Oulart’s time must surely be near as they reach a fourth Leinster final in a row
Rory Jacob and David Redmond impressive as Wexford champions dethrone Kilcormac/Killoughey
Oulart-The-Ballagh 1-18 Kilcormac/Killoughey 2-11: If this is to be the year when Oulart-The-Ballagh finally bring an end to their search for a Leinster club title, performances like this are why nobody will begrudge it to them. They dug out a second-half display here that shone a little summer into a resolutely winter afternoon, skewering the reigning champions Kilcormac/Killoughey with a fair bit to spare in the end.
The waters seem to finally be parting for Oulart this year, not that you’ll hear them stray anywhere close to admitting it. No sooner had word filtered through of Mount Leinster Rangers’ surprise win over Ballyboden than everyone from manager Martin Storey to Keith Rossiter were lining up to paint the Carlow champions as the second coming of Kilkenny, New Zealand and the Harlem Globetrotters rolled into one.
“I think it’s unbelievable that people will automatically jump to the conclusion that Oulart will win this Leinster final, ” said Storey. “That’s madness. It’ll be no problem to keep the lads grounded. How would you have any problem keeping them grounded and them after losing three Leinster finals in a row?”
For a time yesterday, it looked like keeping them grounded would be the least of anyone’s worries. Getting them airborne was a more pressing matter. They actually settled quickest and banked a couple of points each from county men Garrett Sinnott and Rory Jacob. But after Peter Geraghty got Kilcormac/Killoughey on the board in the 10th minute, the rest of the half belonged to the Offaly champions. A long-range free from Ciarán Slevin squirmed all the way to the back of the Oulart net on 15 minutes before Dan Currams pinged home their second seven minutes later.
Contrast in styles
By this stage, it looked like the contrast in styles was going to come down on Kilcormac/Killoughey’s side. Snappy and all as Oulart’s early play had been, the Offaly side’s more direct approach seemed better suited to the conditions and it was hard to argue with a 2-6 to 0-7 lead at the break.
“Thank God half-time came when it did,” said Storey. “They were in the middle of a purple spell. We had a great start and we were four points to no score up after 10 minutes. And we ended up five points down going in. They just blew us out of the water. Half-time broke their momentum and it helped ours.
“We said to the players did they want to go down the same road as we have for the last three years. Do they want to walk out with their heads hanging and their tail between their legs? I said to them, ‘Look, this is not about style or hurling. This is about how bad you want that jersey on your back and what you’re going to do to get that jersey across the line.’”
Rub a lamp and a genie wouldn’t have granted him a better response. Though Thomas Geraghty sniped the first point after the restart to stretch the lead to six, Oulart gradually found their rhythm. Centre-forward David Redmond was given a roving role for the second half and he started raining in points from all over.
Three in four minutes – each a gem – reduced the margin to a puck of a ball, which Rory Jacob duly supplied soon after. Fine work from Des Mythen found Jacob on the endline and once he wriggled himself some room, the finish was inevitable. It had taken all of seven minutes to erase the deficit.
Oulart were far from done. They started moving the ball with a zip and a zing that the soft pitch and intermittent drizzle ought not to have allowed. They worked space with clever running and tailor-made stick- passing and began to build a lead. Mythen chipped in with a couple, Jacob, Conor O’Leary and Darren Nolan had their say as well.
By the time Peter Geraghty finally found a point for Kilcormac/Killoughey, it had been a full 17 minutes since their last one and they’d endured a complete turnaround. Oulart had gone from six points down to five points up and they had all the momentum as well. They’re a terrific side to watch when they hit their stride and for long stretches of the second half, watching was all Kilcormac/Killoughey could do.
In the end, Oulart outscored the Offaly side by 1-11 to 0-5 after the break and for all that Storey spoke of relief afterwards, they were ultimately pretty comprehensive winners.
Onwards then to their sixth Leinster final, having lost the previous five. No other club has lost more than three without getting their name on the trophy. Surely they can’t make it six. Surely.
OULART-THE-BALLAGH: B O’Connor; D Morton, K Rossiter, B Kehoe; C Goff, P Roche; L Predergast; M Jacob (0-2), S Murphy; D Nolan (0-1), D Redmond (0-4), D Mythen (0-2); R Jacob (1-5, 0-3 frees), G Sinnott (0-2), C O’Leary (0-2). Subs: E Moore for Morton (half-time).
KILCORMAC/KILLOUGHEY: Conor Slevin; C Guinan. G Healion, Con Mahon; K Grogan, P Healion, B Leonard; D Kilmartin, K Leonard (0-1); Ciarán Slevin (1-7, 1-5 frees, 0-2 65), Conor Mahon, P Geraghty (0-1); J Gorman, D Currams (1-0), T Geraghty (0-2). Subs: C Keily for Gorman (45 mins), D Murray for Currams (50 mins).
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).