Never mind the wider implications, just look at that goal count. If, as a neutral, you weren’t wearing a broad smile at the end, perhaps hurling isn’t for you.
JAMES STEPHENS 4-10
What this county final means for Kilkenny, in big-picture terms — whether, indeed, it means anything at all — is a story for another day. Today’s tale is one of sound and fury, thrills and spills, drama from pillar to post, and a famous victory for a young team who hurled the game of their lives.
Ten of their starting XV were 22 or younger. They’ve spent the year unbeaten in league and championship. And just to ensure that their cup runneth over entirely, Dicksboro’s first title since 1993 was secured against local rivals, in an all-city derby showdown. Victories do not come sweeter.
Within 30 seconds, Dicksboro had posted the opening score, a fine point from Ollie Walsh on the left, after Cillian Buckley, the most cerebral player on view, picked him out on the wing with a simple diagonal ball. Although Tadhg Dwyer soon equalised, the winners’ next score was a goal. They weren’t behind thereafter.
From James Stephens’ point of view, it was a bad one to concede. Walsh centred from the left, Bill Sheehan gathered the dropping ball on the far edge of the square, beyond the last defender, and steadied himself, before flicking the sliotar home.
The men in green and red would not be shaken off, just yet. After 11 minutes, a terrific goal by Luke Scanlon levelled matters, 1-4 apiece. Matthew Ruth made the incision, fielding a puckout and driving straight through. His layoff still left Scanlon, tracking away from the uprights, with plenty to do. He did it beautifully, hanging a whipcrack shot high into the net from an angle. Game on.
Or not, as it turned out. What happened next could not have been foreseen by anyone, not even the most wildly optimistic Dicksboro supporters. Point, goal, point, point, point, point, goal, point: 2-6 without reply. Wow.
Robbie Fitzpatrick triggered it all with a point, moments after Scanlon’s goal, upon which Oisin Gough found the James Stephens net at the second attempt. Derrick Brennan pulled off a sharp save from his initial shot, but the sliotar wasn’t cleared. Sheehan recycled it from the right-corner forward position and Gough had the time and space to pick his spot in the far bottom corner, finding it with a low drive.
Shane Stapleton increased the lead from a free. Thomas Kenny ventured upfield from wing-back to finish an attacking move initiated by Buckley. Martin Gaffney and Sheehan added points. It got better still for Dicksboro, in the 19th minute, when Stapleton picked off an opposition puckout and charged forward, before laying off the ball to Eoin Gough. Instead of popping over his point, Gough transferred the sliotar to his younger sibling, Oisin. He didn’t settle for a point, either, instead putting his shot back across Brennan, and in off the post, for a splendid goal.
Aidan Nolan’s subsequent point, from distance, left Dicksboro 12 points to the good, 3-10 to 1-4. Home and dry? Far from. A crazy game became even crazier, as James Stephens hit back with a quick brace of goals. David Walton, lurking on the edge of the square, touched in the first, after good work by Dwyer, and the latter bagged the second, following a storming run by Conor Browne, whose shot was parried by Darragh Holohan. Dwyer snapped up the loose ball in the blink of an eye and found the net for a classic example of a poacher’s goal.
At half-time, the scoreboard, which had somehow managed to avoid self-combusting, read 3-11 to 3-5, in Dicksboro’s favour. Their opponents being a noted second-half team, the issue was not yet settled. Ten minutes after the restart, the game took one last, decisive turn. Ruth got behind the winners’ full-back line only to be denied by Holohan, smartly off his line. Dicksboro surged forward. Stapleton delivered the ball across the face of the square and, despite being held up by two defenders, Martin Gaffney fashioned sufficient room for himself to crack home his team’s fourth goal, from an angle. Ruth did squeeze in a goal 13 minutes from time, but as the scoring rate had understandably dropped, it amounted to little. The bird had flown. What a bird. What a day. What a blast.
Scorers for Dicksboro:
O Gough (2-0); B Sheehan (1-3); S Stapleton (0-5, 4 frees, 1 65’); M Gaffney (1-1); O Walsh (0-2); T Kenny, A Nolan, R Fitzpatrick and P O’Flynn (0-1 each).
Scorers for James Stephens:
D Walton (1-5, 5 frees); M Ruth, T Dwyer and L Scanlon (1-1 each); M Drennan (0-2).
D Holohan; C Doheny, E Cody, M Fagan; T Kenny, C Buckley, A Nolan; O Walsh, R Fitzpatrick; O Gough, E Gough, S Stapleton; M Gaffney, R Murphy, B Sheehan.
S Farrell for E Gough (46); K Kenny for Murphy (51); P O’Flynn for Gaffney (57); E O’Donoghue for O Gough (61).
D Brennan; D Hennessy, D Cody, T Keogh; N Delaney, J Tyrrell, S Donohoe; C Browne, E Larkin; L Scanlon, N Mullins, M Ruth; M Drennan, D Walton, T Dwyer.
J McGrath for Hennessy (HT); M McWey for Drennan (47)
- See page 36
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