AFTER a dramatic end to the Minor A Hurling Final in Kilmallock, Croagh-Kilfinny/Rathkeale are county champions following a 0-10 to 1-6 win against Ballyhoura Gaels.
The game looked to be heading for a replay when Eoin Sheedy scored a goal for Ballyhoura Gaels five minutes from time.
Fergal O’Connor then had a glorious chance to grab victory for Dermot McCarthy’s men but he kicked wide and Ballyhoura Gaels were punished moments later when James O’Brien held his composure to send over a winning free in added time for Croagh-Kilfinny/Rathkeale.
The amalgamated side from the west were deserving victors having just shaded a contest that failed to live up to the occasion.
O’Brien was by far and away the most influential player on the field and it was he who opened the scoring with a stunning effort from the left hand side inside 60 seconds. That lead was soon doubled as Jack Lenihan embarked on a run from centre back that ended with a shot that bisected the posts.
Ballyhoura Gaels got on the scoreboard in the fifth minute through a PJ Herr free but he was off target with his next three shots.However, he eventually regained his composure to level the game 10 minutes later with an excellent score from play.
O’Brien then sent over his first free of the afternoon to put Croagh-Kilfinny/Rathkeale ahead once more but a fantastic score by Frankie Herr saw the game all square for a second time.
Croagh-Kilfinny/Rathkeale’s main man then landed another placed ball just before the break to put his side 0-4 to 0-3 ahead at the end of a lacklustre opening half hour.
O’Brien was the central figure at the beginning of the second half as well. He first sent over a regulation free before scoring another from a very acute angle.
Ballyhoura Gaels fought back quickly with two scores on the bounce bringing them back to within a point. The first from Frankie Herr, an excellent effort from the right wing, while the second was a long range free by PJ Herr.
Croagh-Kilfinny/Rathkeale settled again with a well-taken effort from Padraig Power before a point from midfield partner Barry Coleman put them 0-8 to 0-5 ahead with 52 minutes played.
PJ Herr responded with a free for Ballyhoura Gaels and they could have taken the lead against the run of play moments later but Sheedy’s effort on goal whistled past the post.
Gearoid Lenihan then put his side three points clear almost immediately but there was still a twist in this game to come when Sheedy made no mistake second time around with a goal after Croagh-Kilfinny/Rathkeale failed to clear.
O’Connor then had another goal chance for Ballyhoura Gaels but his kicked effort while in plenty of space sailed wide.
With the game destined for a replay, O’Brien was handed the chance to win the game with a free and he fired over from 30 metres to grab victory.
Scorers: Croagh-Kilfinny/Rathkeale: James O’Brien 0-6 (0-5 frees), Jack Lenihan, Padraig Power, Barry Coleman and Gearoid Lenihan 0-1 each; Ballyhoura Gaels: PJ Herr 0-4 (0-2 frees), Eoin Sheedy 1-0 and Frankie Herr 0-2.
CROAGH-KILFINNY/RATHKEALE: Luke Quaid; Barry Lenihan, James Lanigan, Mark Wilmott; Adam Shanagher, Jack Lenihan, Keith Lodge; Barry Coleman, Padraig Power; Josh O’Connor, Eoin Barry, Niall Houlihan; Pat Lenihan, James O’Brien, Gearoid Lenihan; Subs: Jack McCoy for Houlihan (39 mins) and Eoin Kelly for P Leinihan (44 mins).
BALLYHOURA GAELS: Cathal Canning; Kevin O’Donovan, Mikey Duggan, Darragh Browne; Alan Bryne, Adam Tracey, Dean Lyons; Mark Mullins, Enda O’Neill; Frankie Herr, Tommy Bluett, Eoin Sheedy; PJ Herr, Jake Maloney, Fergal O’Connor; Subs: Brian Clifford for Maloney (44 mins) and Callum Enzor for Mullins (47 mins).
REFEREE: Mike Mann (Ballybrown)