Kickham’s seal it in extra time

Andersonstown SC IHC Semi-Final

Kickham’s Creggan 4-24 Cloney Gaels 3-20 A.E.T.

Kickham’s Creggan came from a point down at half time in extra time to hit 8 unanswered points and claim a place in the final of the Andersonstown SC Intermediate Hurling final after beating Cloney Gaels in an enthralling contest at Whitehill on Sunday.

In a contest that had everything that is good in championship hurling both sides went at it tooth and nail from the first whistle with the lead changing hands several times over an hour and twenty minutes spell binding entertainment.

The Kickham’s led 1-4 to 0-5 at the first water break after Kevin Rice got in for the game’s opening goal after 30 seconds when he got on the end of a tantalising cross from Morgan Nelson. Owen Neeson replied immediately with a point for the Gaels before Oran McCann edged Creggan three in front once more from his first converted free of the afternoon.

With a strong cross-field breeze conditions weren’t ideal for good hurling and Cloney Gaels shot three wides in as many minutes before James O’Connell found his range as he pointed from play and then added another from a free with Ruairi McCann striking one from long distance for the Creggan men.

Things were starting to liven up as Donal Graham closed the gap to the minimum with a point in the 12th minute but Creggan replied immediately as Kevin Rice and Morgan Nelson fired over and PJ O’Connell and Ronan Graham responding for the Ahoghill side by the 16th minute.

Oran McCann then wasted the opportunity to extend the Kickham’s lead as he sent a couple of long range frees wide of the target as play resumed after the first water break before making amends with a good point from play to move his side two ahead but it was Cloney Gaels who found the extra gear in the run in to half time as PJ O’Connell, Owen Neeson and James O’Connell 0-2 moved them one in front by half time with the Creggan response coming from Kevin Rice.

Half Time: Kickham’s 1-6 Cloney Gaels 0-10

Cloney Gaels had the benefit of the elements for the second half and they made a bright start with points from Ronan Graham and Thomas McGlone with Oran McCann replying for the Staffordstown Road side as Sean Duffin replaced Tiarnan McLarnon in the Creggan side.

Oran McCann closed the gap to the minimum from a free in the 8th minute but Cloney Gaels were beginning to get on top and James O’Connell got on the end of an astute through ball to fire to the net in the 9th minute.

Before the celebrations had died down the Kickham’s found a response and acres of space at the other end and Morgan Nelson’s close range shot deflected of Martin Graham’s body and into the net to tie the contest before James O’Connell edged the Ahoghill side ahead again with a point in the 13th minute.

Cloney Gaels were playing some good hurling at this stage but they were opened up once more as Conor McCann got in for Creggan’s third goal and as this titanic struggle continued Owen Neeson and Ronan Graham replied with points and it was level once more at the second water break.

 It was clear that this one was going to go right down to the wire and indeed beyond it as Oran McCann pointed an 18th minute free as the Creggan number 12 continued to punish some undisciplined tackling by the opposition and his free taking would have a telling influence as we reached the business end of proceedings.

Aidan ‘Teddy’ McKeown moved the Staffordstown Road side two in front and the momentum seemed to be swinging the way of the Creggan men but once again Ahoghill found a response through PJ O’Connell and James O’Connell and when substitute Cola McDonnell fired to the Creggan net in the 24th minute the Gaels were one ahead once more.

Points from another Oran McCann free and one from play by Conor McCann left it all square as the clock counted down with the final two chances of normal time falling to the O’Connell brothers, James and PJ but both efforts from distance were just off target as referee Darren McKeown signalled extra time.

The significance of those misses  would come back to haunt Hugh Dobbin’s side but when substitute, Patrick Graham set up James O’Connell for a goal in the 4th minute of extra time to add to points from PJ O’Connell from a superb side-line cut and a Ronan Graham point from play they were soon forgotten.

As the Cloney side tired however they continued to concede silly frees and Oran McCann continued to punish them and two from the Creggan sharp shooter and a goal from Conor McCann in reply to a Patrick Graham point left just one in it as the sides turned for the final time.

Incredibly the Ahoghill men would not score again as Creggan finished with a flurry of points, eight unanswered in all with Oran McCann pointing three frees and adding another from play to bring his personal total for the day to 0-12 and Conor McCann, Sean Duffin and Morgan Nelson all on target as Creggan advance to meet Cathaoir an Ri in the final.

An absolutely splendid game of hurling and at several stages it looked like Cloney Gaels would advance to their second final in succession but Creggan’s persistence and ability to get goals at vital times in the game coupled by Oran McCann’s contribution from frees proved the difference in the end.

Kickham’s Creggan:  Emmet Long,  Aidan Maguire,  Declan McCann,  Danaan O’Hara,  Sam Maguire, Thomas McCann,  Aiden McKeown,  Tiarnan McLarnon,  Ruairi McCann,  Conor McCann,  Morgan Nelson,  Oran McCann,  Jake McAteer,  Kealan McCann,  Kevin Rice. Subs: Sean Duffin for Tiarnan McLarnon, Liam McCann for Declan McCann, Diarmuid Duffin for Kevin Rice

Cloney Gaels:  Martin Graham,  Stephen O’Connell,  James Magee,  Eamon Brady,  Fionnbar O’Neill,  Bernard Graham,  Dan O’Neill,  Francis Neeson,  Neill O’Connell,  Owen Neeson,  Thomas McGlone,  Ronan Graham,  PJ O’Connell,  Donal Graham,  James O’Connell. Subs:  Cola McDonnell, Patrick Graham

Referee: Darren McKeown (St. Gall’s)

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