Hurling & Camogie

O'Loughlin Gaels captain Mark Bergin gains redemption against Na Fianna

O'Loughlin Gaels captain Mark Bergin strikes the winning free against Na Fianna in the Leinster Club SHC Final.
O'Loughlin Gaels captain Mark Bergin strikes the winning free against Na Fianna in the Leinster Club SHC Final. O'Loughlin Gaels captain Mark Bergin strikes the winning free against Na Fianna in the Leinster Club SHC Final.

AIB Leinster club senior hurling championship final: O'Loughlin Gaels (Kilkenny) 0-22 Na Fianna (Dublin) 1-18

A curious tale of redemption, 16 years later, emerged from O'Loughlin Gaels' latest Leinster club SHC final triumph.

Captain Mark Bergin struck the winning score from a 60th minute free, his 11th of a blood and thunder back and forth that was level on eight occasions.

What few realised was that it was an eerily similar free into the Canal End to the one he failed to convert in the 2007 All-Ireland colleges final.

Bergin, now a 34-year-old school principal with a young family, was a secondary student playing for Kilkenny CBS back then and had the chance to send the final to a replay but struck the post with a last gasp free.

"We were playing in a colleges All-Ireland against De La Salle and I got a free in, exactly the same position, and I hit the post," recalled Bergin. "I left Croke Park about half the man I was, to be honest. It took me a long time to get over it.

"At half-time of the football match, because we were entitled to a walk around the pitch, Paddy Deegan asked me where about was it you got the free and I showed him. He said, 'You'll nail one today', and that actually flashed through my mind.

"As I was walking over, I said to myself, 'I'm going to nail this' and thankfully I did. Relieved, relieved, I didn't think I would get a chance to rectify it, to be honest, I really didn't. It's funny the way life goes and the things it throws up."

Na Fianna, from the nearby Mobhi Road in Glasnevin, will hope to return to this stage some day to find their own redemption. They struck 10 wides, gave too many frees away that Bergin converted and ultimately lost by a point. They'd been two ahead when Sean Currie netted in the 38th minute and were still one up after AJ Murphy's cracking 58th minute point. So plenty to ponder.

"I thought we did enough to win the game," admitted Na Fianna manager Niall O Ceallachain. "It's probably one that could have gone either way in the last couple of minutes."

Asked if he'd been tempted to rush joint captain and All-Star nominated forward Donal Burke back after a horror hamstring injury, O Ceallachain shook his head. "To be honest, never," he said, describing the injury as career threatening and to be respected.

O'Loughlin Gaels will play the Ulster champions in an All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday or Sunday week, at a venue yet to be decided. Croke Park appears a non-runner as there are camogie and ladies football fixtures already scheduled.

O'Loughlin Gaels: S Murphy; T Forristal, H Lawlor, M Butler; D Fogarty (0-2), P Deegan (0-5), J Molloy; J Nolan (0-1), C Loy (0-1); C Heary (0-1), M Bergin (0-11, 9f), E O'Shea; P Butler, O Wall, S Bolger.

Subs: L Hogan (0-1) for P Butler 26, C Kelly for Loy 49, J Ryan for Nolan 54.

Na Fianna: J Treacy; S Burke, C McHugh, D Clerkin; P O'Dea, L Rushe, K Burke; B Ryan (0-3), P Feeney; J Tierney (0-1), M Murphy, S Currie (1-1); C Stacey, AJ Murphy (0-2), C Currie (0-11, 9f).

Subs: D Ryan for O'Dea 13, S Barrett for Feeney 46, S Baxter for Stacey 53, G King for Tierney 60.

Referee: C Flynn (Westmeath).