WReilly Intermediate Hurling Championship Final
Thomas McCurtains 4-12
Fr Murphys 1-13
By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park, Ruislip
No quarter was asked, and none was given as Thomas McCurtains and Fr Murphys served up a pulsating and absorbing finale to this year’s intermediate championship season. It was a final fitting of the competition, and Sunday’s stage.
It should have come as little surprise. All the ingredients were there after all; there had been little to choose between the sides all year, and their meeting in the group stage, which the east Londoners edged by a point, only served to whet the appetite.
On Sunday, both sides left it all out there on the pitch. On the day, however, it was McCurtains who headed home with the cup joyfully tucked under their arm, as the club returned to senior hurling for the first time since 2009.
It was a victory sealed on the back of a powerful and precise second half display, in which McCurtains outscored their opponents by a colossal 2-8 to 0-4.
A sensational performance given Fr Murphys had led by two at the break, and arguably it should have been a few more.
McCurtains were the better side after the break, dominating possession and accurate in their work. Murphys just couldn’t get the ball to stick in their forwards.
With seven minutes left, however, McCurtains only led by a point (2-10 to 1-12). Captain Dean Corrigan then led from the front, ghosting past two men before ‘booting’ the ball past an exposed Michael Burke.
And they sealed the win in the 59th minute when Mark Russell’s ’65 slipped through the fingers of Burke, and into the back of the Murphys’ net.
Fortuitous maybe, but McCurtains were good value. Their forwards caused Murphys untold problems in the second half, while Ciaran McAuley had a stand-out performance at full back, tidying up so much of the ball that Murphy sent in.
McCurtains had earlier struck the first real blow of this final, when Corrigan’s ball in for Alan Clancy to fight for was batted down by Darren Howlin. But Jimmy Byrne arrived at pace to scoop up the loose ball and in a flash it was in the back of the Murphys net.
But Murphys had settled the better and undeterred they rattled off the next five scores without reply. That included one huge free from Stephen Bardon, operating unusually in the half back line, and two lovely scores from David Kelly.
But from nothing McCurtains hit Murphys with a second goal – Conor Hogan firing a rocket of a shot past Burke from an acute angle.
That levelled the game up, but Murphys got a goal of their own six minutes before the break as Sean Howlin got the slightest of touches to Leslie Coughlan’s low ball in. Shane Kelly just couldn’t prevent it from crossing the line, despite getting a good piece of it.
Joe Maguire’s long-range free closed out the scoring to bring to an end an engrossing and unrelenting first half, played at a break-neck speed. Murphys led by 1-9 to 2-4.
McCurtains, though, would take a grip of the game early in the second half. Scores from Byrne and Craig Doyle set the tone, with Murphys left in the starting blocks.
A Bardon free edged Murphys back in front but their forwards were struggling to make an impact.
Doyle had a glorious chance for a goal, and time seemed to stand still as he wound up before unleashing, only to see the ball fly just wide of Burke’s right hand post.
McCurtains are heading back to senior first time since 2009!! pic.twitter.com/OMVZMZMrXP
— the Irish World (@theirishworld) September 30, 2018
Fitzgerald and Alan Griffith combined from a well-worked sideline ball move to win a free for Sean Howlin to convert, but McCurtains eked out the next four points to lead by two going into the last ten minutes.
Mick Gordon closed the gap to one, and Murphys were still in there fighting hard, but then Corrigan set off on a solo run that would end with the ball in the back of the Murphys net, and mean the intermediate trophy was heading east for the first time since 2008.
Thomas McCurtains: Shane Kelly; Cathal McDaid, Ciaran McAuley, John Donohue; CJ Gavin, Kieran Dowling, Joe Maguire (0-1f); Dean Corrigan (1-1), Sean Murphy; Alan Clancy (0-2), Craig Doyle (0-1), Mark Russell (1-3, 3f); Eoin Caldwell, Jimmy Byrne (1-2), Conor Hogan (1-1). Subs: Darren Mulcahy (0-1) for Murphy.
Fr Murphys: Michael Burke; Daniel McGuigan, Darren Howlin, Patrick Tobin; Alan Griffith, Stephen Bardon (0-4f), Patrick Donovan; Conor Fitzgerald (0-1), Stephen O’Neill; Richard Fleming, Leslie Coughlan (0-1), David Kelly (0-3); Conor Hallissey, Sean Howlin (1-3, 3f), Ryan Meyler. Subs: Sean Brennan for Donovan, Mick Gordon (0-1) for Hallissey, Henry Ward for Fitzgerald, Chris Weller for Meyler, Stephen Hennessy for O’Neill.
Referee: Beano Collins.