Ballinastragh Gaels 3-17 Oulart-The Ballagh 6-8
Plucky Ballinastragh Gaels knocked Oulart-The Ballagh out of the running for the Enniscorthy Guardian Juvenile hurling Roinn 1 championship title as the sides played out a draw in The Rock on Thursday.
The Enniscorthy District side needed victory to keep their hopes alive and looked to be on their way to their win after building decent leads on a couple of occasions. However, the hosts, who had nothing but pride to play for, were magnificent.
In truth, it was a game of fascinating battles all over the field. For the visitors, Billy Dunne was superb.
His penetrative runs through the heart of the hosts' defence were a feature throughout, although stopper J.J. O'Neill made several vital saves from him to keep the Gaels in the game.
As well as their goalkeeper, sweeper Conor Hughes was a colossus for the Kilanerin/Tara Rocks combination. They also boasted plenty of pace on the wings, with the application of their smart tactics to feed Joe Curtis and Caleb Murphy at every available opportunity implemented to perfection.
The visitors started on the front foot and nabbed early goals courtesy of Adam McRedmond and Aaron Doyle. The Gaels started to settle, grew in confidence when Oulart-The Ballagh failed to push on, and got right back into contention when Curtis hit the net after his initial effort was well saved by Lee O'Connor.
While Ballinastragh picked off a string of classy points to stay in contention, the powerful visitors continued to create goal chances. They took another one when Declan Sinnott sent a rasping stroke to the top corner late in the period and it helped his club to a 3-4 to 1-7 interval lead.
The second-half was a real see-saw affair. Ballinastragh took the lead after Hughes drilled home a low penalty after a foul on Murphy but Oulart-The Ballagh again responded when Aaron Kirwan-Doyle scooped in from close range after O'Neill stopped Dunne's shot.
Oulart-The Ballagh were purring for a spell in the third quarter and further goals from McRedmond and Daire Swords left them six clear (6-4 to 2-10).
With Mikey Higgins and Curtis notching earlier points, Hughes got the Gaels right back in the game with a rocket major from a tight angle with twelve minutes left.
Murphy drew Ballinastragh level (3-14 to 6-5) in the final ten minutes and it was nip and tuck all the way until the end with Aaron Byrne's injury-time leveller not enough to get Oulart-The Ballagh the win they needed.
Ballinastragh Gaels: J.J. O'Neill; Jake Kinsella, Ben Morris, Conor Jones; Garbhan Finn, Tom Mordaunt, Jason Bolger; Robert Murphy, Cillian Byrne; Joe Curtis (1-3), Conor Hughes (2-2, 1-0 pen.), Caleb Murphy (0-10, 8 frees, 1 '65); Mikey Higgins (0-2), Jordan Kinch, Conor Kinsella. Sub. - Seán Hughes for Kinch (53).
Oulart-The Ballagh: Lee O'Connor; Lorcan Nimmo, Jack Corrigan, Jake Cox; Darragh Hayes, Aaron Byrne (0-1), Aaron Doyle (1-0); Martin O'Connor, Chris Lawless; Daire Swords (1-0), Billy Dunne (0-6, 1 free), Declan Sinnott (1-0); Aaron Kirwan-Doyle (1-0), Jim Finn, Adam McRedmond (2-1). Subs. - Dan Nolan for Cox (49), Stephen Davitt for Kirwan (60), also John Roche, Pierce Redmond, Edward O'Dowd.
Referee: Paddy Brady (Ballygarrett).