Ballyduff and Crotta must meet again

County SHC Round 1: Ballyduff 1-20 Crotta O'Neills 1-20

Ballyduff’s Paud Costello and Richard Nolan, Crotta O’Neills, in action during their County SHC Round 1 at Austin Stack Park. Photo by Domnick Walsh
Ballyduff’s Paud Costello and Richard Nolan, Crotta O’Neills, in action during their County SHC Round 1 at Austin Stack Park. Photo by Domnick Walsh

Dan Kearney, Austin Stack Park, Tralee

Ballyduff and Crotta O'Neills served up a feast of exciting unpredictable hurling and the sides couldn't be separated after an enthralling end to end battle in the opening game of the double header in Austin Stack Park last Sunday.

Both sides will probably look back on the game with a sense of regret that they didn't finish the job on the day, although it was Crotta that had to score last ditch points, firstly with a brilliant 80 metre free from Shane Nolan at the end of normal time ,and then a life saving Jordan Conway effort at the end of extra time, to give them a deserved second bite at the cherry.

Crotta looked the sharper side at the start of the game and soon raced into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after six minutes with two Shane Nolan frees and an effort from play from Jordan Conway. Padraig Boyle and the accurate Nolan traded frees, before Boyle did the needful once more from a placed ball to bring the score to 0-4 to 0-3 on the quarter hour mark.

Proceedings began to get a little scrappy with a lot of elementary mistakes from both teams. Crotta's Tomas O'Connor was sweeping up really well at centre half back they soon began to make their dominance count on the scoreboard. Three points on the bounce from Conway, Shane Nolan and Raymond Nolan pushed them 0-7 to 0-3 ahead, with Padraig Boyle responding for Ballyduff in the 25th minute to cut the deficit.

Shane Nolan was really growing into the game for Crotta and landed two excellent frees, and one score from play. The mercurial Nolan was to finish the game with 14 points in total, with nine coming from placed balls.

Ballyduff looked in all sorts of trouble but their trademark battling qualities came to the fore once more when Jack Goulding and Paul O'Carroll pointed to leave them just four adrift, 0-10 to 0-6 at the half time break.

Ballyduff changed their jerseys from green to white at the start of the start of the second half and it certainly appeared to help as they came out with a much livelier spring to their step. In the first half they were hesitant when contesting possession, but now the old fire was back in their belly.

Crotta goalkeeper Adam O'Sullivan was forced to make an excellent save from Padraig Boyle, before Mikey Boyle pointed a moment later. Crotta's Shane Nolan slotted a free, but Ballyduff tagged on three points without reply from a Padraig Boyle placed ball, Liam Boyle (who was much more effective on the edge of the square), and Padraig Boyle from play, to bring them to within a point of their opponents, 0-10 to 0-11.

Paudie Quill and Padraig Boyle traded scores before Mikey Boyle levelled matters for the first time in the game in the 46th minute. It was noticeable how prominent Mikey Boyle was becoming in the middle of the field, and he would go on to have a major say in proceedings thereafter.

The pendulum had now swung in Ballyduff's favour, and points from Padraig Boyle (2), and Mikey Boyle pushed them into a 0-15 to 0-12 lead. Crotta were showing their mettle, although they were thwarted for a goal when PJ O'Gorman showed cat like reflexes to deny Raymond Nolan.

Shane Nolan pointed from play and added a free, before Crotta missed two chances to gain parity. There was still time for one more effort, and Shane Nolan stepped up in the dying seconds to level the game at 0-15 each, and force extra time.

The first half of extra time was a nip and tuck affair with the sides level on 3 different occasions. Crotta points from substitute Tom Blonde O'Sullivan, and two Shane Nolan frees were replicated by Ballyduff's Ally O'Connor, Liam Boyle and David Goulding, before Mikey Boyle took advantage of some sloppy Crotta hand-passing to give his side a one-point lead on the stroke of half time. Ballyduff had a major let off in the fifth minute though, when Shane Nolan's effort for goal was superbly cleared off the line by David Goulding.

In the second minute of the second period of extra-time after Padraig Boyle had a shout for a penalty but referee Diarmuid Kirwan waved play on, and four minutes later Jordan Conway struck for a top notch Crotta goal after some slick passing between Jeaic McKenna and Donal Hunt. Frees were traded by Padraig Boyle and Shane Nolan, and Crotta led by the 1-19 to 0-20 with the stop watch saying regular time was up.

Ballyduff refused to read the script and in the fifth minute of injury time Padraig Boyle showed snipers instincts to latch on to a breaking ball and strike low and hard into the back of the net for a one point lead. Surely this was the end, but Crotta said no, and straight from the puck out Jordan Conway struck a brilliant equaliser.

Ballyduff: PJ O'Gorman, John Hussey, Anthony O'Carroll, Darren O'Connor, David Goulding (0-1), Eoin Ross, Padraig O'Grady, Mikey Boyle (0-5), Paud Costello, Daniel O'Carroll (0-1), Liam Boyle (0-2), Paul O'Carroll (0-1), Padraig Boyle (1-8, 5f), Kevin Bowler, Jack Goulding (0-1). Subs: Maurice Dowling for K Bowler (41), Ally O'Connor (0-1) for A O'Carroll (53), Thomas Slattery for P O'Carroll (57), Darragh Goulding for M Dowling (67, e-t), Johnny Regan for P O'Grady (67, e-t), P O'Carroll for T Slattery (77, e-t).

Crotta O'Neills: Adam O'Sullivan, Adrian Mahony, Darragh Kennelly, Sean Weir, Eamon Shanahan, Tomas O'Connor, Bill Keane, Donal Hunt, Sean O'Donoghue, Richard Nolan, Jeaic McKenna, Shane Nolan (0-14; 9f, 1 '65'), Paudie Quill (0-1), Jordan Conway (1-3), Raymond Nolan (0-1). Subs: Declan O'Donoghue for S O'Donoghue (36), Jonathan Caffrey for R Nolan (57), Tom Blonde McElligott 0-1 for D Hunt (57), Mike Keane for J Caffrey (69, e-t), D Hunt for R Nolan (ht, e-t), R Nolan for T B McElligott (77, e-t), Brandon Conway for J McKenna (77 e-t).

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork)


The Game in 60 seconds

Main Man

Shane Nolan's 14 points were a testament to his accuracy throughout, whilst Tomas O'Connor was a tour de force at centre half back. Padraig Boyle was a constant menace at corner forward for Ballyduff and contributed 1-8, but overall the accolade must go to his brother Mikey. The Ballyduff midfielder showed brilliant leadership when his side needed him the most, and he contributed 5 points from play, as well as a number of assists.

Key moment

In a game of twists and turns and interchanging fortunes it is difficult to pick out one particular moment in the game that swung the contest. PJ O'Gorman's save from Raymond Nolan may have been the difference. With just four minutes left in normal time a goal would have levelled matters and Crotta may have had the momentum to strike for victory.

Talking Point

Where did referee Diarmuid Kirwan get the five minutes of additional time that was played in the second half of extra-time? It was baffling.