The Connacht champions, reduced to 14 men in the final quarter, were pushed all the way but were worthy winners following a splendid contest despite very testing conditions. They march on to Croke Park next Saturday in search of ultimate glory against Kilkenny’s Rower-Inistioge.
“We didn’t go well last year ,” explained Donohue. “This year we won the Galway semi-final by a point. We won the last group game by a point. We won the Connacht final by two points and our backs were to the wall again today. These lads battle and give you everything they have.”
“We had a couple of Galway minors out there but we also have the likes of Kevin Boyle, our goalkeeper who is over 40. Our [regular] goalie broke his shoulder in the county final and he is out for a couple of months. Kevin started off the championship at full-forward but we convinced him to go into goals.”
It was one of those county minors that stole the show. Full forward Brian Molloy, who featured in the 2013 All-Ireland final loss to Waterford, was in superb form. The talented attacker racked up 1-7 and he was also the provider for the other goal. These two majors before the break were crucial to the outcome as Kilnadeema/Leitrim turned over 2-9 to 0-4 ahead, having won the toss and played with the gusting wind.
For their part, battle-hardened Youghal came close. However, two points was the nearest they got.
Disappointed manager Christy Cooney said the three-pointers were significant.
“Today wasn’t our day. They took their goals in the first half which left us with a lot to do. With five minutes to go you’d think we might get a draw. It didn’t work out. They were a little bit better. They took their chances, that was the difference.
“We will take a couple of weeks off now. Fellas need a break, get their heads around this. We will all learn from it. We look forward to playing the senior championship in 2014.”
It was 0-3 apiece by the 13th minute but once Kilnadeema/Leitrim – which is located near Loughrea – settled with former county player David Tierney immense at midfield, they notched 2-6 to Youghal’s point. Alvin Mitchell’s goal on 20 minutes put them 1-7 to 0-3 in front. But it was Molloy’s green flag a minute from the interval that did the most damage.
Youghal needed to resume all guns blazing. They double substituted at half-time and made a number of positional switches. Whilst Molloy restarted the scoring, slowly Youghal began to eat into the 12-point lead. The gap was down to seven points when corner back Mark Kelly received a second yellow card in the 48th minute.
The rain came down as Youghal floated over five more unanswered points — Leigh Desmond, Bill Cooper, Brendan Ring and Brendan Coleman stepped up. It was heart-stopping, a two-point game with one minute remaining 2-10 to 0-14. Then, there was a stoppage for an injury to one of the Galway players and when the action resumed Molloy (after missing a few previously) drilled over a magnificent free into the strong wind. A three-point difference now.
The Youghal men frantically searched for a goal to force extra time but they were pushed back by dogged defending. A Brendan Ring point was their lot.
Scorers for Kilnadeema/Leitrim: B Molloy (1-7, four frees), A Mitchell (1-0), S Lawless (0-2), D Tierney (sl) and T Tierney (0-1 each).
Scorers for Youghal: Brendan Ring (0-6, three frees), L Desmond, B Cooper and B Coleman (0-2 each), D Ring, A Frahill-O’Connor, and C Spillane (free) (0-1 each).
KILNADEEMA/LEITRIM: K Boyle; P Deely, D O’Donoghue, M Kelly; G Winters, E Hyland, A Spaight; D Tierney, M Donohue; D Donohue, D Herlihy, A Mitchell; T Tierney (captain), B Molloy, S Lawless.
Sub: L Geraghty for S Lawless (45).
YOUGHAL: R Cunningham; B O’Sullivan, J Grace, K Walsh; M Cronin, C Spillane, Barry Ring; L Desmond, N Roche; D Ring, A Frahill-O’Connor, B Cooper (captain); J O’Mahony, O Dempsey, Brendan Ring.
Subs: C O’Mahony for A Frahill-O’Connor, B Moloney for K Walsh (both half-time), A Curtin for J O’Mahony (42), B Coleman for C Spillane (46).
Referee: Tony Carroll (Offaly).
The 10 minutes before the break. Kilnadeema/Leitrim’s goals arrived during this period particularly Brian Molloy’s strike a minute from the interval, leaving Youghal with a mountain to climb.
The dismal weather. Players had to contend with high winds and heavy conditions. But they got on with it.
A Galway club is in line to win the All-Ireland Intermediate hurling title for the first time. Killimordaly, Tommy Larkins and Cappataggle were beaten finalists in ’07, ’08 and ’09. Maybe ’14?
Brian Molloy was both finisher and creator. He tallied 1-7 and, although he missed a couple in the second half, he was very impressive and his pointed free on 60 minutes was crucial as the game was still in the balance.
Tony Carroll did a good job on a tough day for hurling. The dismissal of Mark Kelly was for two yellow cards. Youghal followers argued for a bit more added time. No disputing that the better team won though.
All-Ireland club final next Saturday for Kilnadeema/Leitrim. Throw-in at 5.30pm in Croke Park. Senior hurling beckons for both clubs this season.