Mid Under 16 'A' Hurling Final 2014

Match Report by Joe Bracken, Mid Bord na nOg PRO

Premierbounce.ie U16A Mid Hurling Final

Durlas Óg 2-11 Holycross-Ballycahill 1-12

Littleton was the venue for this year’s much anticipated PremierBounce.ie U16A final between Durlas Óg and Holycross-Ballycahill and as both sides failed to disappoint, this clash went down to the wire in an absorbing second half of defence and attack as Durlas Óg heroically held out against a ferocious Holycross attack to claim the title with both sides out on their feet.
Played at a frantic pace throughout each side had periods of dominance and used that to good effect in putting scores on the board. And as the scoring reflected, it was practically a game of two halves with Durlas Óg proving more efficient in front of the posts on their way to victory. But work hard they had to for the result as a resurgent Holycross-Ballycahill side hit them like a hurricane in the second period as Durlas Óg manned the levees to keep out each wave of attack, only once would they be breeched in a pincer movement of precision accuracy.
With the scene set it was the Holycross lads first into attack with their talisman Darragh Woods opening the scoring in the fourth minute with a free from just inside the seventy metre line shooting into the road goal. Two quick points for Durlas Óg from Mark Purcell and Conor Murphy edged them ahead before Woods resumed normal service with another free a minute later.  Now playing with greater fluidity Durlas Óg were gaining the upper hand. The superb Harry Fitzgibbon who gave a colossal display tore down the left flank and hit a smashing cross-field ball out to Purcell who under pressure notched up his second point from an acute angle on the left sideline to put his side back in front. Conor Stakelum busy at midfield then linked up with the determined Bill Darcy who pointed from in front of the posts.
Woods reduced the deficit to one with another free form thirty five metres after Stephen Flanagan had been fouled. However, three in a row from Darcy pushed Durlas Óg further ahead with eight minutes of the half remaining. Then Woods got his first from play from tight on the left hand side as he continued the Holycross scoring. 
Playing with purpose Durlas Óg sensed their destiny and went for the jugular in the next move. Purcell again the tormentor but Ewan Bourke was equal to the challenge and blocked Purcell’s goal bound shot. Unfortunately for Bourke the ball spilled to Stakelum who made no mistake from close range for the night’s first green flag.
Woods again pointed a free as Holycross tried desperately to get back into it, with Gavin Dunne, Philip Fogarty and Fionn McCartan all trying their utmost to keep in touch.
Matthew Kelly for Durlas Óg set off on an excellent solo run and duly set up Darcy for his first of two late points as Durlas Óg turned the screw. There was heartbreak in injury time for Holycross when Darcy’s ball into the square was spilled and who but Stakelum was lurking menacingly to whip it to the net for his second of the night, Durlas Óg comfortable at the break 2-09 to 05.
Whatever the Holycross lads ate or had said to them at half time worked immediate wonders as the second half wasn’t a minute old when Woods again was on target with another well taken free. It was now fierce Holycross pressure as wave after wave they bombarded the Durlas defence where Harry Fitzgibbon, Loran O’Toole, Seosamh Ryan and Michael Purcell along with their colleagues fortified their lines superbly forcing Holycross to shoot from distance as they held their lines intact. 
Edward O’Gorman was switched to centre back and with Gavin Dunne now in the forwards they played key roles in their side’s revival. Jimmy Ryan too was brought forward and with Woods and Flanagan they formed a cohesive unit as bit by bit they hauled back the deficit in a pulsating second half. Though the wide count was mounting for Holycross they had the comfort that only one attack had been made on the own goal as they dictated the play in the half, Woods worryingly still the only scorer. That was soon to change as Dunne cut in from the right wing and set up Flanagan who smartly sidestepped his opponent before unleashing a blistering shot to the net, Holycross now only four behind with ten minutes left to play. Set for a grandstand finish Holycross upped the ante symbolised none better than by Jimmy Ryan tigerish in his play. Woods again pointed from a placed ball to leave it a one score game. 
Remarkably it was to be the twenty fourth minute before Durlas Óg registered their first score of the second half so hemmed in they were by the Holycross attack, Darcy pointing a free to put his side four ahead. Into the last frantic five minutes a brace from Woods and a fine direct point from Alex Murphy left one between them with two minutes plus injury time left on the clock. Into the last minute of normal time Kevin Donnelly pointed for Durlas Óg to shove it out to two, the chance of a steal or even a draw for Holycross was highly likely such was their grip on the second half proceedings. Alas for them though two wides resulted and while Durlas Óg also hit one it gave them that bit of breathing space to hold out for a narrow victory after weathering the most magnificent battle of attack laid siege on any defence at this grade for many a year. In a terrifically sporting contest both sets of players embraced each other as each to a man gave his all in pride for their club and jersey and in truth who could ask for more.
Echoing the terrific display from both sets of players, Mid Coiste na nÓg Chairman, Joe O’Sullivan called on the large crowd assembled for the post match presentation to show their appreciation to the players for the wonderful final witnessed. He then presented the cup to winning joint captains of Durlas Óg, Loran O’Toole and Mark Purcell with Coiste Secretary, Sally Young also present.
Durlas Óg: Matt O’Brien, Bill Byrne, Harry Fitzgibbon, Keith O’Dwyer, Aaron Cullen, Michael Purcell, Seosamh Ryan, Conor Stakelum 2-00, Loran O’Toole (Joint Capt), Bill Darcy 07 (04f), Conor Murphy 01, Anthony Cooney, Mark Purcell (Joint Capt) 02, Matthew Kelly, Evan Mc Cormack, Subs used; Kevin Donnelly 01, Gavin Wright, also Kevin Bracken, Paddy Dunican, Michael Murphy, Ryan Mc Donnell, Jason Jordan, William Creedon, Evan Moore, Patrick Moloney, Aidan Butler.

Holycross-Ballycahill: Ewan Bourke, Jimmy Ryan, Philip Fogarty (Joint Capt), David Croke, Seamus Stakelum, Gavin Dunne (Joint Capt), David Manning, Stephen Flanagan 1-00, Fionn Mc Cartan, Alex Murphy 01, Edward O’Gorman, Seán Stakelum, Seán Spillane, Darragh Woods 0-11(08f), Mikey Nally, Sub used; Jack Ryan, also Bryan O’Meara, Cormac O’Connor, Eoin Morris, Jack Dwan, Finn Briody, Kamil Rusinek Paddy Mc Grath, Eanna Ryan, Colin Nolan, Liam Ryan, William O’Donoghue, Patrick O’Gorman, Ben Slattery, Luke O’Shea, Denis Ceaser.

Referee: Martin Ryan (Moyne-Templetuohy).