By Martin Breheny
Monday November 05 2012
Oulart-THE BALLAGH have dominated Wexford senior hurling for four successive years but for the last three seasons the Leinster championship has left them with an itch they couldn’t quite scratch.
Whether that extends to a fourth season remains to be seen but, if it doesn’t, they will look back on this match in Parnell Park as a character-testing occasion which could be hugely influential in shaping their campaign.
A game they appeared to have neatly wrapped up when a scoring burst either side of half-time left them six points clear took a dramatic turn as Kilmacud, playing in the Leinsterchampionship for the first time in 27 years, out-scored Oulart by 1-4 to 0-1 between the 43rd and 55th minutes.
Top marksman Sean McGrath landed all of Kilmacud’s second-half total, including the equalising goal five minutes from the end of normal time when he finished a cross from Ross O’Carroll to the net.
Having built up such impressive momentum, Kilmacud looked poised to book a semi-final date with the Kilkenny champions (Ballyhale Shamrocks or Dicksboro) but it was Oulart who struck for the winning score in stoppage-time when Nicky Kirwan pointed a free, which was needlessly conceded.
Kilmacud had a chance to level it up but McGrath’s long-range free dropped short and Oulart were awarded a free out, a decision which frustrated losing manager Gearoid O Riain.
He was particularly disappointed by Tony Carroll’s decision to award Oulart a penalty just before half-time when the referee adjudged that Kirwan had been fouled in the square. Kirwan despatched the penalty to the net to leave Oulart leading by 1-8 to 0-8 at the break.
“I thought he (Kirwan) had been harried well. We practised tackling on the hip and not giving away frees,” said O Riain.
“That had been one of the hallmarks of our performances in the Dublin championship — a tight, disciplined approach. It (awarding the penalty) was a poor decision but there you go. It wasn’t an easy day to referee.”
If that goal gave Oulart the initiative at the end of high-quality, point-for-point first-half, they built on it in early in the second half when Rory Jacob, Kirwan and Darren Nolan all fired over points, opening up a substantial lead which was always going to be difficult to peg back in the heavy conditions.
In the circumstances, Kilmacud deserve great credit for putting together such a cohesive rescue plan and, in fairness, not even the considerable support which Oulart brought with them could have complained if the game had gone to extra-time.
McGrath, Ross and Rory O’Carroll, Dillon Mulligan, Ronan Walsh and Niall Corcoran were at the heart of Kilmacud’s recovery as the Dublin champions raised the intensity and applied heavy pressure on the Oulart defence.
“We always knew it was going to be a tough battle. Kilmacud had won a very good Dublin championship and were ready for this. In the end, it turned into a real dogfight and with the rain coming down, it made it all the harder but we scrapped for everything and got through in the end,” said Oulart full-back Keith Rossiter.
Oulart had travelled with a sense of grievance, apparently emanating from comments made about them in a newspaper column.
“Look at what Conal Keaney wrote about us during the week,” said Rossiter, while his midfield colleague David Redmond also played the aggrieved card.
“We were more or less written off because of our displays in Wexford. There was stuff in the papers that wasn’t nice — from up here in Dublin. But we know how good we are and what we can do even if we still haven’t shown our best,” said Redmond.
Whatever about perceived slights, the truth is that Oulart are a solid outfit with extensive Leinster experience and they have every reason to believe that this could be the year when they make the breakthrough. Rossiter, Darren Stamp, Redmond, Garrett Sinnott, Rory Jacob and Nicky Kirwan are important stitching agents dotted through a well-designed tapestry.
However, the Oulart management, no doubt, must be asking why the second half turned into such a slog from a position where they led by 1-11 to 0-8 after 40 minutes.
“We went asleep for a bit in the second half but hard work and doggedness got us over the line in the end,” said Redmond.
It was all very disappointing for Kilmacud, especially after battling back so efficiently from what looked a perilous position early in the second half. Nor will they take any consolation from being told they did well in their first Leinster attempt for a quarter of a century.
“This wasn’t bonus territory for us. That sort of talk is insulting,” said O Riain. “We wanted to get out of Dublin and get a crack at the best teams in other counties. We wanted to make the breakthrough for Dublin — we believe that club level is where it will happen.”
For Oulart, it was a highly satisfactory visit to the capital, one which they would dearly love to make again for the All-Ireland final on St Patrick’s Day. That’s a long way off but at least Oulart are still on the road after chiselling out victory in such dramatic style.
Scorers — Oulart: N Kirwan 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), C O’Leary 0-4 (2f, 1 ’65’), R Jacob 0-2, D Redmond, P Roche, G Sinnott, D Nolan 0-1 each. Kilmacud: S McGrath 1-7 (0-5f), J Burke, D Kelly 0-2 each, Ross O’Carroll 0-1.
Oulart-The Ballagh — B O’Connor; D Morton, K Rossiter, B Kehoe; C Goff, D Stamp, E Moore; D Redmond, C O’Leary; G Sinnott, P Roche, D Nolan; R Jacob, P Murphy, N Kirwan. Subs: F Cullen for Murphy (h-t), M Jacob for O’Leary (49)
Kilmacud Crokes — M Collins; J Doughan, N Corcoran, R Walsh; R O’Loughlin, Rory O’Carroll, B O’Carroll; N O’Reardon, D Mulligan; Ross O’Carroll, D Kelly, R O’Dwyer; J Burke, J Sweeney, S McGrath. Subs: K O’Loughlin for Sweeney (22), C Clinton for O’Reardon (41), B O’Rorke for Burke (50).
Ref — T Carroll (Offaly)
– Martin Breheny