Battling Kilburn left to rue key moments

Battling Kilburn Gaels rue key moments against Kanturk

All Ireland Club Intermediate Hurling Championship Quarter-Final

Kanturk 2-17
Kilburn Gaels 2-08

By Damian Dolan
at McGovern Park, Ruislip

If games are decided by a few key moments then Kilburn Gaels certainly came out on the wrong side of those moments at McGovern Park on Saturday, as their All Ireland hopes were ended by Kanturk.

The London champions had battled bravely to stay within just four points of their opponents, when they were awarded a penalty in first half injury-time, only for Stephen Lambert to see his strike superbly turned away by Cork senior goalkeeper Anthony Nash.

How Kilburn needed that to nestle in the back of the net. To add insult to injury Liam O’Keeffe, who had already been denied three times by the outstanding Jack Barron, finally found a way past the Kilburn keeper, but only via a cruel deflection off the hurley of the unfortunate Niall Coen.

It was a slice of ill-luck Kilburn could not afford. But Tom Bergin’s charges refused to go quietly into the cold London night, and it was to their eternal credit that Kanturk could never relax and ease down through the gears.

Despite goals from Jody Troy and Stephen Lambert, however, Kilburn couldn’t get closer than six points in the second half, with Lorcan McLoughlin’s fortuitous goal helping to keep the London champions at arm’s reach, and ensure smooth passage for Kanturk into the All Ireland semi-finals.

Battling Kilburn Gaels rue key moments against Kanturk

While the class of the Cork and Munster champions was there for all to see, Kilburn left the pitch with their heads held high after putting in a spirited and dogged 60- minute stint. And if those key moments had gone their way, then who knows.

Clearly intent on avoiding being on the wrong end of an All Ireland upset in London, Kanturk flew out of the blocks.

Leading by example, captain Lorcan O’Neill landing a huge point from inside his own half to open the scoring, with Aidan Walsh then bisecting the uprights with an exquisite sideline cut.

Sandwiched in between, Liam O’Keeffe hit the post. Kilburn were under the cosh, with Kanturk setting a blistering pace, designed to blow the home side away.

But a minor fracas seemed to warm Kilburn to their task and Troy’s run set up Sean Conlon to get the home side on the board. Nash’s excellent distribution would be a feature for Kanturk, and he burst out field before picking out Ryan Walsh who had the middle of McGovern Park to himself.

Battling Kilburn Gaels rue key moments against Kanturk

The midfielder ate up the Ruislip ground before taking his point. Liam O’Keeffe added a free before commencing his personal duel with Barron – the Kilburn keeper getting down low to his right to stop O’Keeffe’s well struck shot.

Alan O’Keeffe’s score extended the visitors’ lead to 0- 5 to 0-1 after 11 minutes with Kilburn’s forwards struggling to win ball. Kilburn needed a response and it came through a Stephen Lambert free, and Troy closed the gap to just two.

Barron denied Liam O’- Keeffe for a second time, as the corner forward swung on a ground ball, although Donnacha Kennelly pointed after Kilburn were unable to clear the danger.

A Stephen Lambert free brought Kilburn back to with two again, and for all of Kanturk’s threat and intensity they couldn’t get away from a determined Kilburn side, who were making the most of their few chances, while time and time again Kilburn’s backs got a crucial stick in to break down Kanturk’s attacks. It all made for compelling viewing.

Liam O’Keeffe pointed before Barron frustrated the Kanturk corner forward for a third time, with another fine stop. O’Keeffe landed the resulting 65 and the Cork side led by four as the game moved into added time.

Battling Kilburn Gaels rue key moments against Kanturk

Kilburn would finish the half strongly though. Conlon set up Martin Duggan, only for Nash to be equal to Duggan’s strike, but Duggan had begun to win some ball, and when he plucked Aidan O’Leary‘s ball in from the air, he seemed set to test Nash again, only to be denied the chance as John McLoughlin clung on to his hurley.

Referee John O’Brien had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Stephen Lambert stepped and connected cleanly, but Nash, throwing himself to his right, turned the shot away. What could have been a one-point deficit remained four, as Kanturk took a 0-9 to 0-5 lead into half-time.

Ian Walsh opened the second half scoring before the second of those ‘key moments’ arrived in the 35th minute.
Liam O’Keeffe cut in on goal from the left, before unleashing a shot which Barron appeared to have covered, until Coen stuck out a stick in an attempt to block, only to see the ball ricochet off his hurley and into the net with Barron helpless to react.

It was cruel luck on Kilburn, and was probably the only way Liam O’Keeffe was going to find a way past Barron, such was the impressive form of the Kilburn keeper.

Kanturk suddenly led by eight and when scores from Ian Walsh and Aidan Walsh extended that lead further still, it seemed as if Kilburn were in danger of being overwhelmed.

Battling Kilburn Gaels rue key moments against Kanturk

But from nothing, the home side had renewed hope, albeit slim, when Kanturk’s backline failed to deal with a ball in. It broke for Troy and the full forward finished superbly to beat Nash at his near post, with the Cork keeper rooted to the spot.

Stephen Lambert’s free reduced the gap to six points and Kilburn tails were up, but they were then dealt another cruel blow when Lorcan McLoughlin’s strike from distance had Barron back-peddling, only for the ball to hang in the air for what seemed an eternity before eventually dropping over his head and in to the net.

Whether he was going for a point, or just looking for his full forward, the result was a second goal for Kanturk.

Kilburn veteran Keith Kennedy replied, but Ryan Walsh’s goal, coming in the 45th minute, seemed like it would signal the end of Kilburn’s challenge. Not so.

With ten minutes to go Stephen Lambert drilled a free through a crowded goalmouth and into the Kanturk net.

Battling Kilburn Gaels rue key moments against Kanturk

The lead was now seven with Kilburn refusing to lie down and accept defeat. Kilburn went in search of more goals and Stephen Lambert put a sideline cut underneath Nash’s crossbar for his forwards to fight for, only for Paul Walsh to produce an excellent catch and clear the danger.

Try as they might Kilburn couldn’t close the gap further and Kanturk closed the game out to deservedly advance to an All Ireland semi-final.

KANTURK: Anthony Nash; Paul Walsh, John McLoughlin, Alan Sheehy; John Browne, Darren Browne, James Fitzpatrick; Lorcan McLoughlin (1-0), Ryan Walsh (0-1); Ian Walsh (0-4), Lorcan O’Neill (0- 2), Aidan Walsh (0-2); Donnacha Kennelly (0-1), Alan O’Keeffe (0-1), Liam O’Keeffe (1-5, 4f, 1×65). SUBS: Eoghain O’Connor for Alan O’Keeffe (50min), Martin O’Riordan for Kennelly (56min), Denis O’Connor for Fitzpatrick (56min), Dan O’Donoghue (0-1) for Ian Walsh (60+1min).

KILBURN GAELS: John Barron; Kevin Campion, Niall Coen, Conor Hickey; Willie Campion, Brian Regan, Keith Kennedy (0-1); Aidan O’Leary, Chris McLinden; Fergal Collins, Martin Duggan, Sean Conlon (0-1); Stephen Lambert (1-5f), Jody Troy (1-1), Donie Reale. SUBS: Adam Murphy for Reale (42min), Seamus Carey for O’Leary (44min), Cian O’Neill for Willie Campion (56min), Ciaran Reid for Kevin Campion (56min), Ciaran Lambert for Conlon (60+1min).

REFEREE: John O’Brien (Laois).

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