By Creggan Kickhams 1-11 Ballysaggart 1-07
Brendan Prenter has been wearing the Creggan Kickhams jersey for longer than he’d like to remember, a faithful servant during the tortuous Division 4 campaigns and the countless summers when the club struggled to field at junior level.
On Saturday last, Prenter, at the ripe old age of 47, led his beloved club into the Promised Land. The Creggan Kickhams goalkeeper doesn’t plan on returning for the upcoming intermediate campaign, his retirement, he laughs, is long overdue.
“I am just absolutely delighted,” said the winning captain.
“What an unbelievable achievement. This represents the pinnacle of my career and to achieve it at 47 years of age. What a way to go out. I’ve been on this team for too long. I was on this team when we could hardly field back in early noughties and now we are All-Ireland champions. We were down in Division 4 in those times and were struggling massively.
“A lot of the lads on this panel are around the 22, 23 age mark, there is a big gap to me.”
Prenter pointed to the performance of the Creggan rearguard as the crucial factor in securing the win. Five goals had been shipped in the drawn encounter at Croke Park and such defensive lapses couldn’t be afforded second time out.
“We had a good opening 30 minutes and we knew coming out with the breeze for the second-half that we weren’t going to be beaten. The fight in the lads was unreal.
“It was crucial that first-half. We didn’t concede stupid goals today like we did the last time.”
A frugal defence they operated, perhaps, but Ballysaggart’s sole goal was still very much of the gift-wrapped variety. Stephen Bennett opted to strike low a seventh minute free from 50 yards out, the sliotar somehow evading the mass of green and gold jerseys to nestle in Prenter’s net.
The northerners, to their credit, responded instantly, hitting two quick fire points through Oran McCann (free) and Conor Small to reduce the gap to the minimum by the end of the first quarter, 1-1 to 0-3.
And from there to the break both sides went toe-to-toe in the scoring department, white flags traded at every turn. Darren Meagher, Stephen Bennett (free) and substitute Colin Kearney split the posts for Ballysaggart, while Conor Small and Conor McCann ensured Creggan’s second-half target was by no means insurmountable – 1-5 to 0-6 the half-time score.
General consensus was that Ballysaggart’s interval advantage was nowhere near sizeable enough given the strength of the elements and although Kieran Bennett pushed their lead out to three at the change of ends, Creggan acquired level footing on 38 minutes.
Oran McCann supplied the delivery and Conor Small displayed marvellous skill to control the leather dead on his hurley, turn inside the navy shirt in close attention before nestling the ball in the right corner of Matty Meagher’s goal.
The game could have been ended from a Ballysaggart viewpoint in the subsequent action as Conor McCann fired a second goal, but referee John Keenan disallowed the strike in awarding the Antrim champions a close range free.
Thereafter arrived the harsh dismissal of Kieran Bennett for a frontal challenge on Ruairí McCann, the sight of Kieran’s father Pat consoling his son as he walked distressfully from the field typifying sport is nothing if not cruel.
McCann and Shane Bennett traded frees entering the final stretch, but it was clear momentum had swung in Creggan’s favour with Conor McCann and Martin Johnston landing two absolute belters from inside their own half either side of a McCann free.
Ballysaggart never looked like pegging back a four-point deficit, though their task was aided by a second yellow card to Martin Johnston for nothing more than an off the ball shoulder on Stephen Bennett.
Try as they might however, the necessary scores weren’t forthcoming and so Waterford’s wait for a first club All-Ireland continues.
Scorers for Creggan Kickhams: C Small (1-3), C McCann (0-4, 2fs), O McCann (0-3fs), M Johnston (0-1).
Scorers for Ballysaggart: Stephen Bennett (1-2fs), Shane Bennett (0-2, 1f), D Meagher, K Bennett, C Kearney (0-1 each).
CREGGAN KICKHAMS: B Prenter; F McAuley, M Johnston, A Maguire; B Maguire, D Carey, T McCann; A McKeown, R McCann; K Rice, O McCann, C McCann; C Small, S Maguire, J Carey.
Subs: M Nelson for S Maguire (46), D McCann for McAuley (52).
BALLYSAGGART: M Meagher; B Ryan, K Fennessy, C O’Gorman; B Murphy, E O’Brien, D Devine; C Murphy, K Bennett; Shane Bennett, D Meagher, K Cashell; R Walsh, Stephen Bennett, T Bennett.
Subs: C Kearney for Walsh (15), S Hale for T Bennett (ht).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).
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