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Monday 16 September 2019

Askamore in strong finish

IHC Group B - Askamore 0-19, St. James' 0-14

Askamore’s Garry Doran tries to hook St. James’ sharpshooter Kevin O’Grady.
Askamore’s Garry Doran tries to hook St. James’ sharpshooter Kevin O’Grady.

Alan Aherne in Bellefield

Three injury-time points made sure of a deserved success for Askamore in The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship Group B in Bellefield on Saturday, while there was relief for St. James' when news came through from Innovate Wexford Park that Adamstown had only drawn with Cloughbawn.

Just one more point for the St. Abban's men would have ended their Ramsgrange rivals' year, but instead the relieved losers booked the fourth qualifying spot on the head-to-head and will now be rank outsiders in their quarter-final against Buffers Alley.

Askamore were never headed after a bright opening yielded the first three points inside four minutes from Gavin Sunderland, Conor Levingstone and captain Shane Tomkins.

The best St. James' could manage was to draw level on one occasion (0-8 each) courtesy of a Kevin O'Grady free in the 26th minute, but they were unable to hit the front at any stage in a game where their 14 wides, compared to eight from the victors, certainly didn't help their cause.

With the injured Matthew O'Hanlon a frustrated onlooker, and reliable forward Shane Murphy also missing from action, they were always going to be up against it to be fair.

It was 0-7 to 0-4 in Askamore's favour by the end of the opening quarter, after Sunderland had brought his personal tally to three while speedy county Under-20 James Byrne also joined their list of marksmen.

St. James' midfielder Daniel Keating picked off their best point at the end of a move involving Owen Whitty and Andrew Walsh, and they seemed to be gathering momentum when two Kevin O'Grady frees brought them level for the sole time.

However, Askamore re-asserted their slight superiority leading up to the break as they established an 0-11 to 0-9 lead, with midfielder Tom Byrne firing over before Shane Tomkins converted from a free and from play.

The Gorey District side went three clear for the second time after the break courtesy of Edmond Kenny - who lined out in Croke Park with Lancashire in June - before Alan Walsh and O'Grady made it a one-point game.

The strong-running Walsh was posing lots of problems from right half-forward, but Askamore produced a telling response midway through the half which yielded the next three points courtesy of Shane Tomkins (free) along with midfielders P.J. Nolan and Tom Byrne.

With word coming through that Adamstown were making a good fist of fighting for their lives, St. James' knew that they really had to go for it in the closing stages.

In that regard, two timely interventions by Askamore defenders were crucial. Peter O'Neill had only been on the field for half a minute when he stopped a shot from Greg Doyle close to his own line, and Garry Doran went on to block an effort from Robbie Barron.

In between, Donal Barron made it 16-13, and Kevin O'Grady knocked over a '65 at the start of added time to leave St. James' hopeful of a late winning goal.

Askamore produced three excellent points to seal the win, though. Tom Byrne caught a Ramsgrange clearance and returned it over the bar with interest, before young substitute Seán Kirwan launched a monster strike from close to the left sideline at midfield that provided some insurance.

The last word went to veteran Frank Boggan, who was summoned from goal after a lengthy career spent largely in the full-forward line, to drive a long-range free between the posts.

Askamore: Frank Boggan (0-1 free); Garrett O'Connor, Tommy Devereux, Martin Hayden; Garry Doran, James Lancaster, Fionn Fortune; P.J. Nolan (0-1), Tom Byrne (0-3); Pádraig Byrne, Shane Tomkins (capt., 0-6, 4 frees), Gavin Sunderland (0-3); James Byrne (0-1), Edmond Kenny (0-1), Conor Levingstone (0-2). Subs. - John Kavanagh for Hayden (40), Seán Kirwan (0-1) for P. Byrne (48), Billy Nolan for Kenny (54), Peter O'Neill for Fortune (57), Colm Buttle for Levingstone (60).

St. James': Graeme Molloy; Paul Barron, Jason Barron, Brian Molloy; Liam Murphy (capt.), Robbie Barron, Alan Walsh (0-1); Mark Molloy (0-1), Daniel Keating (0-1); Kevin O'Grady (0-9, 5 frees, 1 '65), Andrew Walsh, Owen Whitty; Donal Barron (0-1), Tommy Walsh, Michael O'Grady (0-1). Subs. - James Walsh for M. O'Grady (45), Greg Doyle for Andrew Walsh (55).

Referee: John O'Loughlin (Monageer-Boolavogue).

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