Liatroim hold their nerve to hold off Middletown comeback and secure club's first Ulster hurling title
AIB Ulster Club IHC final:Liatroim 2-20 Middletown 0-20
LIATROIM FONTENOYS landed their first ever Ulster title as they saw off Middletown by six points at Corrigan Park on Saturday afternoon. Two goals, either side of the half-time whistle, from Conor McCrickard and PJ Davidson, proved the difference in the end.
The McCrickard brothers were in remarkable form. Conor landed the first goal and set up the second, Pearse Og top scored with 0-11 while Ruairi was simply indestructible in defence.
Middletown have been the comeback kings right throughout this championship and played their part in another thrilling encounter, but couldn’t find the goal that would really bring them back into contention.
“I’m delighted, I can’t put into words what it means,” said Liatroim manager Colm Murphy. “A wee club like Liatroim who have never won an Ulster Championship. You can only ever win for the first time once and that will never be repeated.
“Fair play to the boys, they put their shoulder to the wheel over the last two or three months, from last February. They’ve been on the road since the fourth of February.”
It was score for score early on, with Ryan Gaffney’s first point levelling things up for the fourth time, 0-4 apiece after 10 minutes.
Three in a row from the Down champions opened up the first considerable gap of the game, with Pearse Og McCrickard and Tiarnan Murphy pointing before the pair combined for another McCrickard score.
Ben Toal, gathering a crossfield pass from his brother Shaun, halted the Liatroim scoring spree momentarily, but Colm Murphy’s side were soon six ahead.
McCrickard landed another to restore their three-point advantage before midfielder Conor McCrickard rattled home the game’s opening goal.
The sides traded scores put the first half fired up one more piece of drama. Peadar McBride’s loopy pass found Martin Maguire and the full forward was fouled, with referee Kevin Parke signalling a penalty for Middletown.
Up stepped Dean Gaffney, but his powerful shot was heroically turned away by Liatroim netminder Miceal McCartan. Gaffney did record the final score of the half to narrow the gap to five, 1-11 to 0-9.
The eventual champions stretched their lead even further after the turnaround, with Davidson, netting inside 90 seconds. Dean Gaffney’s accuracy from frees kept Middletown in touch, but four points was as close as they could get.
The Gaffney brothers, Shea and Ryan exchanged efforts with Pearse Og and Ruairi McCrickard before three on the bounce from Liatroim saw their lead grow to nine.
Middletown kept battling and bombarded the Liatroim defence in search of a goal, but Liatroim stood strong and proved unbreakable at the back.
“When they started firing the long balls in, thank God there was six points in it and not three. Over the 60 minutes, I was hoping that our legs and our hurling would get us through it, and I think it proved right,” added Murphy.
Liatroim: M McCartan; R McCrickard, O Duggan, R O’Hare; M Leneghan, W McCartan, P Davidson; R McCrickard (0-2 frees), C McCrickard (1-2), PJ McComiskey, PJ Davidson (1-2), P Og McCrickard (0-11, 0-9 frees), T Murphy (0-1), J McAleenan, S Duggan (0-2). Subs: C Breannif for J McAleenan (60)
Middletown: F Woods; K McKernan, P Gaffney, P McBride; S Toal, S Gaffney (0-2), T Nevin; Paddy McBride, Odhran Curry, D Gaffney (0-11, 0-10 frees), N Curry (0-2, 0-1 free), M Maguire, R Gaffney (0-2), C Carvill (0-2), B Toal (0-1). Subs: M Moan for Peadar McBride (42), L McCann for M Maguire (45), S Og McGuinness for B Toal (46), C Gormley for S Toal (57)
Blood Sub: M Moan for K McKernan (15)
Referee: K Parke (Belfast)