Intermediate Hurling Championship Semi-Final, O’Toole Park, Sunday 22nd September. Round Tower 1-23 v Erin’s Isle 1-23 (aet)
Well that was epic. 80 minutes could not separate Erins Isle and Round Tower in this outstanding Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final. Having gone to the wire during 60 minutes, Isle’s looked to have one foot in the final when they led by three with one minute of the extra time remaining. Liam O’Connor’s free – his tenth score of the game – initially looked to offer mere consolation. But Alex O’Neill arched a sideline cut over the bar with the next play and the seconds remaining offered Towers respite. To their great credit, they availed of it. Critically they dispossessed from the puck-out and Eoin Moran, Paidi Stapleton, Cónán Ó Broin and Gary Quinlivan combined to create an opening for Eric Finn. Isle’s spotted the danger but he evaded four challenges before slipping it under pressure to O’Neill who drove the equaliser on the turn.
The northside team enjoyed the liveliest start to the additional period, striking three points without reply. An O’Connor 65 had reduced the deficit to two for the break and he’d struck another placed ball two minutes into the half to narrow the deficit to one. But Isles fired off two, thus creating the platform for the dramatic retrieval.
The full 60 saw the sides inseparable at 1-17 apiece. Throughout the margin was fine between both teams. The two Barry’s – Finn and Kehoe – created the opening on the 40 for Eric Finn to strike an early equalising point and we edged clear when Barry Finn was fouled and O’Connor converted. After the three minute mark Isle’s struck four on the bounce before a drive into the 21 by Jack Whelan led to O’Neill winning high and converting. Moran and Alex Darby then exchanged passes and released Eric to notch his second. Isle’s edged three clear again but the deficit was narrowed by O’Connor registering from play, with pressure from Darragh Byrne leading to the turnover. O’Connor notched his second from play and Kehoe then won the free that enable him strike the leveler. But within four minutes the gap was five, with a flick to the net doing the monumental damage to register the game’s first goal. It could have been much worse. Isle’s corner forward Darren Hanlon shot was destined for the top corner but Joe Murray dived across to deflect wide. Towers capitalised on the fortune. Stapleton on the turn narrowed it to four and with two to go to the break we struck decisively. Whelan won on our 40 and played up the left to O’Neill. He slalomed inside and from a tight angle struck powerfully across the keeper to the bottom corner. It was level at the break after Barry Finn’s pressure forced a 65 that O’Connor struck.
The second half opened with a Moran charge from our 45 that resulted in a free for O’Connor to again convert. Whelan registered on the scoreboard after a smart flick-pass back from O’Connor and a chop down on Eric again led to another converted free. Our margin was three when O’Neill delivered another highlight, winning high above others before jinking pass two and driving over. Isle’s kept in pursuit and Eric edged us two clear when characteristically driving into space before converting. With ten to go we’d been plugged back to a level game. Stapleton edged us clear and Eric almost struck what could have been a decisive blow but his strike past the keeper cannoned off the underside of the crossbar. Momentum swung to Isle’s who moved a point ahead but O’Connor tied up in the last minute after Darby was fouled. Moving into injury time both sides missed and Murray had to show safe hands. His clearance led to O’Connor driving over from the 50 what looked the winner. But a free conceded on the 50 tied the game at 1-17 apiece on the final whistle. There was plenty more drama to follow.
The replay will be played Friday 4th October in Parnell Park at 7.30pm.
Round Tower: Joe Murray, Padraig McGeever, Gary Quinlivan, Shane Byrne, Alex Darby, Barry Kehoe, Eric Finn, Jack Whelan, Alex O’Neill, Darragh Byrne, Liam O’Connor, Eoin Moran, Barry Finn, Eoin Walsh, Paidi Stapleton. Used subs: Adam Doyle, Cónán Ó Broin, Brian McLoughlin. Subs: Aaron Wynne, Douglas Faughnan, Eoghan Fitzgerald, Eoghan Young, Jim McGrath.