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St Rynagh's were crowned Offaly Senior Hurling champions at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park.
St Rynagh's were crowned Offaly Senior Hurling champions at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park.

Offaly SHC Final: Rynagh's edge out Birr

Offaly SHC Final

ST RYNAGH’S 0-16 BIRR 1-12

By Kevin Egan at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park

Three years after he scored a crucial goal in a St. Rynagh’s county final victory against Birr, Offaly footballer Joseph O’Connor again came up with a critical score for the Banagher club, splitting the posts in the second minute of stoppage time to give his team their first and only lead of the day.

O’Connor’s point crowned a remarkable St. Rynagh’s comeback and a heartbreaking defeat for Birr, who burst out of the blocks with 1-2 in the first three minutes, but faltered with the winning line in sight over the course of the final quarter.

At 1-11 to 0-7 in front with 44 minutes on the clock, Birr had most of the hard work done at that stage. Perhaps it was the nervousness that comes with not winning a county title in 11 years that made them retreat a little bit into a more defensive stance, and perhaps it was their inability to deal with the impact of two crucial St. Rynagh’s substitutes – Diarmuid Horan and Stephen Quirke.

Horan, who was a player that burst onto the intercounty scene a decade ago but then struggled with injury and eventually emigrated, became an increasingly influential figure for his club in the latter stages of this season and after coming on here, he scored two crucial points and helped set up a number of other breaks that were gobbled up and converted by Quirke.

Quirke ended the game with four points and the man of the match award, having delivered a similarly significant cameo performance in their 0-14 to 0-12 win over Belmont in the semi-final.

Birr will feel that they should never have let St. Rynagh’s back into the game, having controlled the tie in the first half and then come with another surge midway through the second.

With the defence dominating proceedings early on, they kicked off with two stunning points from Brendan Murphy and Craig Taylor, and then fired in the only goal through Eoghan Cahill after Morgan Watkins’ run and shot saw Conor Clancy parry the sliothar into the path of the county goalkeeper.

The Birr half back line of Seán Ryan, Brian Watkins and Paul Cleary were imperious in the first half, and they were full value for their 1-7 to 0-4 interval lead. It could have been even more, had Eoghan Cahill’s opportunist snap shot for goal not fizzed inches wide of the post in the 23rd minute.

Gary Kelly, Aaron Kenny and Dolan halved that gap with the first three points of the second half but Birr then came back into it with another surge, firing over four points on the trot to move 1-11 to 0-7 clear. Glorious opportunities that were spurned by Aidan Treacy and Gary Kelly suggested that it wasn’t to be St. Rynagh’s day, but a point from Ronan Hughes in the 44th minute kicked off a comeback that very slowly came to the boil.

Powered by the iron grip that their back line began to exert and the extra penetration afforded by Horan and Quirke, nine of the last ten points were scored by the men in blue and gold, culminating in O’Connor’s injury time winner.  

Scorers for St. Rynagh’s: Stephen Quirke 0-4, Aidan Treacy (1 65, 1f) and Seán Dolan 0-3 each, Diarmuid Horan 0-2, Gary Kelly, Aaron Kenny (f), Ronan Hughes, and Joseph O’Connor 0-1 each.  

Scorers for Birr: Eoghan Cahill 1-5 (3fs), Colm Mulrooney 0-3, Brendan Murphy, Craig Taylor, Morgan Watkins & Paddy Mullins 0-1 each.

ST. RYNAGH’S: Conor Clancy; Stephen Wynne, Conor Hernon, Dermot Shortt; Matthew Moloney, Ben Conneely, Paul Quirke; Joseph O’Connor, Gary Kelly; Garry Conneely, Ronan Hughes, Ciarán Flannery; Seán Dolan, Aidan Treacy, Aaron Kenny.

Subs: Stephen Quirke for Flannery (28), Diarmuid Horan for G Conneely (HT), Luke O’Connor for Kenny (48), G Conneely for Kelly (58), Flannery for Horan (60+2).

BIRR: Brian Mullins; Oisín Murphy, Dylan Watkins, Jimmy Irwin; Brian Watkins, Paul Cleary, Seán Ryan; Brendan Murphy, Stephen Lonergan; Colm Mulrooney, Dylan Hayden, Craig Taylor; Barry Harding, Morgan Watkins, Eoghan Cahill.   

Subs: Paddy Mullins for Harding (12), Michael Verney for Hayden (50), Dylan Quegan for Mullins (55), Eoin Pilkington for Watkins (59), Thomas Bolger for Lonergan (60+4).

REFEREE: Kieran Dooley.

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