O’Connor to the rescue for Newtown

An injury-time point by Ben O’Connor earned Newtownshandrum a deserved draw in this entertaining fourth round tie at Mallow on Saturday night.

Down by two at the break, Piarsaigh thundered into the game on the changeover, grabbed a goal early into the second half and had another disallowed for a square ball infringement before the magnificent Padraig Gould’s late point looked to have given the city side a shock win.

However, Newtown, showing marvellous composure, carved open the chance for O’Connor to land the equalising point to earn his side a second bit of the cherry.

“We lived to fight another day,” said a relieved Newtown coach Bernie O’Connor.

“Wasn’t it marvellous stuff? There was great excitement, some marvellous passages of hurling and I think a draw was the right result. But we were fortunate to get it in the end.

“I don’t know what the reason is but we never seem to play well with the wind to our backs. We turned over two points in front and it looked as if we would win it with something to spare, but you have to give Piarsaigh great credit, they came at us in waves and I have to say we were lucky in the end to get the draw.”

Piarsaigh can count themselves a trifle unfortunate not to have won the game. Down 2-7 to 0-11 at the break and turning to play into the wind, it didn’t look good for the city side.

However, the switching of Sean Óg Ó hAilpín to centre-back, John Gardiner to wing back and Padraig Gould to wing-forward worked brilliantly and all three left their mark on the game.

Ó hAilpín succeeded in putting the shackles on his former inter-county colleague Jerry O’Connor, Gardiner was majestic under the dropping ball while Gould used his electric pace to great effect and also showed his prowess with his free-taking.

Two evenly matched sides were level six times. Playing their usual fast hand passing game, Newtown struck for a goal in the fifth minute playing into the strong wind when Donagh Stack rounded off a great move and only a timely block by Darran Mannix a minute later denied Stack a second.

Piarsaigh struggled to cope with the slick inter-passing of their opponents but managed to be on level terms by the 10th minute with a succession of points before Stack struck for his second goal, after he was set up following another great hand passing movement, and they were well worth their 2-7 to 0-11 half time lead.

The positional switches made at half-time worked extremely for the city side and, hurling with far greater authority, they took the game to their opponents and led for the first time with a Keith Buckley goal in the 40th minute.

The pressure on the Newtown defence was immense and Piarsaigh were a trifle unlucky to have a goal ruled out for a square infringement. The pace of the game quickened considerable and as play swung from end to end, the sides traded points at regular intervals to be level five times.

Piarsaigh were having the better of the exchanges, with John Gardiner majestic in the heart of their defence, and, amid tremendous excitement, Padraig Gould showed a clear pair of heels to the Newtown defence before rifling over what looked to be a worthy winning point.

However, as the game went into overtime, there was still a kick left in Newtown and Ben O’Connor, as he had done so often in the past, became their hero with the equalising point.

“Some of our younger players found it difficult to cope with the Newtown style of play. It was the first time they came up against it,” said Piarsaigh selector Bill Kelleher.

“We had worked extremely hard in training for this game and while we may consider ourselves a bit unlucky not to have hung on for the win, I’ll gladly settle for another day out,” he added.

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: P Gould 0-9 (6fs), J Gardiner 0-3 (1f), K Buckley 1-1, Anthony Dennehy, S O’Sullivan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Newtown: D Stack 2-0, B O’Connor 0-3 (1f), J Coughlan, M Bowles, R Clifford 0-2 each, J O’Connor, C Naughton, K O’Connor 0-1 each.

NA PIARSAIGH: A Keating; D Mannix, A Dennehy, E Moynihan; S Óg Ó hAilpín, C Joyce, R McGregor; A Brady, J Gardiner; K Buckley, S Glasgow, S O’Sullivan; P Gould, P O’Rourke, A Dennehy.

Subs: S, Duggan for O’Rourke (ht), L McDonnell for S O’Sullivan (50), C Buckley for Glasgow (55).

NEWTOWN: W Biggane; D Gleeson, P Mulcahy, R Fallon; E O’Connor, B O’Connor, M Ryan; K O’Connor, PJ Copps; M Bowles, J O’Connor, C Naughton; R Clifford, J Coughlan, D Stack.

Subs: J O’Mahony for Fallon (35), C Twomey for Copps (45), JP King for Naughton (55).

Referee: J O’Connell (Lisgoold).

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