St. Gall’s 1-16 to 0-17
St. Gall’s produced a strong second half performance to overcome the challenge of Kickham’s Creggan in a tough uncompromising Intermediate Hurling Championship final at a windy Hannastown on Saturday.
Playing with the breeze in the opening half, Kickham’s dominated the first half exchanges but it was St. Gall’s who got off to the better start when Mark Napier from play and CJ McGourty pointed them two ahead with four minutes gone.
Slowly the Staffordstown Road side settled however and after registering a couple of wides they drew level by the 7th minute as Ciaran Maguire and Conor McCann (free) got them on their way but St. Gall’s replied through CJ McGourty and Karl Stewart to edge two ahead again by the 10th minute.
Creggan were starting to play with belief however and aided by the breeze they moved a point ahead as Conor McCann began to find the range and two from the county man and another from Odhran McCann saw them take the lead for the first time.
The momentum had now swung firmly in favour of the South West side and as they began to play some wonderful hurling they looked to be taking control. The impressive Odhran McCann led the way with three on the trot; his third on 24 minutes put four between the sides.
McCann and his team mates will rue an earlier miss however when a great move from mid-field opened up the St. Gall’s defence but McCann batted the sliotar wide of a gaping goal. Still the majority of the play at this stage was towards the Milltown goals but Creggan were guilty of some bad shooting.
Still when Conor McCann found his namesake, Odhran with a good cross-field pass the latter sent over his sides sixth point without reply in the 25th minute to make it 0-10 to 0-4 and the Kickham’s looked to be heading to the dressing room with a fairly healthy lead.
St. Gall’s had been on the back foot for a time but CJ McGourty landed a much needed free and when Jackson McGreevey got on the end of a Mark Napier cross in the 28th minute to finish to the net from close range the Milltown menwere right back in contention.
The division 3 side finished the half on the offensive however with the excellent Conor McCann converting a free before adding another from play to leave his side 0-12 to 1-5 ahead at the break but that lead should have been greater.
With the wind now at their backs the Milltown Row men must have fancied their chances as play resumed but it was the impressive Odhran McCann who got Creggan away with a 32nd minute point to move them five ahead.
Mark Napier replied for St. Gall’s but it was now the turn of the dark blues to squander chances as they hit four wides in succession. CJ McGourty steadied the ship with a pointed free and as the intensity of the contest increased Conor McCann sent Aodhan Gallagher crashing with a heavy shoulder charge.
Slowly St. Gall’s began to grind down their opponents as Napier and McGreevey combined to set up McGourty but CJ’s attempt on goal was brilliantly turned away by Emmet Long in the Creggan goal and when Conor McCann pointed a free at the other end to make it 0-14 to 1-8 after 42 minutes it was still Creggan’s to lose.
McCann then missed the opportunity to increase that lead as he was wide from another free from a difficulty angle and as things heated up CJ McGourty and Tomas O’Ciaran got their names in referee Mark O’Neill’s notebook for protesting too loudly.
McGourty was unfazed however as he pointed a free before Jackson McGeevey left just one between the sides with 13 minutes of normal time remaining. Odhran McCann moved Creggan two ahead again but O’Ciaran replied to make it a one point game once more.
This was now a full blooded championship encounter with no quarter asked or given as both sets of supporters urged their teams to greater efforts and Conor Small edged Creggan two in front again but St. Gall’s replied through the irrepressible CJ McGourty and substitute Sean McAreavey to tie matters by the 53d minute.
The momentum was now with the Falls Road side as Sean McAreavy hit a terrific point from over his shoulder from 60 yards in the 60th minute. Creggan were still fighting with everything they had to turn the game around and Conor McCann sent over a 40 meter free to close the gap to one once more but again St. Galls responded through man of the match, CJ after he was placed in the clear by Conor Burke.
As the St. Gall’s support called for the full time whistle the Kickham’s were awarded a free from 45 meters out and this time McCann opted to drop it into the danger area but in the scramble that ensued the sliotar was knocked wide off a Creggan stick and with it Creggan’s last chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
That was to be the final action of an absorbing contest where both sides gave it everything and in the end that little bit of extra knowhow got the Milltown men over the line but Creggan will reflect on the number of chances they missed in a first half where they were much the better side.
Joe McDaniel’s, Jasckson McGreevey and Aodhan Gallagher were tight and tenacious in the winners defence with Anto Healey, Mark Napier, Karl Stewart and CJ McGourty the men who got them over the line.
Creggan gave it everything and certainly played their part in making this an excellent final with Aidan McKeown, Jake McAteer, Tomas McCann, Ruair McCann, Conor McCann and Odhran McCann their best performers on the day.
St. Gall’s: Kurtis McGreevey, Stephen Morrison, Joe McDaniels, Alfie Hannaway, Jackson McGreevey, Aodhan Gallagher, Ryan Irvine, Jack Hopkins, Anto Healey, Tomas O’Ciaran, Kieran McGourty, CJ McGourty, Mark Napier, Niall O’Neill, Karl Stewart. Subs: Sean McAreavey, Conor Burke
Creggan; Emmet Long, Jake McAteer, Aidan McKeown, Liam McCann, Aidan Maguire, Donal Carey, Kevin Small, Caolan McCann, Ruairi McCann, Odhran McCann, Sam Maguire, Kevin Rice, Conor McCann, Conor Small, Tomas McCann. Subs: Liam Quinn for Sam Maguire
Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy)
Paul Molloy, County Development officer presents the Intermediate Championship cup to St. Gall’s captain, Joe McDaniel
Top left & right: Paddy McIlwaine presents the Saffron Gael man of the match award to CJ McGourty. CJ was also presented with a Martin Hurl. Bottom right: Baby McDaniel celebrates with daddy Joe.