Alley leave it late
Mellows so close to surprise victory
It may only be the first round but it's likely that the two best teams in the Gorey District Under-21 hurling Roinn 1 championship met at Monamolin on Monday of last week, and somehow it was Buffers Alley who survived to fight another day.
Buffers Alley 3-13 Liam mellows 3-10
With three minutes of normal time remaining, Liam Mellows led by nine points after dominating the game. Their advantage was based on strength through the spine. Yusuf Frih was magnificent, the midfield was completely on top, and Colin Kennedy was superb at centre-back.
Then two things changed. The hosts moved Ross Donohoe inside and it just unsettled an area of the field that Liam Mellows controlled. And probably more importantly, the excellent Rory Heffernan picked up a serious arm injury.
A little luck also helps. From 3-10 to 0-10 behind, the Alley nabbed three goals in as many minutes. The first was a fluke from a John Furlong '65 that flew all the way to the net, the second was an Oliver O'Leary 20-metre free from the left that avoided the crowded goalmouth, and the third was a deflected John Lee Meyler shot that wrong-footed Seán Roche and trickled in.
There was only one winner from that point. Meyler put his side ahead before Ross Donohoe added a brace in the first four minutes of added time.
The visitors laid siege to the Alley goal in the next, and final, four minutes of injury time but blocks by Oliver O'Leary and then a last-gasp Cian Fortune save from Patrick Dempsey's shot kept Liam Mellows at bay.
Earlier, Marc Halpin missed an open goal inside the first 60 seconds but responded by racing in for a major moments later. With Frih on song, notching five first-half points, and Halpin firing home a second goal from Alan Halvey's long ball, their side built a 2-6 to 0-6 interval advantage.
Shane Halpin beat O'Leary nine minutes into the second period as Liam Mellows eventually moved into a 3-10 to 0-8 lead after 49 minutes. However, they failed to score again as the hosts came roaring back with an unanswered 3-5 to book a spot in the next round.
Buffers Alley: Oliver O'Leary (capt., 1-0 free); Liam Cousins, Ciarán Murphy, Leonard Lacey; Gearóid O'Connor, John Farrell, John Furlong (1-0 '65); Lee Murphy (0-1), Eoin Whelan; Robbie Donnelly (0-1), Ross Donohoe (0-5, 4 frees), John Lee Meyler (1-1); Owen Dempsey (0-5), Walter Gahan, Rory Kirwan. Subs. - Darragh Kehoe for Donohoe, temp. (22), Kehoe for Kirwan (37), Cian Fortune for Lacey (37), Jack Butler for C. Murphy (54), Daryl O'Connor for Gahan (60+5).
Liam Mellows: Seán Roche; Rory Heffernan, Frank Roche, Cathal Gregan; Alan Halvey, Colin Kennedy (capt.), Ross Cody; Joe Gardiner, Stephen Maloney; Patrick Dempsey (0-2), Yusuf Frih (0-6), Eoin Cullen (0-2, 1 free); Micheál Ó Scanail, Marc Halpin (2-0), Shane Halpin (1-0). Subs. - Liam Condren for Gregan (18), Robbie Brookes for Ó Scanail (43), Niall Heffernan for R. Heffernan, inj. (53), also Oisín Condren, Ryan Murphy, Darragh Brookes.
Referee: David Owens (Askamore).