Buffers Alley out after extra-time
It took extra-time to separate the sides after an excellent 80 minutes, with Shelmaliers hauling themselves back from the jaws of defeat to eventually emerge with a two-point victory over Buffers Alley in this All-County Hurling League Division 1 semi-final replay in Hollymount on Friday.
Shelmaliers 1-19 Buffers Alley 1-17 (AET)
Shelmaliers may have escaped to victory but Buffers Alley were left to rue the three remaining minutes of normal time. Leading by three points (1-13 to 1-10), they had victory snatched from their grasp as the home side in a spine-tingling finish rattled off three points through James Cash, substitute Jody Donohoe and a huge 80-metre free from Joe Kelly, two minutes into additional time, which forced the game into extra-time.
The reigning county champions, though short some regulars, hung in right through the 60 minutes. Having failed to turn their opening quarter dominance into scores, they still found themselves leading by three points at the interval, but the Alley controlled the opening of the third quarter. Despite edging into a lead, their wayward finishing was to come back and haunt them as they eventually lost out on a final place in extra-time.
Despite the strong breeze and heavy rain showers, both teams still managed to serve up a hugely competitive clash, filled with passages of excellent hurling. Some of the score-taking in the conditions did not leave the attendance in any way short changed, as they thoroughly enjoyed a riveting 80 minutes of hurling.
The Shels got to grips with the task facing them as they did most of the early attacking, but Joe Kelly was wide with two easy frees before he eventually found the target from a placed ball after eight minutes.
James Cash added a further point, leaving his side leading by 0-2 to nil at the end of the opening quarter.
Buffers Alley had to wait until the 16th minute for their opening score, a Robert O'Leary point. After Conor Hearne and Tomás O'Leary had exchanged points, Joe Kelly was put through by a Ciarán O'Shaughnessy pass to find the net from twelve metres, a score that set his side up for a 1-5 to 0-5 interval lead.
After the sides had exchanged two opening points apiece, Tomás O'Leary availed of a breaking ball to the left of goal, shooting to the net at the second attempt, beating 'keeper Brian Murphy at his near post to leave the sides level (1-7 each) after 36 minutes.
Conor Byrne and Pat Kenny traded points, before the Alley countered with four unanswered points through Andrew Kenny (two frees and one '65) along with a fine Ross Donohoe run and point through the centre, leaving the visitors with a 1-12 to 1-8 lead with twelve minutes remaining.
Shelmaliers never gave up battling and were rewarded with points from Joe Kelly and substitute Jody Donohoe, who made a huge impression, but when a Tomás O'Leary point had the Alley three in front (1-13 to 1-10), they looked on their way to victory until that late Shels surge.
Andrew Kenny (two frees) and Joe Kelly (two, one free) exchanged points through the first period, with the sides still deadlocked (1-15 each) at the break.
An Andrew Kenny free pointed the Alley back in front, but three Kelly points, two from frees, edged the home side into a 1-18 to 1-16 lead.
With one minute remaining a Ross Donohoe point left the minimum separating the sides, but as the game moved into additional time Jody Donohoe pointed from the win, giving his side a two-point victory after an enthralling battle.
Shelmaliers: Brian Murphy; Eoghan Fitzgerald, Aidan Cash, Arnie Murphy; Conor Walsh, James Gordon, Ciarán Walsh; Brian Doyle, Alan Griffith; Páraic O'Leary, Joe Kelly (1-9, 0-5 frees), James Cash (0-2); Conor Byrne (0-3 frees), Ciarán O'Shaughnessy (0-1), Conor Hearne (0-1). Subs. - Jody Donohoe (0-3) for Griffith, John Campbell for Doyle, inj., Simon Donohoe for Campbell.
Buffers Alley: Darren O'Brien; Seán Murphy, Willie Doran, Barry Kenny; Paudie Reidy, Ciarán Kenny, John Farrell; Bobby Kenny, Pat Kenny (0-1); Kevin Roche, Andrew Kenny (0-11, 8 frees), Robert O'Leary (0-1); Paul O'Leary, Ross Donohoe (0-2), Tomás O'Leary (1-2). Subs. - Keith Burke for R. O'Leary, Páraic Roche for P. O'Leary, Shane Grannell for P. Roche.
Referee: Barry Redmond (Clonard).