Magnificent Slevin leads the way as Kilcormac shake off gutsy Castletown
Kilcormac 2-15 Castletown 1-12 - Leinster Club SHC
Kilcormac/Killoughey continued their winning ways yesterday after they came through a demanding encounter with Westmeath champions Castletown Geoghegan.
It was a tough and physical hour of hurling in O'Connor Park and despite having to play the second-half with 14 men, the Offaly champions had enough in the tank to pull through by six points.
It wasn't until the last quarter of the game that they saw some daylight, as a Niall O'Brien-inspired Castletown Geoghegan proved stubborn and hard to shake off. Minus the influential Aonghus Clarke, who was out of the country, there was a big burden on O'Brien, but he delivered with 1-8.
Overall, Kilcormac were the better outfit and a superbly taken goal from Dan Currams in the 24th minute drove them on to lead at the break by a point, despite having hurled against the wind.
Speaking afterwards, Kilcormac/Killoughey manager Stephen Byrne was just happy to come through it.
"At this stage of the year, let it be a one-point win, five-point win or a six-point win. When you get to this stage of the championship, it is a good win," he said.
"We had a lot of work done on Castletown Geoghegan and we knew how good they were. From their point of view, missing Aonghus Clarke was a bit of a downer, but they didn't show that today.
"They proved they had a squad of guys who can do the business for them. A good hurling team who are physically strong and we knew that coming into the game."
Both sides had the ball in the net inside the opening 10 minutes. After James Gorman and Niall O'Brien opened the scoring for their respective sides, O'Brien crashed a penalty home to give the Westmeath champions an early edge.
That advantage was short-lived, however, as goalkeeper Paddy Maloney was disposed by Dan Currams coming out with the ball, leaving Peter Healion with the simplest of goals as he fired into the empty net to level matters.
That could have rattled Castletown Geoghegan, but they reeled off five points on the spin, four of which came from their talisman Niall O'Brien, to put them 1-6 to 1-2 up with 20 minutes played.
While fully deserving of their lead, Kilcormac were still prowling and a superb pass from Cillian Kiely found Currams in space before he sent a rasper of a shot to the net to level the game on 24 minutes.
A point from Ciaran Slevin followed in the next attack and having been four points down four minutes previously, Kilcormac now found themselves a point ahead.
The sides traded scores before the break, but having played against the wind it was the Offaly champions who went in leading at half-time - 2-6 to 1-8.
The 2012 Leinster club champions were then dealt a blow immediately after half-time when Stephen Leonard picked up his second yellow card, but that galvanised them, according to manager Byrne.
"Going in at half-time, I wasn't happy with our work rate in terms of getting the breaks - something we have worked on all year. When Stephen Leonard was sent off, the guys upped their game and started to win breaks," he said.
Ciaran Slevin was in fine form from placed balls and he landed two inside the opening 10 minutes of the second-half to put them 2-9 to 1-9 ahead after 40 minutes.
With Niall O'Brien still to the fore on the other side, daylight was hard to come by for Kilcormac, but three points on the spin from the midfield partnership of Cillian Kiely and Ciaran Slevin saw them open up a comfortable six-point advantage with 10 minutes to go.
The game dropped in tempo in the closing stages as Kilcormac, who played all but seconds of the second-half with 14 men, began to feel the pinch. Castletown Geoghegan needed goals, but a couple of half chances were dealt with the by the Kilcormac rearguard, with a monstrous score from Peter Geraghty finishing off the scoring and seeing them home by six points.
They now move on to face Mount Leinster Rangers in the semi-final and Byrne is expecting another tough assignment.
"They're a serious outfit. They've played in a club All-Ireland, we played them in 2012 and similar to ourselves they probably have a good bit of the squad that they had back then. That'll be a serious battle."
Scorers - Kilcormac/Killoughey: Ciaran Slevin 0-8 (6f), J Gorman 0-3, P Healion and D Currams 1-0 each, C Kiely 0-2, P Geraghty and T Geraghty 0-1 each.
Castletown Geoghegan: N O'Brien 1-8 (3f and 1 pen), S Clavin 0-2, J Clarke and P Maxwell 0-1 each.
Kilcormac/Killoughey: Conor Slevin; K Leonard, G Healion, E Grogan; K Grogan, D Kilmartin, J Quinn; Ciaran Slevin, C Kiely; J Gorman, C Mahon, T Geraghty; S Leonard, P Healion, D Currams. Subs: P Geraghty (for J Gorman 47m), S Guinan (for P Healion 59m).
Castletown Geoghegan: P Maloney; N McKenna, D McDermott, E Og Clarke; C Kane, S Clavin, L Varley; D Lynch, J Bermingham; D McCormack, J Clarke, E Quinn; N Kirby, N O'Brien, P Maxwell. Subs: P Doody (for N Kirby 44m), A Corbett (for D McCormack 44m).
Ref - J Heffernan (Wexford)