Geraghty turns the tide for Kilcormac
Under grey and unromantic skies two teams went raging against the dying of the light, and in the end one more beautiful chapter is writ in the history of Kilcormac-Killoughey.
It’s already been a vintage year for the Offaly club, a first ever county title – at least in its more recent guise – and now a first ever Leinster final, plus the chance to test themselves against the purest cream of the crop.
For Laois champions Rathdowney-Errill the day to script a little history of their own is lost, a case perhaps of falling on their own sword, as they eventually surrendered a commanding position to miss out on their first Leinster final.
It was that sort of afternoon in O’Connor Park, no stars or headline acts, just two teams surging at each other with the desires of club and county, and what they might have lacked in sheer class, they surmounted with flair and the undeniable will to win.
At first the momentum swung slowly back and forth, in favour of the Offaly champions – thanks to placed-ball expert Ciarán Slevin, then a thundering goal from Dan Currams, bang in the middle of the first half – before shifting more firmly in favour of the Laois champions, who came from a point down at the break to race four points clear, 0-13 to 1-6, a seemingly comfortable position given the confinements of the game.
The Kilcormac-Killoughey defence lived dangerously, Ross King had one glorious opportunity to perhaps close the deal. Unable to secure his footing, he passed off to Liam Tynan, whose shot was deflected over the bar.
That still gave them the four-point advantage, on 45 minutes. It was as good as it got. Kilcormac-Killoughey revived themselves, just like they’ve been doing all season, levelled it up for the sixth them, before, with extra-time beckoning, Peter Geraghty (one of two sets of twins on the team) sparked to life to fire in the decisive goal.
His first effort was bravely stopped by goalkeeper Noel Brennan, but there was no stopping the rebound – and when Currams added the insurance point moments later their tails were up.
“Sure, they got a real run at us, and things didn’t look great at that stage,” said Kilcormac-Killoughey manager Danny Owens, former All-Ireland winner with Offaly.
“We made a few very poor basic errors out the field, but all year, our lads have been very resilient, have great determination, and never give up. They didn’t give up today, and it shows again, if you play until the bitter end, you always have a chance.
“And yeah they have that old Offaly spirit, the never-say-die attitude, kept grafting through in that second half, and it paid off in the end. So we’re delighted to get out of here, to be honest”
Up next is the final, daunting prospect of either Kilkenny champions Ballyhale Shamrocks or Oulart-the-Ballagh from Wexford, who face off next Sunday, but with nothing to lose, the Offaly champions have nothing to fear.
“Of course it’s all bonus territory now. At the same time you want to maximise it. You might never be in this position again. You want to get the very most of it. We were up against serious opposition today, but the really big guys are up next. We’ll be prepared, and plan to give them a big game anyway. You never know.
For Rathdowney-Errill manager Frankie McGrath there could be no complaints, only the hope that Laois hurling has come away with some credit: “We had great opportunities to extend that lead a little more, but at this level, you have to take these opportunities. We missed a couple of crucial scores. We just didn’t nail it. And at this level you’d almost expect to be caught. If you miss those chances, you do run the risk, always.
“Laois hurling gets bad press from time to time, but no one can point the finger in the direction of Rathdowney-Errill. I hope they went a long way towards restoring some pride. But you go into this with eyes wide open. The stakes are high, and winners takes all.”