Men in red outpoint Craanford in high stakes tie
The stakes were extremely high in Camolin on Saturday as Monageer-Boolavogue and Craanford travelled to this fine venue knowing that the loser would be on the brink of elimination from The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship.
Monageer-Boolavogue 0-14 Craanford 0-12
In the circumstances it was no surprise that a tense, low-scoring Group B encounter unfolded, and in the end the men in red were celebrating a big victory which leaves their Gorey District opponents hanging on to survival by their fingertips.
Craanford now need to beat HWH-Bunclody by a big margin in their last game, and they would also be grateful to Monageer-Boolavogue for doing them a favour by either drawing with or defeating unbeaten Crossabeg-Ballymurn. Wins for Craanford and Crossabeg-Ballymurn would leave three teams on four points and scoring difference applied to determine two qualifiers, but it will be lights out for the former if they lose to HWH-Bunclody.
The championship consistency that led to successive semi-final appearances from 2012 to 2014 has deserted them, and that must be very frustrating for everyone involved given their good form in the All-County League which culminated in a Division 2 title at Crossabeg-Ballymurn's expense recently.
For Monageer-Boolavogue this was a big victory in their first year in the grade after last year's Intermediate 'A' success. They may have wobbled with the finishing line sight as a couple of simple chances were missed to keep Craanford in with a chance, but they could afford to breathe a little easier after Larry Murphy dispossessed Michael O'Loughlin in the left corner deep into added time and fired over the last point.
Prior to that Craanford substitute James Smyth had shot two wides in quick succession, the second a gilt-edged chance after pouncing on a poor puck-out. A draw would have been the more likely outcome if either chance had been converted, and a last opportunity disappeared just before the final whistle when Ollie Doran lobbed in a free and Niall O'Reilly brought it under control for the winners.
Craanford - without stalwart Stevie Greene who has emigrated to Hong Kong - had first use of the wind and opened brightly with three points in four minutes from John Fleming, Kevin Poole (free) and Des Kavanagh.
Tony Kavanagh also fired low and wide from a goal chance but that strong threat up front was gradually eroded once Monageer-Boolavogue settled down, with captain and centre-back Tommy Breen a commanding figure in the air.
Still, Craanford managed to keep their rivals at arm's length until a productive finish to the half saw Pádraig Flynn (free and play) plus Brian O'Loughlin hit unanswered points to leave Monageer-Boolavogue just one behind at the break (0-8 to 0-7).
The sides shared the four points scored in the third quarter, with Seán Murphy making a very good save to deny James Smyth shortly after the Craanford substitute was introduced.
Ollie Doran powered his team on from midfield, but their rivals drew level from a Flynn free in the 44th minute (0-10 each).
Every score from that stage on was hard-earned. Flynn did convert two more placed balls, the first after referee Joe Kelly played no advantage when he was clean through, but he also missed one in front of the posts and snatched at another chance from open play.
Substitute Peter Mernagh also had a go at a couple of frees without any joy, and it added to the tension felt on both sides before Kevin Poole split the posts to leave Craanford one behind with two minutes left.
Substitute Mark Gahan and Poole (free) then swapped points as the game moved into added time, with Craanford wasting those two opportunities before Larry Murphy finished the job for Monageer-Boolavogue.
Monageer-Boolavogue: Seán Murphy; Mick Sweeney, Liam Gahan, Chris Daly; Dean Fenlon, Tommy Breen (capt.), Graham O'Reilly; Niall O'Reilly (0-1), Matthew Dunne (0-2); Pádraig Flynn (0-8, 6 frees), Brian O'Loughlin (0-1), Damien Fenlon; Mark Walsh, Bertie Gahan, Larry Murphy (0-1). Subs. - Peter Mernagh for Walsh (38), Mark Gahan (0-1) for Flynn (53).
Craanford: Derek Finn; Pat Kenny, Michael O'Loughlin, James Byrne; Joe Berney, Pat Murray, Michael Lyons; Ollie Doran (0-1), Niall Berney; Kevin Poole (0-8, 5 frees), John Fleming (0-2), Matthew Nolan; Tony Kavanagh, Des Kavanagh (0-1), John Lancaster. Sub. - James Smyth for D. Kavanagh (37).
Referee: Joe Kelly (Naomh Eanna).