Storey's words key as Oulart turn tide
Oulart-The B' 1-18 Kilcormac/K' 2-11
LEINSTER club SHC SEMI-FINAL
With his team facing a five-point deficit at half-time, Oulart-The Ballagh manager Martin Storey put a question to his players before sending them back out at O'Connor Park.
"I asked them did they want to go down the road we've done for the last three years, walking out with their heads hanging and their tails between their legs," he explained afterwards.
He also pointed them in the direction they would find salvation in a high-quality contest where both sides coped admirably with the sticky conditions.
"I said this is not about hurling or a style of hurling – this is about how badly you want that jersey on your back," said Storey.
It took a few minutes for Oulart to respond to Storey's inspirational exhortations, by which stage Kilcormac/Killoughey had added another point to lead by 2-7 to 0-7.
Considering that the reigning Leinster and Offaly champions had recovered from an early Oulart blitz, which saw the Wexford men scored four unanswered points in the opening eight minutes, it looked odds-on that K/K would reach their second successive provincial final.
They had outscored Oulart by 2-7 to 0-3 between the 10th and 36th minutes in a powerful performance underpinned by the defensive solidity of Ger and Peter Healion through the centre and the attacking skills of Thomas Geraghty and Dan Currams, plus Ciaran Slevin's accuracy from placed balls.
The latter included a lucky break in the 15th minute when his long-range free bounced into the Oulart net. Seven minutes later, Currams struck for K/K's second goal, and he came mighty close to adding a third just before the break.
But he was stopped in his tracks by Oulart 'keeper Ben O'Connor in an incident that proved doubly costly for K/K; not only did it prevent a third goal, it also left Currams dazed by a challenge that was perfectly legal.
Currams left the action, and although he resumed for the second half, he wasn't as effective and went off for a second time in the 50th minute.
Oulart's second-half revival was launched by David Redmond, who pointed in the 33rd minute. He added two more points in the next three minutes and hoisted a fourth later on in a man-of-the-match performance.
He played a most intelligent game, regularly drifting into space, snapping up possession and firing over some excellent scores. The pace of Oulart's recovery accelerated in the 38th minute when Rory Jacob drilled home their only goal and by the 45th minute they were five points clear, having hit K/K for an unanswered 1-8.
K/K pared it back two points but Oulart added another three to take a six-point lead into the final five minutes. That left K/K requiring goals to save the day but with Keith Rossiter, Paul Roche and sub Eoin Moore securing the defensive channels, there was no way back. K/K added two late points but Oulart saw it through quite comfortably after winning the second half by 1-11 to 0-5.
It really was an inspirational second- half performance by Oulart, one which Rossiter described as their best for a long time. "We haven't performed like that all year. We were waiting for it to come. It came today and I hope now it will stay. We knew that performance was in us. We never dropped the heads even when we conceded the goals and that made all the difference," he said.
Storey was equally upbeat about the quality of his side's effort in the second half. "Five points down at half-time and winning by four points against the Leinster champions was a serious performance. We changed the style a bit in the second half, not playing the big high ball, which was suiting them," he said.
But while paying tribute to the squad for the defiant manner in which they battled back in the second half, he immediately set about tempering expectations ahead of the final against Mount Leinster Rangers.
"There are no medals for today. We're in a Leinster final, that's all. We've lost the last three Leinster finals so we've nothing to brag about in Leinster," he said.
K/K manager Danny Owens identified the opening minutes of the second half as the match-defining period.
"We had three glorious chances to build on our lead but didn't do it. Oulart kicked on from there and played very well. We've no complaints – they were the better side, but I'm happy that our lads gave it their all," he said.
He suspects that football exertions by many of his players a week earlier may have taken its toll.
"We ran out of legs in the second half. Most of those lads played a hard intermediate football game in Dublin last Sunday. It came back to bite us in the finish. When we were full of beans it looked like we were the better team and would go on to win but it didn't happen," he said.
So then Oulart are back in the Leinster final for a fourth successive year in their latest attempt to win the provincial title for the first time.
They will start as favourites, territory which clearly terrifies them after experiences in previous years.
Hence, the determined drive by Storey and Rossiter to keep a tight rein on expectations. "We know all about Mount Leinster Rangers, just how good they are. We'll give them all the respect they deserve," said Rossiter.
"After losing three Leinster finals in a row, we know how hard it is to win one," said Storey.
The game marked a return to top- flight refereeing by Barry Kelly, following the death of his wife in September.
Scorers – Oulart-The Ballagh: R Jacob 1-5 (3fs), D Redmond 0-4, C O'Leary, G Sinnott, M Jacob, D Mythen 0-2 each, D Nolan 0-1. Kilcormac-Killoughey: Ciaran Slevin 1-6 (0-4fs, 0-2 '65s'), D Currams 1-0, T Geraghty 0-3, P Geraghty, K Leonard 0-1 each.
Oulart- The Ballagh – B O'Connor; D Morton, K Rossiter, B Kehoe; C Goff, P Roche, L Prendergast; M Jacob, S Murphy; D Nolan, D Redmond, D Mythen; R Jacob, G Sinnott, C O'Leary.
Sub: E Moore for Morton (h-t).
Kilcormac/Killoughey – Conor Slevin; C Guinan, G Healion, Con Mahon; K Grogan, P Healion, B Leonard; D Kilmartin, K Leonard; Ciaran Slevin, Conor Mahon, P Geraghty; J Gorman, D Currams, T Geraghty. Subs: T Fletcher for Currams (30+1), Currams for Fletcher (h-t), C Kiely for Gorman (45), D Murray for Currams (50).
REF – B Kelly (Westmeath).