Two late goals too little for St Gall's hurlers against Oranmore Maree
All-Ireland Club Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final: St Gall’s (Antrim) 2-4 Oranmore Maree (Galway) 1-13
TWO goals in added time usually signal a frantic finale but sadly for St Gall’s this semi-final was effectively over long before they hit they net.
The fact that those majors, from Conor McGourty and substitute Antoin McCaffrey, were the Ulstermen’s only scores of the second half spoke volumes about this encounter.
The Milltown men’s Joe McDaniel expressed disappointment that they failed to spark until far too late in this game although he gave credit to the deserved victors.
The placed ball accuracy of Galway star Niall Burke, with nine frees and a ‘65’ in his tally of 11 points, confirmed the clear superiority of Oranmore Maree, who made light of playing with a man less for around two-thirds of this game.
The Connacht champs lost corner-back Alan Bannon to a straight red in the 22nd minute after an off-the-ball clash with St Gall’s full-forward Conor Burke.
Conor McGourty reduced the gap to the minimum margin from the resultant free, 0-4 to 0-3, and did the same with a point from play in the 27th minute, but that was almost the end of St Gall’s scoring until the last few moments of this semi-final.
Instead, OM increased their lead to three by the break, 0-7 to 0-4, although even then McDaniel wasn’t giving up the game, despite not making the most of the wind advantage from the throw-in:
“Seven wides in the first half, that killed us too. We should have been going in ahead at half-time, particularly with the breeze…
“We’re disappointed. I said to the lads before half-time to come in a few points off the pace – we even would have settled for five [behind], to be honest – and then bring it into the last 15 minutes and we’ll make a fight of it.
“We were very happy at half-time, relaxed, but we just came out in that second half and didn’t seem to get going.
“I wouldn’t be one for criticising referees but I thought, for both sides, he made it very stop-start, he was blowing up a lot of soft frees. That slowed the game down and we could never get our rhythm.
“We made the mistake for their goal and that killed the fight off, we knew we couldn’t score enough to take the game then.”
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Hopes of an upset had been raised when St Gall’s were given that numerical advantage. The ref consulted a linesman, his umpires, and then the same linesman again before dismissing the light blues’ number four.
The Belfast side received another boost when the experienced Karl Stewart was probably fortunate to escape a second yellow card in first half added time, although the Burke brothers, Conor and Sean, were both booked in the melee that followed the midfielder’s foul.
However, St Gall’s struggled to make the most of those opportunities, or indeed make opportunities, instead presenting Oranmore Maree with their goal, when full-forward Padraic Keane intercepted a puc-out and supplied corner-forward Sean McInerney to score after 37 minutes.
They might have responded in kind minutes later but although Conor McGourty nicked the ball as the goalkeeper tried to clear his lines, his brother Kieran could not turn it into the net despite a desperate lunge.
Even when Niall Burke was off-target with another free, his third such miss, Piaras McCaffrey fluffed the sliotar out for a ‘65’, which the number 12 converted.
St Gall’s struggled to get spare man Stewart into the game, but McDaniel preferred to praise the opposition for that: “They’re a good side. We didn’t get a chance to deliver in the ball we wanted to because as soon as we had a touch of it they swarmed us and put us under pressure.
“Normally we like to work it out of defence, give it to the man on the overlap to deliver good ball in, but they didn’t allow us that opportunity, they were hunting in packs – we’d have liked to do that to them.”
Ironically, the scores only came after Stewart was sent off on a second yellow card, although as McDaniel said with a rueful laugh, “Our two goals came at the wrong time – maybe if we’d got one of those just after half-time it would have lifted our tails a bit.”
However, those two goals did sum up the fighting spirit that St Gall’s have shown since a dreadful start to their season, as McDaniel said with pride: “It’s been a good season – if you’d said to me at the start of it, when we were beat by Armoy by 30 points or something, that we could come here today I’d have thought you were pulling my leg.
“We have to be positive, we’re in Division One now. All I asked from the lads was 100 per cent effort and I think it’s evident that they gave it.”
St Gall’s: P McCaffrey; S Morrison, J McDaniel (capt.), A Hannaway; N O’Neill, S Burke, A Gallagher; K Stewart, J Hopkins; T O Ciarain, K McGourty, C McGourty (1-3, 0-2 frees); M Donnelly, A McCaffrey, S McAreavey (0-1).
Substitutes: R Irvine for Hannaway (35, first half); A Healy for C Burke (48); G McGreevy for Hopkins (58); A McCaffrey (1-0) for K McGourty (58).
Yellow cards: K McGourty (11); Stewart (29 and 59); C Burke (32, first half); S Burke (32, first half); McDaniel (37); C McGourty (44).
Red card: Stewart (59, two yellows).
Oranmore Maree: R McInerney; S Bannon, S Geoghegan, A Bannon; M Hanniffy, G McInerney (joint-capt.), L Keane; N Geoghegan, R Maher; M Quinn, A Burke (0-1), N Burke (joint-capt.) (0-11, 0-9 frees, 0-1 ’65’); R Malone (0-1), P Keane, S McInerney (1-0).
Substitutes: E Burke for A Burke (54); S Dunne for Maher (58) N Qualter for L Keane (58); M Keane for P Keane (61)
Blood sub: Dunne for Quinn (54-56)
Yellow cards: G McInerney (11)
Red card: A Bannon (22)
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).