O'Loughlin demands more from Kilmallock for Croker showdown
Kilmallock 2-19 Portaferry 0-12 - All-Ireland club SHC semi-final
A goal for teenage centre-forward Paddy O'Loughlin after just two minutes sent Kilmallock on their way to what turned out to be a comfortable 13-point victory over Portaferry in Mullingar on Saturday.
Kilmallock's greater physicality and power was apparent throughout the hour's hurling at the Westmeath venue and the manner in which O'Loughlin took a heavy hit, kept his balance and found the Portaferry net on the turn epitomised their solidity under pressure.
"There aren't too many 17-year-olds that you could feel comfortable with at senior level, but he's very strong, very committed and a good striker of the ball so I would never have any worries with him," was manager Ger O'Loughlin's summary of his young centre-forward's performance.
The double All-Ireland winner with the Banner County was much more circumspect regarding their meeting with Ballyhale Shamrocks at Croke Park next month, stressing that he feels huge improvements will be needed against the Kilkenny kingpins.
"I can't emphasise enough that today's performance would not be good enough to win an All-Ireland club," he said afterwards. "Our lack of aggression was a disappointment for me. We also have to be more clinical on the ball and in the tackle against a team like Ballyhale or they will rip us apart.
"Luckily, we know the problems, so we just need to work on them and hopefully get to a stage where we can compete."
For 10 minutes in each half, Kilmallock's hurling was outstanding.
They posted 1-4 in just eight minutes after the throw-in, with five different players getting on the scoresheet from play, while they also put Portaferry to the sword shortly after half-time when six points in succession sailed over Karol Keating's crossbar, making the game safe long before a late goal from Graeme Mulcahy.
Portaferry produced some tenacious hurling to hang in and trail by just 1-8 to 0-6 at half-time, but they were utterly dependent on former Down captain Paul Braniff for scores.
Manager Seán Young wasn't too despondent afterwards however, pointing out how the best is yet to come for his native club.
"Kilmallock are a few years ahead of us," he stressed. "Our players probably haven't reached anywhere near their peak yet; it'll be a couple of years down the line before we reach that point.
"Today was a harsh lesson but our lads will learn from today, they're a young team that's hungry for success and they'll be back."
Man of the match: Philip O'Loughlin
Scorers: Kilmallock: E Ryan 0-7 (5f), G Mulcahy 1-2, B O'Sullivan 0-4, Paddy O'Loughlin 1-0, K O'Donnell 0-2 (1f), J Mulcahy, R Egan, P O'Brien, C Barry 0-1 each. Portaferry: P Braniff 0-9 (6fs, 0-1 '65), K McGarry, C Mageean, E Sands 0-1 each.