Bunclody finish with a flourish
HWH-Bunclody produced a storming finish in Monamolin on Saturday as five unanswered points in the last seven minutes plus added time guided them to victory over wasteful Oylegate-Glenbrien in The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship quarter-final.
HWH-Bunclody 0-14 Oylegate-Glenbrien 1-9
The Carlow border side had fallen at this hurdle in the previous two campaigns, and they had been waiting since 2012 to make up for losing that year's final to the blues after a tight replay.
And while the early loss of full-back Darren Kehoe to a knee injury certainly didn't help their cause, they took a leaf out of the book of their footballers the previous week as they launched a strong surge for the winning post late on and were richly rewarded.
Oylegate-Glenbrien only spent one year in Senior after that 2012 triumph before being relegated, and they are learning to their cost that it's not easy to bounce back as this was their second successive quarter-final exit.
The absence of three regular forwards in Seamus Casey (soccer commitments) and injured duo Jamie Reck and Eoin O'Mahoney was sorely felt. While the former duo did appear during the second-half, most of the damage was done at that stage as no fewer than ten of their wides total of 18 had arrived between the 19th minute and half-time.
For all that, Oylegate-Glenbrien still held the whiphand with seven minutes left after points from Casey (free) and Podge Doran gave them a 1-9 to 0-9 lead in a scrappy contest.
A couple of converted Billy Kelly frees offered HWH-Bunclody hope, and they suddenly had all the momentum when the same player levelled from a Jason Cowman pass with just under two minutes of normal time left.
It only needed a few seconds of sheer inspiration to edge them ahead as Aidan Nolan took off on a solo run and split the posts with a beauty off the stick. Nolan showed his county credentials again in added time when he caught a puck-out and fed Podge Kehoe for the insurance score, with one unconvincing late Oylegate-Glenbrien attack ending with their 18th and final wide.
HWH-Bunclody had endured two blows inside two minutes early in the second quarter after the sides had been level on three occasions. It was 0-4 each when defender Darren Kehoe was carried off after something snapped in his right knee, and the next attack yielded the game's only goal as Shane Reck's low pass from the left corner was gathered and buried by Podge Doran.
Instead of driving Oylegate-Glenbrien on though, the score proved to be their last of the half as some appalling misses followed from easy chances.
HWH-Bunclody said 'thank you very much' and made better use of less openings to draw level (0-7 to 1-4) by the break thanks to Colm Farrell, Billy Kelly (free) and Niall Kelly.
The sides were level twice, and the margin was never higher than two, during the third quarter, but that poor finishing ultimately returned to haunt the losers as HWH-Bunclody booked a last four spot for the first time since 2012.
HWH-Bunclody: Art O'Neill; Barry Kehoe, Darren Kehoe, Enda Slevin; James Moorhead, Seán Kenny, Conor Crean; Colm Farrell (capt., 0-1), Billy Kelly (0-5, 4 frees); John Paul Connors (0-1), Aidan Nolan (0-3), Niall Kelly (0-1); Eoin Kelly (0-1), Conor Kinsella (0-1), Kevin Dunne. Subs. - Thos. O'Neill for D. Kehoe, inj. (17), Podge Kehoe (0-1) for Dunne (32), Conor Hendrick for Slevin, inj. (36), Jason Cowman for Connors (44), John Dunne for Crean, inj. (60+2).
Oylegate-Glenbrien: John Foley; Pádraic O'Connor, Fergus Heffernan (capt.), Robert O'Connor; Damien Reck, Adrian Nolan, Bryan McCormack; Jim White (0-2), Shane Reck; Ciarán Hourihane, Anthony Doyle (0-1), Mark Kavanagh; Marty Kelly, Peadar O'Mahoney, Podge Doran (1-4, 0-3 frees). Subs. - Seamus Casey (0-2, 1 free) for P. O'Connor, inj. (42), Jamie Reck for Doyle (48).
Referee: Joe Kelly (Naomh Eanna).