five at the break - 1-9 to 0-7.
Mearnog began the second half with a point from Charlie McCarthy before a pass by Phelan saw an unattended Mullen beat the keeper with a cracking finish into the far corner.
With their lead out nine points, Mearnog seemed to be home and dry, but incredibly they were held scoreless for the next 23 minutes, during which time Sylvester’s slowly ate into their lead, with Graham having a fine game in the corner.
With eight minutes to go they had got the deficit down to the bare minimum following a series of scores off placed ball from Dan Murphy and Eamon McLoughney.
Kinnane’s penalty briefly threatened to halt their comeback, but Sylvester’s were not found wanting. Theyll need that fighting spirit again at the weekend if they are to deny Mearnog a second title in three years.
St SYLVESTER’S: David Kennedy, Philip Ryan, Sean Foley, Conor Hoyne, Darragh McLoughney, Eamon McLoughney 0-1(f), Alan Morris, Killian O’Flynn, Luke Hughes, Paul Farrelly 0-2, Liam Foley 0-1, Conor Buckley 0-1, Danny Murphy 0-5 (0-5f), Eoghan Buckley 1-2, Sean Graham 0-4 (0-3f). Subs: Cian Whitney for Conor Buckley, Alan Kenny 0-2 for Liam Foley, Kieran Falvey for Sean Foley, Eaun Farquharson for Farrelly.
Naomh MEARNOG: Bobby Smith, Conor Archer, Tom Cosgrove, Rory O Loughlin, Tommy Kinnane 1-0 (pen), Cian Hendricken, Cian O’Daly, Charlie McCarthy 0-1, Shane Kavanagh 0-1, Liam Mullen 1-7 (0-3f), Daniel Maddock, Shane Nangle 0-2, Chris O’Sullivan, Mark Phelan 1-0, Diarmuid Keavey 0-1. Subs: Mark O’Callaghan for Rory O’Loughlin, Chris Farrelly for Chris O’Sullivan, Stan Kinnane for Charlie Mc Carthy, Jack Keogh for Dan Maddock.
Referee: Sean Dunican
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