IT was his 14th All-Ireland final but rarely has Kilkenny legend Michael Kavanagh performed as well in Croke Park as he did on Saturday evening and rarely has he felt as much satisfaction afterwards.
“It’s very special,” he admitted. “This is a proud moment for everyone involved, and it ranks high in my own career. To win an All-Ireland with your county is a great achievement, but to win an All-Ireland with your club is special. This time last year we didn’t see anything like this happening, but it’s been a fantastic journey for the last 12 months.
“To win the county intermediate title for the first time in 25 years, and then to build on that, win the Leinster and now the All-Ireland has been unbelievable. There was a huge effort for the last year – Gordon (Ryan, coach) came in and instilled great belief and great spirit. This time last year on a freezing cold night, we had over 30 lads down at the field training – that’s the sort of spirit you need, and it was there all year.
“We’ve been close to success at intermediate level in Kilkenny for a few years now, knocking on the door – to finally make the breakthrough was very satisfying. After winning in Kilkenny we decided to give the Leinster a real go; we won that and then came up here. It’s been a fantastic journey, and unbelievable to go back to Freshford as All-Ireland champions.”
In truth, it was a disappointing final with St Lachtain’s in control from first whistle to last. A point by wing-forward Robbie Dowling after just 15 seconds set the tone, and Lachtain’s were six points ahead (1-10 to 0-7) at the break with their goal coming in injury-time from pacy corner-forward Ollie O’Connor.
After the break, another lightning start, this time captain and man-of-the-match Eoin Guinan pointing after a mere 20 seconds. Four more points in the next five minutes had St Lachtain’s 11 points ahead by the 36th minute and in cruise control. Two more goals, both from John Fitzpatrick after two superb catches of high centres, were simply the icing on the cake. In response, all St Gall’s could manage were eight pointed frees, one pointed sideline, and one lonely point from play, from full-forward Aodhán Gallagher, who will soon want to forget his tilt in Croke Park against one of hurling’s all-time great defenders.
“Several of the lads have had a good campaign all the way through,” Kavanagh continued, “A few young lads like Bill Beckett and Eoin Guinan, they’ve been very consistent, and Ollie O’Connor really rolled back the years the way he took his goal – I’m especially delighted for him, he has given great service to the club.”
As much as Michael Kavanagh? Doubtful.
Scorers for St Lachtain’s: E Guinan 0-7 (3f); J Fitzpatrick 2-1; O O’Connor 1-1; R Dowling 0-3; B Bennett 0-2; D Brennan, N Hickey, N McGee, 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Gall’s: C McGourty 0-7 (7f); J Flynn (s/l), A Gallagher, K Stewart (f), 0-1 each.
ST LACHTAIN’S: T Delaney; M Cormack, M Kavanagh, G Dalton; S Hayes, J Costello, N Phelan; N McGree, N Hickey; J Fitzpatrick, D Brennan, R Dowling; O O’Connor, B Beckett, E Guinan (capt).
Subs: P Guinan (O’Connor 59); B Kennedy (Fitzpatrick 60).
ST GALL’S: C Austin; D Sheehan, T Austin, S Morrison; J McDaniel, K McGourty, A Healy; J Flynn (capt), K Stewart; S Burke, K McDonald, C Gallagher; C McGourty, A Gallagher, S McAreavey.
Subs: S O’Hara (C Gallagher 36); C O’Brady (Burke 37); A Hannaway (McDonald 56); E Cooke (Sheehan 56); A Gough (C McGourty 58).
Referee: D Copps (Cork).
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