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Tooreen hurlers keep on trucking

Sport

DUAL STAR Tooreen’s Fergal Boland put in a man of the match performance against St Gabriel’s in last Sunday’s Connacht Intermediate club championship semi-final. Pic: David Farrell Photography

Semi-Final
Tooreen     1-17
St Gabriel’s    1-12

Michael Commins
Athleague

STOP the world and let us off!
Patrons at the Connacht Intermediate hurling semi-final between Tooreen and London champions, St Gabriel’s, were treated to an absolute cracker over in Athleague on Sunday. High drama, tension and some exquisite skills combined to make this a game for the ages. When the final whistle sounded, it was the gallant lads from Mayo who advanced to the provincial decider against Killimor of Galway in three weeks time.
Leaving Mayo and the rain pouring down in torrents, one wondered what lay ahead in the Suck River basin in the lowlands of Roscommon.
While the wind was strong from the west, the sun shone bright and clear and it was only about 20 minutes after the end of the game that the next heavy shower swept over the plains.
One week after Tooreen recorded a 15-points win over Roscommon champions, Four Roads, at the same venue, one knew in their hearts that St Gabriel’s of London were going to provide an entirely different challenge.
In some ways it was truly daunting to think that the lads from basically a small half parish in east Mayo were taking on a team comprising of lads from many of the great heartlands of hurling such as Galway, Kilkenny, Waterford, Clare and Offaly.
And yet here they were, the proud and enduring legacy of a meeting in Tooreen Hall in the late 1950s that sowed the seeds of hurling that has blossomed over the decades.
The game was barely two minutes old when Eoin Delaney provided the pass for Cathal Freeman to raise the first white flag. Cathal brings a confidence to the team when on form. Every team needs that and the legendary Tony Browne from Waterford who still donned the blue and white jersey (same colours as Tooreen!) into his 40s provided that bedrock for the Déise over the years.
Less than a minute later, Óisín Royston responded with a fine score for St Gabriel’s. Even at this early stage, the scene was set for a humdinger.
Shane Boland showed his class once again with a brilliant score from out the field but points from Eoin Kelly and Rory Lodge had the visitors ahead after eight minutes.
Seán Kenny, after his excellent display a week earlier, posted the longest free of the day from over 80 yards and Kenny Feeney followed up with a superb strike to edge Tooreen back in front.
The crucial score of the game came a minute later following a tremendous puck out by Bobby Douglas, aided by the strong wind, which was won by Kenny Feeney.
Cathal Freeman and Fergal Boland were also involved in the action close to the St Gabriel’s goalmouth before Shane Boland got the final touch to see the ball over the goal line.
As the Tooreen defence battled bravely to curb the ever present threat of the lively St Gabriel’s attack, the Mayo champions extended their lead with two sublime scores from play by Liam Lavin and Eoin Delaney and another long range free from Seán Kenny.
Still, the quality of the London champions was there for all to see from the outset with the excellent Seán Glynn (Clare), Jack Goulding, Conor O’Carroll, Oisín Royston and Niall Geoghegan much to the fore.
Kilkenny native, Conor O’Carroll, knocked over a fine effort.
Twenty minutes into the game, Jack Goulding a fine hurler from Kerry, floated in a ball from near the sideline that was fetched by Conor O’Carroll whose goal-bound shot was brilliantly blocked by Stephen Coyne.
Another long delivery from Bobby Douglas, whose puck-out strategy played a central role in this memorable win, was clipped over the bar by Eoin Delaney and Tooreen were holding a good hand approaching the interval.
But all that changed dramatically in a two-minute spell with Jack Goulding notching a point and Conor O’Carroll, following a fine cross from Goulding, securing a goal despite the best efforts of Bobby Douglas who almost managed to keep it out.
Kenny Feeney and Cathal Freeman combined for a superb and much needed rallying score from Cathal on the stroke of half-time to leave Tooreen ahead by 1-10 to 1-7. Three minutes earlier, Tooreen lost Shane Boland to an injury and Brian Morley was sprung from the bench.
Facing into the strong wind in the second half, Tooreen had it all to do.
Two points from frees by Offaly native, Eoin Kelly, had the margin down to one after ten minutes. A long delivery from Joe Boyle saw Brian Morley secure an inspirational point that helped lift the siege. Morley, who made a fine return to top form, also set up Kenny Feeney for a brilliant score three minutes later.
Fergal Boland was having a serious impact on the game at this stage, winning a few puck-outs and generally contributing to the overall patter of the Tooreen play.
St Gabriel’s rallied again with points from Padraic Mullen and a superb sideline cut from Jack Goulding to leave just a point between them after 22 minutes.
But it was Tooreen who closed out the game in spectacular fashion with two magnificent points from distance by Brian Morley and one from a free by Kenny Feeney.
When corner back Conor Henry came forward and landed a classic point from over 50 yards to push Tooreen four ahead in added time, the cheers rang out around Athleague.
An injury to Kenny led to him being substituted by David Harrison in the closing stages and David landed a marvellous point for the last score of the game.
The Tooreen defence was superb on the day with Conor Henry, Michael Morley and the industrious Oisín Greally, adapting so well to switch from attack to defence.
Stephen Coyne was as industrious as ever, making some fine clearances and also displaying some tremendous blocking skills. David Kenny and Joe Boyle also fared well in the half backline.
Daniel Huane is one of unsung heroes of the team and got through some great work alongside Seán Kenny. All of the Tooreen forwards, Cathal Freeman, Kenny Feeney, Fergal Boland, Shane Boland, Eoin Delaney and Liam Lavin, along with Brian Morley ad David Harrison, contributed enormously to this great Tooreen victory.
Ray Larkin and Dom Greally now have three weeks to prepare their team for the Connacht Final against Killimor and they will be hoping that Shane Boland and Kenny Feeney can recover from their injuries in time for the provincial showdown.

Tooreen
B Douglas; C Henry (0-1), M Morley, O Greally; J Boyle, S Coyne, D Kenny; S Kenny (0-2), D Huane; C Freeman (0-2), K Feeney (0-3, 1f), F Boland; S Boland (1-2), E Delaney (0-2), L Lavin (0-1).
Subs used: B Morley (0-3) for S Boland (inj), D Harrison (0-1) for L Lavin, J Cassidy for K Feeney (inj), C Hession for E Delaney.

St Gabriel’s
P Collins; L Murphy, T Linnane, G Kingston; W Brazil, S Glynn, N Geoghegan; M Freaney, R Lodge (0-1); O Royston (0-2), C O’Carroll (1-1), P Mullen (0-1); P Naughton, J Goulding (0-2, 1 sideline), E Kelly (0-4).
Subs used: S Whelan for W Brazil, N Broderick (0-1f) for P Naughton, S Lawless for E Kelly, N Eames for T Linnane, G Hennelly for R Lodge.

Referee:  S Hynes (Galway)

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