Kilmallock edge cracker

Kilmallock 3-22 Sarsfields 3-20 (AET)

Kilmallock edge cracker

This Munster club semi-final went to extra time and was deadlocked with time running out even then, but Kilmallock snatched victory with late, late points from Paddy O’Loughlin and captain Graeme Mulcahy, a suitably dramatic conclusion to an enthralling contest.

Their manager, Clare icon Ger O’Loughlin, was suitably thrilled: “I’ll tell you it was end to end, ferocious tackling and everything like that.

“Great credit to the club here that they had the pitch in such great nick — there’s been a huge amount of rain here in the last week so it was fantastic.

“I just thought both teams gave it so much — like, if we had been beaten by a point or two, we’d have to take that on the chin as well because Sars, at times they looked as if they were going to push on and then we managed to get back into the game and we probably threw it away in normal time, from a five-point lead with six minutes to go.”

On balance Kilmallock deserved the win, just about. They forced Sars to overhaul that deficit in the closing stages of normal time and as the clock ticked down in extra time they were on top, hitting three wides in a row before those two winning scores.

They didn’t start as well, though. Gavin O’Mahony opened their account with an early goal but the wind-aided visitors, driven on by Daniel Kearney in midfield, commanded much of the first half, getting goals from Eoin Quigley and Michael Cussen to open up a three-point lead.

Credit Kilmallock, they reeled Sars in with Robbie Egan and Eoin Ryan points, and finished the half strongly when O’Mahony was denied a goal by a good Alan Kennedy save. It was 2-4 to 1-6 at the break, and manager O’Loughlin said later that they faced facts at half-time.

“At half-time I said to them, ‘ye have a choice, ye can throw in the towel, we’ll shake hands and we’re gone, or ye can stand up and be counted’. And they responded. We couldn’t have asked for any more.

“We felt as management there was a seriousness in the panel and that whoever beat us would earn it, and that came through today. ”

That it did. The Limerick champions were better on the resumption, Egan and Bryan O’Sullivan hitting points either side of a Kieran Kennelly goal, while Sars were heavily reliant on Cian McCarthy’s accuracy from frees. He kept them in touch (hitting nine points in the second half) but when minor Paddy O’Loughlin, on as a sub, found the net with a first-time pull, Kilmallock led 3-14 to 2-11 with 10 minutes left.

Sars rallied — Cussen fed Kieran Murphy for a kicked goal, and McCarthy kept knocking the frees over. With the game in stoppage time Daniel Kearney won the free that McCarthy pointed to level matters.

The teams swapped points in the first period of extra time but in the second period Kilmallock had the wind, a significant advantage as the players began to flag. They were able to get distance in their clearances and could go for broke from distance — witness those three late wides — before O’Loughlin and Mulcahy grabbed the win.

It’s no disgrace to lose a classic, but it’s no consolation either.

Sars manager Pat Ryan was disconsolate afterwards: “There’s huge disappointment, I just thought we gave away too many silly goals, we gave away too many opportunities, and they deserved the win on the day. It’s back to the drawing board and to see if we can do it another year.

“It’s disappointing, in injury time we had a ball we could have won and gotten up the field; that might have changed things but look, that’s the way it goes.”

How will Kilmallock fare against Cratloe of Clare in the Munster club final? The Banner side can retain possession well and Kilmallock are direct, so expect a clash of styles.

As Ger O’Loughlin said, maybe there’s another epic on the cards.

Scorers for Kilmallock: E. Ryan 0-7 (0-5 fs, 0-1 65); K. Kennelly 1-2; P. O’Loughlin 1-1, G. Mulcahy 0-4; G. O’Mahony 1-0, R. Egan 0-3; C. Barry 0-2; P. O’Brien, J. Mulcahy and B. O’Sullivan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Sarsfields: C. McCarthy 0-12 (0-9 fs, 0-1 65); M. Cussen 1-2; E. Quigley, K. Murphy 1-0 each, D. Kearney 0-3; E. O’Sullivan 0-2, C. Duggan 0-1.

KILMALLOCK: B. Hennessy, L. Hurley, M. O’Loughlin, A. Costello, P. O’Brien, P. O’Loughlin, K. Donnell, J. Mulcahy, B. O’Sullivan, R. Hanley, G. O’Mahony, R. Egan, G. Mulcahy (c), K. Kennelly, E. Ryan.

Subs: P. O’Loughlin for Egan, 49; C. Barry for Kennelly, 60.

SARSFIELDS: A. Kennedy, W. Kearney, C. Leahy, C. O’Sullivan, D. Roche, R. Ryan, E. Martin, D. Kearney, E.Quigley, R. Murphy, M. Cussen, C. McCarthy, E. O’Sullivan, K. Murphy, T. Óg Murphy (c).

Subs: G. O’Loughlin for R. Murphy, 38; R. O’Driscoll for E. O’Sullivan, 50; C. Duggan for T. Og Murphy, 55; E. O’Sullivan for E. Martin, 75.

Referee: F. Horgan (Tipperary).

Game-changer

One moment in 80 minutes? Try Paddy O’Loughlin’s lead point in the 79th minute.

Talk of the town

Sars’ continuing Munster club hoodoo, or Kilmallock’s prospects in a mouthwatering final to come against Clare’s Cratloe. Take your pick.

Did that just happen?

Three kicked goals (O’Mahony, Quigley and Murphy) in one hurling game.

Best on show

Daniel Kearney of Sars covered (the proverbial) every blade of grass, chipped in with scores and won the equalising free.

The man in black

Fergal Horgan handled a game that was both savagely competitive and very sporting in a common-sense way, and the match benefited.

What’s next?

Kilmallock face Cratloe in the Munster final. Sars go back to the drawing board.

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