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AIB Connacht Club IHC: Tooreen make it three-in-a-row

Tooreen captain Shane Boland accepts the AIB Connacht IHC cup from John Murphy, Connacht GAA chairperson.

Tooreen captain Shane Boland accepts the AIB Connacht IHC cup from John Murphy, Connacht GAA chairperson.

AIB Connacht Intermediate Hurling Championship final

Tooreen 0-21 Ballinderreen 0-19

By Kevin Egan at Waldron Park, Athleague

Tooreen are the AIB Connacht club IHC champions for the third year in a row and the fifth time in the last six championships, after they came through an immensely entertaining battle with Ballinderreen of Galway this afternoon.

Six years ago, Tooreen’s run of success began with a win over the same South Galway opposition, but in terms of quality, there was no comparison between that fixture and today’s rip-roaring contest. Tooreen have matured as a group while still introducing some incredibly talented young players, and Ballinderreen arrived at this game far more aware of the threat posed by their Mayo opponents, while also endowed with a team of ample physical power and raw hurling ability.

Despite suffering a serious loss when full-back Robbie Lane had to be helped off the field with injury in the second minute, the Galway side hit the ground running and exploded into an 0-4 to no score lead after ten minutes, the pick of the scores a peach of a strike on the run from midfielder Robbie Meehan.

Tooreen lined out with Stephen Coyne operating as a sweeper in front of his full-back line but Ballinderreen still caused problems close to goal where Niall Coen and Kieran Ryan were excellent targets for high balls, and that in turn opened up space further out the pitch, allowing the men in green to pick off a series of good points from 50 to 70 metres out.

A brace of dead ball scores from Seán Kenny settled Tooreen, but it was only after Fergal Boland dropped back from wing forward to shore up things just behind midfield that they really found their feet in the game.

Once they did, they exploded into life, turning an 0-5 to 0-2 deficit into an 0-9 to 0-6 lead. Man of the match Eoin Delaney was a livewire close to goal, picking off two points in the space of 20 seconds at one stage, but it was their defensive solidity that allowed them to lead by two points at half-time.

Robbie Meehan again roused the substantial Ballinderreen crowd with a majestic strike off the right wing to start the second half, but Tooreen were about to embark on another purple patch, and this time they established a lead that was enough to see them through.

Delaney and Kenny Feeney both pointed, Shane Boland added three frees, and it took some outstanding play from former Galway underage hurler Niall Coen to drag his team back into the game. The rangy attacker was on target with three superb scores as the rain started to fall, the third of which reduced the gap to a single point.

When it came to contributions off the bench however, Tooreen manager Ray Larkin was able to dial up more impact, even though he left it late to call on his reserves. Brian Morley struck a good score with his first touch, Seán Regan made a meaningful impression on proceedings, and all of that helped Eoin Delaney to really stamp his class on matters late on, picking off two further points and helping to set up other scores as well.

A couple of late misses threatened to derail Tooreen as they left Ballinderreen in the game going into stoppage time, and when David Harrison picked up a red card immediately after coming in off the bench, Ballinderreen had an extra man on the pitch to help with their chase of a late goal.

They had their chances too. David Mannion floated a high ball into the goalmouth with Evan Morgan missing his attempted double, but they were handed a second opportunity when Johnny Murphy awarded a 20 metre free.

Bobby Douglas did well to parry Roy Lane’s initial effort but ultimately the contest swung on a swing of the ball that could have gone anywhere. Kieran Gill was sharpest to react to the breaking ball in heavy traffic and he got a clean strike on the sliotar, only to watch it sail over the bar and for Murphy to blow the long whistle with two points still between the sides.

Tooreen now advance to an All-Ireland semi-final clash with the Munster champions, as they continue their bid to finally win national honours at this level.

Scorers for Tooreen: Eoin Delaney 0-5, Seán Kenny 0-5 (0-3f, 0-1 65), Shane Boland 0-5 (0-4f), Liam Lavin 0-2, Oisín Greally 0-1, Kenny Feeney 0-1, Fergal Boland 0-1, Brian Morley 0-1.

Scorers for Ballinderreen: Roy Lane 0-6 (0-5f), Niall Coen 0-4, Kieran Ryan 0-2, Kevin Lane 0-2, Robbie Meehan 0-2, Shane Larkin 0-1, Evan Morgan 0-1, Kieran Gill 0-1.

Tooreen: Bobby Douglas; Gary Nolan, Michael Morley, Conal Hession; David Kenny, Seán Kenny, Joe Boyle; Daniel Huane, Liam Lavin; Oisín Greally, Kenny Feeney, Fergal Boland; Eoin Delaney, Stephen Coyne, Shane Boland.

Subs: Seán Regan for Boyle (48), Brian Morley for Feeney (50), John Cassidy for Huane (60+2), David Harrison for S Boland (60+2).

Ballinderreen: Michael Kelly; Brendan Burke, Robbie Lane, Hugh Moylan; Matthew O’Connor, Kieran Meehan, David Mannion; Kevin Lane, Seán Meehan; Robbie Meehan, Shane Larkin, Evan Morgan; Niall Coen, Kieran Ryan, Roy Lane.

Subs: Seán Collins for Robbie Lane (2), Pádraig Lafferty for Ryan (42), David O’Connor for S Meehan (42), Kieran Gill for Burke (48), Stephen Mannion for Larkin (55)

Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick).