Gorey reach second final in three years
The immaculate Monamolin venue fizzed with intensity in a thrilling finish to Saturday's first semi-final in The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship.
Naomh Eanna 1-17 Askamore 0-18
Every pair of eyes among the large crowd zoned in on the lower end goal as county player Shane Tomkins stepped up to take a close-in free with the last puck of an enthralling game as his Askamore side trailed by two points.
He was faced by eight Naomh Eanna men on the line, not including their captain Brendan Travers who had collected a second yellow card for pulling down Tomkins moments beforehand. The free was struck low and hard, but it was blocked and that was that.
Moments later Barry Redmond blew for full-time and Naomh Eanna celebrated qualification for a second final in three years, while their Gorey District rivals had to contend with a second successive narrow loss at this stage. The exit of Kilrush in the Intermediate 'A' football penultimate round just seven days earlier made it a particularly bitter pill to swallow.
Askamore had been marginally the better team in the first-half after surging into a quick 0-3 to nil lead inside five minutes. Shane Tomkins had a fine battle with Seán Doyle, a player who has really impressed me throughout this campaign, while on the opposite flank young Gary Molloy underlined his vast potential by holding no less an opponent than P.J. Nolan scoreless.
The half was book-ended by good long-range points from Tomkins after 15 seconds and nearly 31 minutes respectively, and in between Askamore midfielder Conor Levingstone also caught the eye as he picked off three points from play to help his side to a 0-10 to 0-7 interval lead.
Naomh Eanna were probably content to be reasonably close at the break despite lacking spark at times. Three fine Pádraig Doyle points from play were all vital scores, while Conor McDonald may have been quiet but still managed to stroke a line ball from the left over the bar in the tenth minute.
However, the town team had to up their game even more after Pádraig Byrne and Billy Nolan extended the Askamore lead to five inside one minute of the re-start.
And in fairness they did just that, drawing level on 0-12 apiece by the 40th minute after points from Pádraig Doyle (two frees), Aodhán Doyle, Eoin Conroy (free) and Gearóid Cullen.
It ebbed and flowed from then until the finish. Askamore regained the lead twice, first through Edmund Kenny and then Pádraig Byrne, only for Conor McDonald - whose influence grew - and Conor Hughes to reel them in.
Askamore's Brian Hayden had produced a good save to deny Aodhán Doyle shortly after Thomas Byrne had blocked a Pádraig Doyle piledriver but, after McDonald made it 0-15 to 0-14, the county star then struck for a priceless goal in the 52nd minute. Pádraig Doyle sent in a teasing delivery from the right, and McDonald directed it to the net with a deft touch.
Naomh Eanna's tails were up as Gearóid Cullen immediately added a point (1-16 to 0-14), but Askamore surged back. Shane Tomkins converted four frees in four minutes to make it a one-point game, with Gary Molloy making a vital block to prevent a shot on goal by Edmund Kenny in that spell.
The excellent Pádraig Doyle grabbed what proved to be the insurance point with an over-the-shoulder effort nearly one minute into added time, but the Gorey contingent still had to endure that heart-stopping finish before booking that precious final date.
Naomh Eanna: Barry Kinsella; Peter Travers, Brendan Travers (capt.), Tom Stafford; Seán Doyle, Lee Kinsella, Gary Molloy; Eoin Conroy (0-1 free), Dara McDonald; Conor Hughes (0-1), Pádraig Doyle (0-8, 4 frees), Gearóid Cullen (0-2); Aodhán Doyle (0-1), Conor McDonald (1-4, 0-1 line ball), William Cullen. Sub. - John O'Brien (Ramsfort) for D. McDonald (35).
Askamore: Brian Hayden; Patrick Nolan, Frank Lancaster, Thomas Byrne; Garry Doran, Tommy Devereux, Colm Buttle (0-1); James Lancaster, Conor Levingstone (0-3); P.J. Nolan (capt.), Edmund Kenny (0-1), Shane Tomkins (0-10, 7 frees); Pádraig Byrne (0-2), Billy Nolan (0-1), Conor Travers.
Referee: Barry Redmond (Clonard).