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Kilmallock stand up to torrid test

Kilmallock 1-15 Adare 0-15
There was no doubting the justice of the result in this Limerick SHC final at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday.

Kilmallock were marginally the better side but it came down to a goal in the end as a doughty Adare belied their pre-game status as rank outsiders.

"We knew coming in it was going to be very physical, that there was going to be nothing in it," said a very relieved Gavin O’Mahony, Kilmallock centre-back and how right he was.

From the first whistle it was obvious Adare manager Ger O’Loughlin and his co-selectors had done their homework: keep it close and tight, don’t allow Kilmallock into the kind of expansive game they play so well, the game that saw them blow champions Na Piarsaigh away in the semi-final.

Na Piarsaigh themselves played very well in that game, scored an impressive 4-13, but still ended up losing by 13 points.

The problem for Adare though was that Kilmallock had steeled themselves for just such a contest.

"We knew the ground was going to be heavier and we were also meeting a very experienced team in Adare," said Gavin.

"Scores were going to be a lot harder to come by. We were prepared for that test, we were ready for it, and thank God the lads all stood up to it. That’s the kind of habit you want to develop, to win close battles like that."

With the stiff breeze at their backs Adare looked the better side in the first half and led 0-8 to 0-6 at the break. Ominously for them, however, where Kilmallock had five different scorers, Adare were very much dependent on the towering talent of county star Declan Hannon, Gavin O’Mahony’s direct opponent.

Six points Hannon scored in that opening half, three of those from frees well inside his own 65, drew praise even from Gavin himself.

"Ah sure he’s a huge talent. You can’t take your eye off him for a second. Credit to him in both halves. In the first half he was pointing frees from huge distances.

"On a wider perspective it bodes well for Limerick hurling to have a talent like that in the county."

The opening ten minutes of the second half were much like the first, Adare were still marginally the better side and extended their lead to three points, 0-11 to 0-8 with Conor Fitzgerald and the outstanding midfielder Wayne McNamara joining Declan Hannon on the scoresheet.

Captain O’Brien hit his second point for Kilmallock but score of the game was probably Jake Mulcahy’s sideline. Mind you, given what was to come Jake himself might argue with that statement.

The next eight minutes were the winning and the losing of this game. For that short period Adare left themselves a little open in defence and in those minutes the Kilmallock attack showed how potent they can be. It started with a run of three points with Eoin Ryan, Kevin O’Donnell and Paudie O’Dwyer the scorers. Then came the body-blow.

In such a tight-run affair a goal was always going to be pivotal. The chance fell to Kilmallock at a critical time, the 47th minute. Ryan did all the donkey-work, holding up the ball in the red-zone, then a perfect ground ball across the square to the open Mulcahy who did the right thing, doubled the ball to the net.

Now it was Kilmallock’s turn to defend and they did so, superbly. Liam Hurley had been drafted in for late injury victim Phillip O’Loughlin and along with Mark O’Loughlin (who took over his brother’s role as full-back) and Kevin O’Mahony they formed a rock-solid full-back line.

Wing-backs Liam Walsh and Bryan O’Sullivan were both in control and, while Gavin O’Mahony himself had a magnificent hour, there was simply no holding Hannon.

Adare scored four points in that final quarter and Declan had all four. Midfielders Egan and O’Brien, along with sub Kieran Kenneally replying for Kilmallock.

Limerick champions for the second time in three years, it’s on now to the Munster club championship for Kilmallock.

"It was tough watching Na Piarsaigh winning last year," said Gavin.

"To miss out like that... we always felt we were good enough to progress but we left ourselves down two years ago. It would be disrespectful to Adare to say we were looking at that. We weren’t. We didn’t look beyond this game. Now that we’re in the Munster championship though we’ll give it a go again, and hopefully the experience will stand to us."

Scorers for Kilmallock: J Mulcahy 1-1 (1 s/l), P O’Dwyer, P O’Brien, E Ryan 0-3 each, R Egan 0-2, K O’Donnell, S O’Donnell, K Kenneally, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Adare: D Hannon 0-11 (5fs, 2 65s), W McNamara, J Hannon, J Fitzgibbon, W Griffin (f), 0-1 each.

KILMALLOCK: B Hennessy; L Hurley, M O’Loughlin, K O’Mahony; L Walsh, G O’Mahony, B O’Sullivan; R Egan, P O’Brien (c); J Mulcahy, P O’Dwyer, E Ryan; G Mulcahy, K O’Donnell, S O’Donnell.

Subs: K Kenneally for O’Donnell 60).

ADARE: S O’Donoghue; J Lohan, M Clifford, S Lavin; P Keane (c), R Kennedy, D Dillon; W McNamara, J Hannon; A O’Rahilly, D Hannon, C Fitzgerald; W Griffin, J Fitzgibbon, D Sheehan.

Subs: D Sexton for O’Rahilly (24), A O’Connell for Sheehan (30), D Sheehan for Fitzgerald (60).

Referee: D O’Driscoll (Ballinacurra Gaels).