St Senan's had four points to spare at the end but it wasn’t until the closing minutes that Limerick intermediate football champions got the better of their Tipperary counterparts Kiladangan in Sunday’s Munster quarter-final in Toomevara.
Although they showed the better technique and better combination play when in possession, the men from Shanagolden were pushed onto the back foot for long passages by a home side fired up with ambition and effort.
Place-kicking was the difference in the end. The winners sent over two frees and two ‘45’ while all of Kiladangan’s tally came from play. That said, however, this was always a game for Senan's to lose as they led throughout apart from a minute around the three-quarter mark when their opponents equalised.
The Puckaun club gave as good as they got in the middle third when countyman Willie Connors and former Tipp panellist Joe Gallagher not only hoovered up much of the primary possession but also provided the platform for attack. Unfortunately, they lacked the guile and the movement up front to prise open the Limerick side’s defence.
The Senans forwards didn’t fire on all cylinders either, declining the shot at times through excess caution and wasting possession with impatent Hail Marys on other occasions. But they answered whenever a response was needed with the raids of Ian Ryan from deep and the ability of their inside-forwards to hold onto the long ball giving them far more options than the opposing attack.
Both sides spent the first few minutes trying to pick open the opposing defence before Senans got off the mark with Séamus McSweeney’s free. When that was followed by Ian Ryan striking on the run and Richard Hayes’s ‘45’, their ability to find their inside forwards looked like giving them control but the game changed when Willie Connors and Joe Gallagher started running at their defence to open the spaces.
Gallagher, off a long passing move, and midfield partner Fergal Hayes off his offload pulled them back within a point before Senans sorted out their kickout and replied through Ryan’s free and McSweeney. However, chances were wasted by long shots drifting wide and conceding possession from slow use of the ball. They paid for their misses when turnovers at the back allowed Connors and Darragh Egan to strike on the counter.
Ryan again found the target but his reply was met by Hayes. After Senans midfielder Stephen O’Connell was black-carded, a move up the left led to James Naughton pointing on the run and extending their
half-time lead to 0-7 to 0-5.
The Tipp men owned the ball at the start of the second half but resorted to shooting from distance as they struggled to open up the spaces. However, they kept up the pressure long enough for Decky McGrath to point from out wide on the left and Ben Banaghan’s strike to tie up the scores.
But that was as far as they got. The equaliser woke the Estuary side up and a break from the back led to Richard Hayes cutting in from the left to restore their lead. However, they failed to make the most of increased possession until McSweeney ran on a passing move only to have his shot deflected over the crossbar.
Minutes later, another goal chance opened for him but his ground shot off a breaking ball was stopped on the line by James Quigley’s foot. Hayes converted the resulting ‘45’ and, when veteran Andy Lane pounced on the kickout to strike on the run, the four-point gap gave them the reassurance to see out four remaining minutes of regulation time and another four added on by referee David Murnane. Kiladangan put in what was left in the tank but they just didn’t have the spark to create the chances. Their only reward was sub Billy Seymour’s fisted point off a ball bobbing over the square and even that was met
by Conor Mullane closing the scoring off a sally from the back.
SCORERS: SAINT SENAN’S: Séamus McSweeney (1 free), Ian Ryan (1 free), Richard Hayes (2 ‘45’s) 0-3 each, James Naughton, Andy Lane, Conor Mullane 0-1 each; KILADANGAN: Fergal Hayes 0-2, Joe Gallagher, Willie Connors, Darragh Egan, Decky McGrath, Ben Banaghan, Billy Seymour 0-1 each.
SAINT SENAN’S: Anthony Russell; Dan Conroy, James Bridgeman, David Finnerty; Ger Hanlon, Ian Ryan, Ray Flaherty; Maurice Fitzgerald, Stephen O’Connell; Ollie Wallace, Darren Kavanagh, Séamus McSweeney; James Naughton, Conor Mullane, Richard Hayes. SUBS: Adam Kearns for Stephen O’Connell (black card, 28 minutes), Anthony Mulvihill for Darren Kavanagh (half-time), Andy Lane for Maurice Fitzgerald (46 minutes), Kevin Doody for Ger Hanlon (47 minutes), Darragh Wolfe for Ollie Wallace (injured, 56 minutes).
KILADANGAN: Andy Loughnane; James Quigley, Shane Seymour, Martin Minehan; Darren Moran, Willie Connors, Ruairí Gleeson; Joe Gallagher, Fergal Hayes; Decky McGrath, Tadhg Gallagher, Ciarán Kelly; Dan O’Meara, Darragh Egan, Ben Banaghan. SUBS: Billy Seymour for Ruairí Gleeson (40 minutes), Tommy Connors for Tadhg Gallagher (injured, 54 minutes), Johnny Horan for Dan O’Meara (56 minutes), Eoin Kelly for Ciarán Kelly (59 minutes), Paddy Gallagher for Decky McGrath (61
REFEREE: David Murnane (Cork)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Saint Senan’s spent much of the second half defending their lead against unrelenting pressure and Ray Flaherty not only stopped everything coming at him but also created many of the relieving breaks from deep.