Askamore clinched the Intermediate crown in a thrilling derby on Saturday P.J. NOLAN pulled Askamore back from the brink just when it looked like slipping away from them as they eventually saw off HWH-Bunclody in this thrilling FBD Intermediate hurling championship final at Wexford Park on Saturday last.
Askamore looked the side with the more hurling quality for lengthy stretches of this enthralling clash of neighbours, but when HWH-Bunclody struck a second-half purple patch, going toe-to-toe with their opponents, they looked like snatching a dramatic victory.
HWH-Bunclody looked to have all angles covered when a Mylie Connors point had them one in front with four minutes remaining, and it looked as if Askamore's old failings on the big stage were about to come back to haunt them.
It was hard to believe that Askamore were trailing, having played so much quality hurling. They needed someone to step up to the plate if they were to salvage anything from this game in the closing tension-packed minutes of what had turned into an enthralling final clash.
When most needed, Nolan, who was outstanding all through from midfield, smashed over the levelling point having picked up a loose clearance three minutes from the end. It settled the side's nerves, giving them the confidence to launch a further series of attacks that produced the lead point from substitute Pádraig Byrne and the insurance point from Shane Tomkins.
HWH-Bunclody still had not stopped trying as the game moved into additional time. They launched one final attack in search of what would have been the winning goal, but substitute Colm Farrell, having made such progress, lost possession over the end line, leaving their neighbours to celebrate a magnificent victory and elevation to Senior ranks for 2010.
Askamore brought a ferocity to their play from the very outset. Within 30 seconds of the start, Billy Nolan shot over the lead point, while further excellent points followed from P.J. Nolan and Frank Boggan to leave them with a 0-3 to nil lead after just four minutes.
Having endured such a testing start, HWH-Bunclody eventually managed to lift the siege, launching an attack and opening their account with a fifthminute Dylan Kehoe point.
The big battles were being played out at either end of the pitch as the tide abbed and flowed, with the respective defences showing their qualities. Darren Kehoe was leading by example in the HWH-Bunclody rearguard with great support from Barry Kehoe and Ollie Connors, while Frank Lancaster, Martin Hayden and Colm Buttle were inspirational for their opponents.
Nine minutes in a great P.J. Nolan run through the defence delivered an excellent point, while at the opposite end a Kevin Dunne pointed free kept HWH-Bunclody in touch, although they were left to regret a total of six wides during this opening twelveminute spell.
Approaching the end of the first quarter, Askamore, who have found goalscoring so difficult in this campaign, finally delivered, when Billy Nolan, who had started at full-forward, worked himself into space before crashing a rising shot high into the net, giving his side a 1-4 to 0-2 lead. When Eoin Sheridan made that a six-point gain it looked as if Askamore were about to assume control.
But HWH-Bunclody ensured that Askamore did not live in the comfort zone for too long as they hit back for three unanswered points from Kevin Dunne (free), Peter Atkinson and Mylie Connors to reduce the deficit to three points (1-5 to 0-5) with three minutes remaining.
Shane Tomkins (free) and Mylie Connors went on to exchange points, leaving Askamore leading by 1-6 to 0-6 at the interval.
Askamore had a convincing start to the second-half with a point from P.J. Nolan inside 20 seconds, while one minute later Shane Tomkins pointed a free after being fouled, pushing them five points clear.
HWH-Bunclody needed something special. Darren Kehoe provided this with an inspirational run out of defence. He was allowed to travel a long distance before being fouled, with Peter Atkinson pointing the resulting free. Atkinson followed with a further pointed free, going on to pick off a long-range point from midfield.
The Bunclody boys were now playing some sublime hurling as they stormed all over their opponents. It was real championship hurling as points from substitute Mark Murphy and James Kehoe had the sides level (1-8 to 0-11) after 39 minutes.
There was something good about the Bunclody hurling at this stage as Atkinson (one free) lofted over two hugely-important points, and suddenly they were in front by 0-13 to 1-8 after 42 minutes, the first time they led in the game.
After a Shane Tomkins pointed free reduced the deficit, it was the turn of substitute John Byrne to storm into the game. Byrne shot an excellent point while with twelve minutes remaining a Shane Tomkins pointed 60-metre free had the sides level again (1-11 to 0-14).
HWH-Bunclody were not found wanting with Peter Atkinson striking over a great point out of midfield to restore his side's lead.
Points from Tomkins and Byrne, his second since his introduction, had Askamore back in front. James Kehoe and Mylie Connors picked off points, leaving HWH-Bunclody clinging to a 017 to 1-13 lead with three minutes remaining.
The sides never stopped in their search for scores, but Askamore delivered the final three unanswered points to lift the title after an enthralling final.