Intermediate Hurling Championship Final
Naomh Bríd 3-7
Mount Leinster Rangers 0-15
By Kieran Murphy
THIS intermediate hurling final win was sweet for Naomh Bríd. They would be the first to admit themselves that the work continues. Losing this final on Wednesday evening in Netwatch Cullen Park would have been a massive setback. Not just for their own club, but for Carlow hurling as a whole.
The new kings of intermediate hurling in the county also dashed the hopes of a fourth title in a row for Rangers. They did it the hard way as the eventual winners had to regroup in the second quarter. Before that Jon Nolan, with three points, and one each from Conor Fenlon, John Coady and Luke Roche had half a dozen points on the board for a superior-looking Rangers side.
All Naomh Bríd had to show for their efforts was a solitary point from Ayrton Gleeson who picked up the scoring pass from Mikey Bambrick.
The goal which breathed new life into the challengers came on 15 minutes when a speculative effort from out the field by Eanna Holland ended up in the back of the Rangers net. It looked to be down to a goalkeeping error but after the game, Naomh Brid manager Adrian O’Neill exonerated Rangers keeper Seamus O’Brien.
“We got a couple of lucky breaks tonight. That was down to the lights. We didn’t have to play under lights. We would like to have played with a bigger fan base on a Sunday where you have bigger crowds,” said the Naomh Bríd manager.
Lucky break or not, the purple and whites were back in the game. Two frees from Jon Nolan for Rangers helped to cancel out the goal but the challengers’ tails were up. When Rangers did get inside the defence they didn’t make their opportunities count. Coady hit the right hand upright when settling for a point with a goal on.
Naomh Brid goalkeeper Darren Kavanagh kept his eye on a fast approaching sliotar when Conor Fenlon had made great ground up the right wing. Just before the break, Aaron Amond and Nolan exchanged points as Rangers led 0-9 to 1-2 going into half-time.
“We had a half-time talk and we took that into the second half,” revealed Adrian O’Neill afterwards. The winning manager watched his side ratchet up the intensity in the second period. Amond converted two frees but worrying for them, Rangers seemed to have the ability to hit back. Nolan hit a fabulous point from 60 metres which should have lifted his colleagues.
Instead Naomh Bríd responded and when Alan Brennan broke through at the scoreboard end, his low shot gave O’Brien no chance. Going into the final quarter a high ball into the Rangers full-back line was allowed to drop behind the defensive rear guard and the goalkeeper. Mikey Bambrick was only too happy to seize possession as he hammered the ball past the onrushing keeper. Three points on the trot from Roche, Coady and Nolan suggested Rangers had something left in the tank. So had Naomh Bríd. They had got a glimpse of the finishing line and renewed their efforts.
They could have had another three-pointer but Rangers full-back Gary Doyle made a tremendous interception when Amond looked certain to score a fourth goal.
Naomh Bríd hunted for everything in the final minutes. Amond landed a free on 56 minutes to give his side a two-point lead. Rangers hit back with an Eoin Fenlon effort.
There was time to rescue the game. When Jon Nolan took possession in the centre of the field everyone knew he had the potential to find the posts. With opponents closing him down he had little time to settle himself and the sliotar sailed just wide. It was a tight call with referee Paud O’Dwyer happy with the umpire’s decision.
In the closing seconds, Naomh Bríd won dirty ball on at least two occasions. They wanted this more than anything and just about held out. The final whistle saw the new champions in possession and in control.
“It has been a tough year. It has been a tough couple of years actually,” explained Adrian O’Neill. “In March and April we were looking around to see what players we had. The guys turned it around, came back and played with pride and passion tonight. They played well and it is testament to Rangers. They have been around a long time. They are hard to beat wherever you go.”
Naomh Bríd: Darren Kavanagh; Colin Byrne, Sean Watchorn, Colin Brennan; Adam Dunne, Edward Kane, John Murphy; Gary Dunne, Jimmy Cahill; Aaron Amond (0-5 frees), Alan Brennan (1-0), Ayrton Gleeson (0-1); Eanna Holland (1-0), Mark Brennan (0-1), Mikey Bambrick (1-0). Subs: Padraig Coughlan for Watchorn (10 mins), Graham Amond for Holland (43 mins).
Mount Leinster Rangers: Seamus O’Brien; Shane O’Neill, Gary Doyle, Seamus Kelly; Dara Tobin, Michael O’Grady, David Grennan; Conor Fenlon (0-1), Niall Lynam; Tony Lawlor, Hugh Paddy O’Byrne, Luke Roche (0-2); Darragh O’Toole, John Coady (0-2), Jon Nolan (0-9, 0-6 frees). Subs: Eoin Fenlon (0-1) for O’Grady (43 mins), Daniel Ryan for O’Neill (47 mins).
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Palatine)