Connolly goal puts icing on cake for Coolderry
A relieved Coolderry side retained their title in dramatic fashion at O'Connor Park, Tullamore yesterday.
Playing a Birr side who have slipped a long way from their former glories, Coolderry were staring disaster in the face when they were hanging on for dear life to a one-point lead as the game entered injury-time.
However, with the game in the balance, a brilliantly taken goal from substitute Kevin Connolly seconds into injury-time was enough for Coolderry to win. There was no time for Birr to bounce back from that and over the course of the hour, Coolderry deserved their win.
Birr needed to mount a terrific comeback after being fully outplayed in the first half. Playing with the wind, Coolderry came flying out of the blocks and they should have been out of sight at half-time. They made a dream start, with Eoin Ryan getting in for a very well-taken goal after just 40 seconds. They continued to drive forward relentlessly as Birr struggled to avoid being swamped.
Coolderry added four quick points to lead by 1-4 to 0-0 after nine minutes and it was difficult to envisage anything other than an easy win for the holders.
With Kevin Brady lording it at midfield, Coolderry remained in the driving seat and at half time they were full value for their 1-11 to 0-7 lead. It would have been more only for Damien Murray missed a gilt-edged goal chance just before the break.
The champions continued to dominate in the second half and they went 1-13 to 0-8 clear after two minutes. Suddenly Birr sprung to life, however, with Dylan Hayden leading the charge. They fired over six unanswered points to cut the gap to two with 13 minutes left.
Centre half-back Joe Brady, in turn, rose to the challenge for Coolderry helped steady their ship.
A Murray free ended Coolderry's long scoreless spell, before two Thomas Bolger points left just a point in it, 0-16 to 1-14, with eight minutes left.
The smart money was on Birr at this stage, but with the winning post in sight, they lost their composure and missed a couple of good chances before Connolly's late intervention clinched it.
SCORERS -- Coolderry: D Murray 0-8 (4f and 1 '65'), E Ryan 1-2, K Connolly 1-0, K Brady 0-2, C Parlon and B Teehan 0-1 each; Birr: T Bolger 0-8 (6f), D Hayden 0-3, B Harding 0-2 (1f and 1 '65), S Ryan, P Molloy and G Hanniffy 0-1 each.
COOLDERRY -- S Corcoran; B Kelly, T Corcoran, A Corcoran; D King, J Brady, B O'Meara; K Teehan, K Brady; B Carroll, B Teehan, M Corcoran; E Ryan, C Parlon, D Murray. Subs: K Connolly for M Corcoran (50m), B Larkin for Kelly (54m), M Bergin for A Corcoran (61m).
BIRR -- B Mullins; JP O'Meara, P Cleary, M Verney; N Rogers, B Harding, B Watkins; R Hanniffy, P Molloy; G Hanniffy, D Hayden, Barry Whelahan; T Bolger, S Ryan, B Murphy. Subs: B Lonergan for O'Meara (26m), B Nolan for Murphy (41m).
REF -- B Gavin.