Flannery demands better as Oulart ride luck to inch closer to holy grail
Leinster Club SHC Quarter-final Oulart 3-8 Clough Ballacolla 0-13
IT won't be good enough to collect an elusive Leinster title but Oulart-The Ballagh are still in the mix after a hat-trick of goals undid a brave Clough-Ballacolla effort at O'Moore Park.
Their character has been called into question in the past but when it mattered most, Oulart forged ahead and closed out the game clinically.
Clough-Ballacolla got off to a whirlwind start and led 0-4 to nil but Murtha Doyle's controversial goal gave the Wexford champions a much-needed impetus.
Peter Murphy and Doyle, two late changes for Michael Jacob and injured attacker Nicky Kirwan, combined but earlier in the same move, Murphy struck his marker Lee Cleere and was lucky to only receive yellow in the aftermath.
Losing manager Kevin Martin was gracious in defeat but the incident left a sour taste.
"Lee was struck off the ball and their player probably should've walked," he said.
"I said it to the linesman and he said 'Yeah I saw it but we're not wired up'. He put his flag up but the referee didn't see it and the goal was allowed. You can't legislate for that really."
The Laois champions battled back bravely and were 0-8 to 1-4 up at the break. But given their dominace, a one-point lead wasn't sufficient.
They were guilty of poor decision-making in attack and hit 14 wides (to Oulart's four), while the Slaneysiders converted their three opportunities at goal.
Rory Jacob's second-half penalty, after Garrett Sinnott was dubiously fouled, put them back in front and despite incessant late pressure, it was a lead they would never relinquish, with David Redmond (pictured) raising their third green flag.
Manager Frank Flannery, recently appointed as coach to the Cork senior hurlers, acknowledged the "sheer relief" .
"We haven't got a test like that in Wexford in a while," he said. "We played a county final just last week and it's hard on lads psychologically to get back at it straight after that."
Points from Ronan Broderick, Stephen 'Picky' Maher (two) and Aidan Corby gave Clough early dominance before Paul Roche converted a free after 10 minutes.
Murphy then provided the telling pass for Doyle's goal and with Jacob beginning to pull strings around the middle of the park, they gained a foothold.
Jacob set up Des Mythen for two scores but Clough showed their steel, and with Willie Hyland and Maher causing trouble, they led by one at half-time.
Their dominance didn't show on the scoreboard, however, and Oulart struck a quick sucker punch two minutes into the second half.
Sinnott, who collected a defence-splitting pass from Doyle, was deemed to have been fouled by Tom Delaney just before pulling the trigger. It looked a genuine attempt at a hook but Peter Burke awarded the penalty and Jacob made no mistake, firing low to the corner.
Clough would not be deterred, though, and levelled through Maher and Hyland. But Jacob steadied the ship with a pair of frees before Redmond rattled the net in the 48th minute, capitalising on a rare defensive mistake to make it 3-7 to 0-11.
Broderick ended a 10-minute barren spell with a superb long-range effort, quickly followed by a Robbie Phelan point, to leave three in it with eight minutes remaining.
But that was to be their last score, and buoyed by a huge travelling support, Oulart battened down the hatches to claw out a result.
Clough lay siege to their goal but Oulart showed all their experience, with Keith Rossiter mopping up possession as sweeper. Fittingly, substitute Billy Dunne crowned a huge panel performance with a great score in injury-time.
"We had chances and a few scrummages around their goals. It just didn't fall for us, and we've no qualms. We gave it our all and it just didn't work out. Oulart were the better side," Martin concluded.
After seven Leinster final defeats, including four in a row between 2011 and 2014, Oulart now meet Westmeath kingpins Clonkill in the semi-final on November 15. Redemption is close at hand.
"They're a great bunch of lads, they keep coming back. People knock them but they keep coming back for more," Flannery said.
"You'd wonder coming from the outside does it paralyse them a small bit. They were nervous and hopefully we'll play with a bit more freedom. . . we're going to have to if we want any chance of winning it."
SCORERS - Oulart: R Jacob 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-3fs), M Doyle, D Redmond 1-0 each, D Mythen 0-2, P Roche (f) , B Dunne 0-1 each. Clough- Ballacolla: S Maher 0-6 (3fs), W Hyland 0-3, R Broderick 0-2, A Corby, R Phelan 0-1 each.
OULART-The Ballagh - C O'Leary; E Moore, K Rossiter, B Kehoe; P Roche, S Murphy, K Sheridan; D Redmond, M Doyle; P Murphy, T Storey, G Sinnott; R Jacob, P Sutton, D Mythen. Subs: D Nolan for Sutton (38), M Jacob for Murphy (43), M Og Storey for Doyle (47), B Dunne for Nolan (56).
Clough-BALLACOLLA - D Hanlon; C Coonan, D Maher, E Doyle; JA Delaney, M McEvoy, L Cleere; R Broderick, T Delaney; S Maher, S Hanlon, W Hyland; A Corby, W Dunphy, R Phelan. Subs: S Bergin for Dunphy (37), B McEvoy for Hanlon (46), D Bergin for T Delaney (52) and M Dunphy for Corby (59)
REF - P Burke (Kilkenny).