Heroic hurlers win All-Ireland B title after thriller
Bord Gais Energy All-Ireland B U-21 Hurling Final
Roscommon 3-17 Kildare 3-16
This was one of the greatest-ever days in the proud history of Roscommon hurling. What made this All-Ireland B U-21 final victory all the more special was the fact that this team were rank outsiders when they arrived at Thurles, the home of hurling, on Saturday. The bookies had Kildare at odds of 1/6 during the week while Roscommon were available at 6/1.
It was also special because it was played on the most beautiful hurling surface in the world – and on live television too. The TG4 coverage was excellent and the commentators and analysts were highly complimentary of The Rossies. However probably the most satisfactory aspect of all is the manner in which this victory was achieved. Seamus Qualter and his management team coaxed a performance of skill, courage, character and fierce determination from these fine young Roscommon men.
While we were recovering from the drama and tension of the All-Ireland senior final the previous Sunday, this game managed to surpass that especially, when one’s own county is involved. The game took off like an express train and never let up until the final whistle.
It would have been a hard game to lose but it was extra sweet when it was the Primrose and Blue that emerged victorious after a heroic and never-to-be -forgotten display.
Roscommon got away to a great start and one could see their confidence grow from that. After Conor Kenny pointed for Kildare in the first minute, a fine point from Jamie Lawlor and a Robbie Fallon free settled the Roscommon lads.
Kenny soon had Kildare level with a ’65 and then in the 6th minute came the first of the game’s six goals. A long puck-out from Noel Fallon was fed out to Robbie Kelly and the Four Roads man sent a brilliant shot to the net from out on the left.
Kenny got Kildare’s third point before a Robbie Fallon free and a point from play from Liam Kilcline saw Roscommon ahead by 1-4 to 0-3 after eight minutes. Midfielder Martin Fitzgerald pointed for Kildare and then a minute later a mix-up between the Kildare goalie and his full-back saw the ball break to Robbie Fallon and the Athleague man crashed the ball to the net.
Roscommon’s six-point lead was short-lived though and two minutes later Kildare were level thanks to goals from Conor Hehir and the excellent Gerry Keegan. This could have been heart-breaking for Roscommon and their resolve was really being put to the test now.
Character was now needed and this Roscommon side has that in abundance. Man of the match Niall Kilroy led by example and steadied the ship with the first of his six points from play, as the game went into the second quarter. Philip Concannon soon had the Lillywhites back on level terms. A Robbie Fallon free was then answered by Kildare’s Ross Kelly.
In the 24th minute Jamie Lawlor put The Rossies ahead again when he was found by an astute pass from clubman Robbie Kelly. In the next minute the teams were level for the 6th time when Martin Fitzgerald pointed from play. Two fine points from the brilliant Tremane man Niall Kilroy sent Roscommon leading by two points 2-9 to 2-7.
The general consensus at half-time was that the game couldn’t continue to be played at the pace seen in that first half. Amazingly, it did, and the fantastic heart-stopping roller-coaster ride continued on as before. A Gerry Keegan point was cancelled out by a fine effort from Niall Kilroy after a mazy solo run. Philip Concannon then put the Kildare men just a point adrift again.
Then in a two-minute spell Roscommon scored 1-2 to go six points up again. Kilroy got the two points and the goal came from full-forward Naos Connuaghton when he caught a high ball, had his shot blocked, and pulled on the rebound to fire to the back of the net.
Incredibly this second six-point lead was taken away from them again and Roscommon were not to score for the next 14 minutes. In that period Kildare scored 1-6 and it was looking a little ominous for Roscommon at that stage. The goal was scored by Conor Kenny and the points were scored by Gerry Keegan (2), Conor Kenny (2), Ross Kenny and Martin Fitzgerald.
With two minutes left Roscommon rallied again and finished with a positive and gritty display of great character. Robbie Kelly sent over a free from out near the sideline. Goalkeeper Noel Fallon reduced the margin to the bare minimum with a fee from outside the ’65. Robbie Fallon then produced the equaliser with a majestic point from play with two minutes left.
A minute later from a free, Robbie Fallon had his side in front and in the first minute of time added on Naos Connaughton increased the lead with another well-taken point from play. Kildare were really desperate now, and in a dangerous attack Roscommon goalie Noel Fallon, who had already made two superb saves, had to be at his brilliant best again to turn a Sean Gainey shot around the post for a ’65. That was pointed by Liam McDonagh and from the puck-out referee David Copps blew the final whistle to let the Roscommon celebrations get underway after what was a pulsating and epic All-Ireland final.
Roscommon: Noel Fallon (0-1); Mark Keaveney, Peter Kellehan (capt.), Darren Fallon; Cathal Dolan, Brian Donnelly, Niall Keenan; Eamon Mulry, Jamie Lawlor (0-2); Peter Leahy, Niall Kilroy (0-6), Robbie Kelly (1-0); Robbie Fallon (1-6), Naos Connaughton (1-1), Liam Kilcline (0-1). Subs: Cillian Egan for Leahy, Hugh Rooney for Kilcline, Ciaran Shaw for Lawlor.
Kildare: C Gallagher; R McGrath, M Carter, D McDonnacha; S O’Flynn, M Purcell, K Whelan; L McDonagh (0-1), M Fitzgerald (0-3); P Concannon (0-2), C Kenny (1-5), R Kelly (0-1); C O’Hehir (1-1), G Keegan (1-2), M Delaney. Subs: F Conway for Kelly, S Gainey for Delaney, D Flannery for O Hehir.
Referee: David Copps (Cork).
© Roscommon People
21 September 2012.