FOR 40 minutes of this excellent final at Buttevant yesterday, a shock result looked on the cards as unfancied Kildorrery led favourites Charleville by a point.
However, two goals in a five-minute spell ensured Charleville took all the spoils on offer, the divisional title, the county title, intermediate hurling for 2012 and a place in the provincial championship semi-final in a fortnight’s time.
On a gorgeous day, on a perfect pitch for hurling, and with so much at stake, a huge crowd packed into the Fr Con Buckley Park expecting a great contest and they weren’t disappointed.
Charleville were forced to put the county title, which they won the previous Sunday, on the line and there were obvious signs of tension among their players, particularly in the first half when Kildorrery led 0-5 to 0-3.
Indeed had they not hit nine wides and been denied a goal by a brilliant save from keeper Cirion Cronin, Kildorrery’s lead might have been too much for Charleville.
It was nip and tuck throughout the opening half as Kildorrery chased and harassed Charleville all over the field. With Peter O’Brien magnificent at centre forward from where he scored four five first half points, the team from the hill were full value for their two-point lead.
Charleville captain Danny O’Flynn was at a loss as to why his side played so poorly in that opening half.
“Look,” he said, “with so much at stake, there was massive pressure on us to win the game, and it showed in our play.
“Fair play to Kildorrery, they really put up to us, and it was touch and go there for a long time, but once we got the first goal, it was always going to be our day as we usually come good in the second hall. And we did.”
But not before Kildorrery edged further ahead early in the second half with a fifth point by Peter O’Brien.
However this Charleville outfit have been through difficult times this season, with the death of three club stalwarts and the serous injury to Dessie Fitzgerald, and gradually began to take control.
James O’Brien, well policed in the first-half, rattled over three points in a row to level it before Charleville enjoyed a slice of good fortune when Kildorrery keeper Austin Walsh allowed a speculative shot by wing back Gavin Kelleher to slip through his fingers into the net.
That goal was the spark Charleville needed and they began to take control all over the pitch.
Alan O’Connor, now in the half forward line, did an amount of good work, while centre back Colm O’Flynn finally got to grips with Peter O’Brien, and from the incessant pressure, Charleville got their second goal when Mervyn Gammell put James O’Brien to through to round the keeper before slipping the ball to the empty net.
There was only going to be one winner from there on and when the final whistle sounded, the Charleville players and supporters were finally able to give full vent to their feelings.
For wing forward Mervyn Gammell it was a dream come through. He had been on two losing county final teams, 2001 and 2007, and was beginning to despair at ever winning a county medal.
“It’s been a long time coming but well worth the wait,” said Mervyn.
“After 20 years trying it’s brilliant to finally win the county. There were times when it looked as if it might not happen again, but fair play to all the lads they never wavered.
“We went to Cork two Sundays in a row to win it, but there was massive pressure on us here today to try and hold on to a title we had already won.
Thankfully, we held our nerve. The young lads in particular showed their prowess in the second-half and once we got the first goal, there was no way we were going to lose it.”
Scorers for Charleville: J O’Brien 1-7 (4fs), G Kelleher 1-0, J Casey 0-2, B Dennehy (f), F O’Callaghan, M Kavanagh 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildorrery: P O’Brien 0-7 (3fs), F Stapleton, E O’Connor, S Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
CHARLEVILLE: C Cronin; M O’Flynn, C Fitzgerald, A Dennehy; G Kelleher, C O’Flynn, B Dennehy; D O’Flynn, J Casey; D Murphy, D O’Sullivan, M Gammell; A Cagney, A O’Connor, J O’Brien.
Subs: M Kavanagh for Cagney (40), P Gammell for O’Sullivan (55), F O’Callaghan for O’Brien (60), B McCarthy for Gammell (60), C Gough for Murphy (61).
KILDORRERY: A Walsh; D Roche, R McEniry, M Lillis; T Monaghan, A O’Brien, J Howard; S Fitzgerald, J McCarthy; E O’Connor, P O’Brien, S Kelly; D Kelly, N Dunne, F Stapleton.
Subs: L Kelly for McCarthy (ht), R Lillis for Dunne (50), J McEniry for Dunne (55), L McGovern for Roche (60).
Referee: D Copps (Ballyhea).
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