Momentous win for hurlers as Inter Championship returns

Intermediate Hurling Championship Final 2019, Wednesday 9th October, Parnell Park: Round Tower 0-13 v Clontarf 1-9. Match report by Mick McGlynn. Match images kind courtesy Tommy Keogh. 

You wait 13 years for a hurling championship and then two arrive in four days. Our Inter hurlers followed the performance of our Junior’s the Saturday previous, with the resolve and will to deliver a Championship pushing them over the line. These are traits that had been evident in two semi-final replays and quarter finals that turned contenders into winners. It had been an edgy first-half performance and having doggedly battled back in the second half from a four point interval deficit, Clontarf looked to have struck a killer blow three minutes from the end when a miscued free by Tom O’Flaherty found its way into the net to leave them two clear.

But Towers picked themselves off the ground. On the 60 minute mark Alex Darbey cleverly switched a free crossfield to Liam O’Connor. He rounded his marker to leave one between the sides. O’Connor then won the subsequent puck-out and palmed off to Eric Finn. He brilliantly sidestepped to create the space to fire over the equaliser a minute into added time. There was time for a winner and what an outstanding score it was. Joe Murray drove a free from the Towers 40 into the Clontarf 40. Possession was won by Clontarf but Alex O’Neill, Barry Kehoe, Paidi Stapleton and Eric Finn were to the fore in pressuring a dispossession. Finn then flicked to the left for Stapleton to scoop it into his hand and drive over from the left sideline. It was a supreme score that would be fitting of winning any inter-county championship match. A final play for Clontarf saw a tussle for possession around the Towers 21 but our rearguard stood firm to clear successfully and the sound of the final whistle brought the huge Towers contingent out onto Parnell Park pitch to witness captain Finn to lift the trophy.

Trailing 0-7 v 0-3 at the break, there was a greater physicality to Towers in the second period. Darbey and O’Connor had struck narrowly wide before Stapleton broke beyond the Clontarf rearguard and was fouled. O’Connor pointed the placed ball. Clontarf did rattle the crossbar and the follow-up was pointed by Ronan McDyer. Towers responded when Stapleton’s strike after winning the puck-out was deflected wide. O’Connor landed the 65. A McDyer free from under the stand extended the lead again to four but Towers were now matching Clontarf and Finn gained possession to cut thru and point off his left. A major turning point arrived with 15 to play. A scoreable Clontarf free dropped short but led to the concession of a penalty. McDyer’s strike for the net went to keeper Joe Murray’s left and he dived across to deflect it clear. He then showed great hands to hold the subsequent 65 and a galvanised Towers won possession through substitute Conán O’Broin and the foul on him enabled O’Connor to turn a prospective six point deficit to two. Finn then carried into the Clontarf 40 and Ó’Broin broke onto possession to win another free for O’Connor to strike. Six minutes were remaining when Darbey won a free on the Towers 40 and found Jack Whelan in space. His long-range effort from the right was initially flagged wide but following consultation between linesman and umpires referee Mark Ryan signaled the equaliser. The turnaround looked complete when O’Connor’s win of the puck-out led to him striking from distance and it creeping over the crossbar to edge us ahead for the first time in the game. But the late dramatics and Stapleton’s heroics were still to play-out.

The second period was in stark contrast to the first. Towers were tentative and struggled to get any stranglehold on the game. Clontarf were dominant around the middle and Towers struggled to gain the quality possession required to feed the inside forwards. Clontarf were ahead from a McDyer free inside a minute but an off-the ball infringement allowed O’Connor to level it after seven minutes. However, we went 21 minutes without registering a score and the northside team capitalised with five without reply. On the 28 minute mark Eoin Moran won a puck out and though the free dropped short, Finn seized upon to point on the turn. McDyer extended the margin to five with another free but a huge free from O’Connor in injury time left Towers folk contemplating a four point deficit having struggled to perform in the opening 30. The second period prove momentous and historic for the club. It was the first time an Inter Championship had returned to Convent Road since 2006.

Well done to all players and management involved and thanks to the supporters for their great turnout at Parnell Park to cheer on the lads. Next up is a play-off against Scoil Uí Chonaill Sunday 20th October in Parnell Park at 2pm, to decide who will contest the Leinster Intermediate Hurling Championship on behalf of Dublin. Scoil were the Dublin Senior B Championship winners and the game is precursor to the County Final between St Brigid’s and Cuala.

Round Tower: Joey Murray, Eoghan Fitzgerald, Alex Darbey, Adam Doyle, Eoin Moran, Padraig ‘Podge’ McGeever, Eoghan Young, Gary Quinlivan, Alex O’Neill, Jack Whelan, Eoin Walsh, Eric Finn, Barry Finn, Paidi Stapleton, Liam O’Connor. Used subs: Conán O’Broin, Luke Currivan, Barry Kehoe. Subs: Brian MacLaughlin, Aaron Wynne, Douglas Faughnan, Darragh Byrne, Jim McGrath.