Kilmoyley 2-15, Banagher 1-12
It was heartbreak for a battling Banagher as they missed out on a place in the All Ireland Final.
The disappointment all the more acute because for a spell it felt like it was there for them. Close enough to believe, close enough to almost touch. After a really rousing start to the third quarter, the Derry and Ulster kingpins forged ahead into a three point lead, and looked more than good value for it.
Kilmoyley were listing, with very little going their way, as Banagher thundered into the game following a brilliantly executed goal by Stefan McCloskey just after half-time. Ten minutes into the half, having been down at the break, Banagher found themselves three points clear. The path to Croker opening out before them.
The yellow clad Kilmoyley, though, weren’t about to give in. The Kerry men rallied brilliantly – led by former Kerry captain Daniel Collins – to somehow lead at the second water break.
That was it. The winning and the losing of the game. More so even than Maurice O’Connor’s brilliant goal early in the final quarter, as important as that clearly was. No, Kilmoyley getting their noses back in front of Banagher was the sort of psychological blow that will win you a game. Convincing themselves this game was there for the taking and putting doubts in Banagher minds at the end of their brightest spell in the game.
To be fair to the Derry men they hit this game with everything they had, bringing a serious intensity to the Connacht Centre of Excellence and for quite a lot of the game putting Kilmoyley on the backfoot. True enough it was a nervy sort of a game. One of those days that proves the old adage about semi-finals being for winning, but more than anything it was a hard-fought battle with neither side giving an inch.
Both teams missed a host of chances as the wind swept across the pitch making it trickier than it might have appeared at face value, but more than anything both sets of players were under pressure, from the occasion and equally, if not more so, from their opposite numbers.
Banagher started the game well enough and looked the slightly more up for it side, with Kilmoyley taking their time to get into the game. That said the Oak Leaf men missed a lot of early chances, surrendering their chance to put distance between themselves and their rivals with the breeze at their backs for the first half.
After 10 minutes they were two down to Kilmoyley, 'Man of the Match' Jordan Brick and Maurice O’Connor on the scoresheet, but really the Kerry champions ought probably to have been further in front when a Daniel Collins penalty, for a foul by Mark Lynch on David McCarthy, was brilliantly saved by Darrell McDermott.
Kilmoyley did eventually breach the Banagher goal, and just before the first water break too, with Maurice O’Connor shooting to the net after Adrian Royle dispossessed the Derry keeper. That’s the thing about this Kilmoyley performance. It may not have been vintage, but time and again they showed the ability to score at those vital moments.
With O’Connor’s goal they were 1-2 to 0-3 up and, while Banagher rallied in the second quarter to cut the gap to just a single score (and really taking into account the chances they missed the Derry men should have been in an even stronger position), Kilmoyley would have been fairly satisfied to have carried a lead at the break, 1-5 to 0-7.
What they and manager John Meyler won’t have been satisfied with is their start to the second half as Kilmoyley miss four missed chances inside the opening seven or eight minutes of the half, but more so there was a listlessness to Kilmoyley in this spell.
Again, though, you’ve got to credit Banagher. They made the running in that period, starting with that brilliantly taken goal by McCloskey, having taken an assist from the impressive Brian Óg McGilligan.
For the first time since midway through the first half, the Ulster champions were in front and with a roar from their large crowd growing louder with each passing moment it really did feel like all the momentum was with them. Eleven minutes into the second half Banagher had their advantage out to three – 1-8 to 1-5 – following a Liam Eoin Campbell free.
It was from this position that Kilmoyley clicked into gear. First with a Daniel Collins free just in front of the posts. Having missed a few from distance before that, it was just the fillip the centre-forward needed. Indeed from there he went on to dominate the rest of the game, scoring eight points from that 42nd minute free onwards.
Collins shot another three points, two from placed balls, before the second water break to give Kilmoyley the lead again, 1-9 to 1-8. The tide had really turned.
The full extent of the switch made plain when second half sub Dáire Nolan set Maurice O’Connor free just after the break to score his second goal of the game, giving Kilmoyley a four point advantage, 2-9 to 1-8. And, really, it felt like that was that.
Of course, Banagher kept battling on to the very end, but with that buffer Kilmoyley were able to keep their rivals at arm’s length with a score here and there, mostly from Collins, but with the exceptional Jordan Brick, always an outlet for his side under the dropping ball, also chipping in.
The Banagher dream was ended but no one at the St. Mary's club will ever forget the 2021 season, nor this history making hurling side that brought a first Ulster title to Banagher.
KILMOYLEY: John Brendan O’Halloran, Dónal Kennedy, Colman Savage, Flor McCarthy, Robert Collins, Dougie Fitzell, Tom Murnane, Matthew Flaherty, Paudie O’Connor (0-1), Kieran McCarthy, Daniel Collins (0-9, 6f), David McCarthy, Jordan Brick (0-4), Adrian Royle, Maurice O’Connor (2-1) Subs: Ronan Walsh for K McCarthy, 37mins; Dáire Nolan for D McCarthy, 43mins.
BANAGHER: Darrell McDermott, Gabriel Farren, Ruairí McCloskey, Cathair McGilligan, Niall Farren, Darragh McCloskey, Mark Lynch, Oisín McCloskey (0-1), Brian Óg McGilligan, Shane Murphy (0-1), Tiarnan McCloskey (0-4, 3f), Ciarán Lynch, Liam Eoin Campbell (0-4f), Seán McCullagh, Stefan McCloskey (1-2) Subs: PJ McCloskey for C Lynch, 41mins; Tiarnan Moore for G Farren, 41mins; Pauric McCloskey for LE Campbell, 50mins.
REFEREE: Brian Keon (Galway)