One hundred and eighteen years in existence without a county honour to their name when Croagh-Kilfinny not only captured the delayed 2020 Junior A hurling crown but hammered fancied opponents Patrickswell in Sunday's final in the Gaelic Grounds.
It might have been tight up to the quarter mark but, once the youthful legs of the West Division side got moving, they gradually squeezed the life out of their more seasoned opponents before streaking out of sight in the final quarter.
Unlike the losers who relied heavily on 45-year-old Barry Foley to keep them in touch before the break, Croagh were able to rattle off the scores from every angle and, while the game was still competitive, the hunger of Jack Lenihan and Brian Hannan kept up a relentless pressure on teh scoreboard that their opponents could never back. But they were also helped out by a resolute defence who never gave The Well the space they enjoyed in last weekend's semi-final, not only through their economy on the tackle but also in making sure there was another challenge ready whenever their opponents prised an opening.
It was also fitting that this memorable night for the small mid-Limerick parish was graced by the presence of the first group of supporters following the lockdown as the rising rumble of cheers right up to final whistle reminded Gaels all over the county of what they missed out on during the pandemic.
Brian McHugh and James Lanigan got Croagh off the mark in the tight early exchanges before Paul O'Brien replied. Then, Barry Foley's equalising free unleashed a flurry of scores as Peter Harty replied to Lanigan before Josh O'Connor and Jack Lenihan's '65' left Croagh leading 0-5 to 0-3 at the water break.
Lanigan and Brian Hannan stretched the lead before Foley replied with a free and he sent one over from play following Andrew Meade's reply. However, the Kilfinny men were proving sharper up front as Hannan struck twice on the bounce before Foley replied off a '65' to cut The Well's half-time deficit to 0-10 to 0-6.
As Foley was replaced at the break, Croagh's dominance increased and Meade, Hannan, Lenihan's free and Hannan moved the gap to eight which could have greater had Gary Murphy not brought off a point blank save off Lenihan. However, he had the cosolation of converting the '65' and then tacked on from a free and from play before Harty and O'Brien got The Well's first scores of the second half.
After Kilfinny sub Declan Mullane was foiled by another Murphy save, Séamus Hickey then made it 0-18 to 0-8 at the second water break after which the winners, and particularly their subs, turned it on.
Following Lenihan's free, Murphy was called on again to stop Meade but Mullane tapped the rebound home and, after Eoin Barry's point, he whipped home his second after Murphy was unable to clear. Lenihan then added a free, O'Brien's red card reduced Patrickswell to 14 and O'Connor's long strike ended the game.
SCORERS, CROAGH-KILFINNY: Jack Lenihan 0-8 (4 frees, 2 '65's), Declan Mullane 2-0, Brian Hannan 0-5, James Lanigan, Josh O'Connor, Andrew Meade 0-2, Brian McHugh, Séamus Hickey, Eoin Barry 0-1 each
PATRICKSWELL: Barry Foley 0-4 (2 frees, 1 '65'), Peter Harty, Paul O'Brien 0-2 each.
CROAGH-KILFINNY: David Lynch; Barry Lenihan, Denis Lenihan, Ryan McCarthy; Josh O'Connor, Séamus Hickey , Mark Storan; Adam Shanagher, James Lanigan; Brian McHugh, Kevin Shanahan, John Wall; Brian Hannan, Andrew Meade,Jack Lenihan. SUBS: Declan Mullane for Brian McHugh (39 minutes), Eoin Barry for Kevin Shanahan (50 minutes), Podge O'Carroll for Ryan McCarthy (60 minutes), Gearóid Lenihan for Andrew Meade (60 minutes).
PATRICKSWELL: Gary Murphy; Kelvin Leahy Dundon, James Carrig, Brian Nolan; Adam Carrig, Cian Enright, Paul Bennis; Jamie Dillon, Darragh Aherne; Jonathan McMahon, Bryan Fitzgerald, Pa Mann; Barry Foley, Paul O'Brien, Peter Harty. SUBS: Shane Hannon for Barry Foley (half-time), Gavin Carey for Pa Mann (39 minutes), Barry Carey for Adam Carrig (40 minutes), Keith Dundon for Paul Bennis (45 minutes), Gearóid Barry for Peter Harty (53 minutes).
REFEREE: Éamonn Stapleton (Doon).
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