ARDCLOUGH love nothing more than beating near-neighbours Celbridge and when they do so in a final then it becomes all the more sweater.
That is exactly what happened at a blustery and wet Conneff Park, Clane on Saturday when the sides met in the Division 1 final of the Senior Hurling League, which was a repeat of last season’s decider that was won by Celbridge.
This time around the defending champions had to give way to their old foes, who finally claimed a ‘big-day’ win over their more illustrious opponents of recent years after so many disappointments in recent times prior to this fine performance.
Mind you, Ardclough didn’t make it easy on themselves and after Celbridge levelled in the 50th you would have been forgiven had you thought that Ardclough’s race was run.
However, despite shooting 20 wides Ardclough came good when it counted, and a brace of pointed frees from Paul Fitzgerald and another from play from substitute, Philip Fitzgerald saw the winners over the line.
Indeed, just like they finished the game, Ardclough began it in a similar fashion too, and hitting the ground from the first whistle, they found themselves 1-1 to no score in front inside the opening two minutes, with Martin Fitzgerald pointing inside the opening minute from 50 metres, before corner-forward, Brendan Byrne flashed a strike high past ‘keeper, Niall Lanigan and to the net.
Thereafter Ardclough continued to set the tempo, with their crisp hurling and their sheer power overpowering Celbridge in most sectors, particularly in the engine room.
In a bid to curb Ardclough’s superiority, Celbridge moved Danny Butler from wing-forward back out to his more customary role in midfield, and as Butler’s influence began to be felt, so too did Ardclough’s wane.
Ardclough continued to create but their decision making, shot choice and indeed their execution of both left a lot to be desired. Unsurprisingly, their wide count grew quicker than their score and adding just 0-4 between the second minute and half-time.
Celbridge were far from as productive in the final third but with Butler continuing to dictate they were nonetheless more economical and points from Butler (2), Sean Cotter and a 16th minute goal from Sam White, who delightfully picked out the top corner with an angled 20 metre effort on the half turn, restored parity at 1-3 apiece.
Paul Fitzgerald (free) and Butler then exchanged points, before Brian Coulston and Tony Spain pointed Ardclough into a 1-6 to 1-4 half-time lead.
The second half continued in a similar way to how the first had preceded it, yet points from Colm Buggy, Paul Fitzgerald and Sean Buggy made it a four point game.
Rather than sense victory, Ardclough were momentarily rattled when Butler crashed home a 47th minute, before Keegan tied up the game at 1-9 to 2-5 with ten minutes remaining.
Ardclough however, despite all their inaccuracies, weren’t to be denied and it was they who came up with the right answers when questions were being asked about their ability to win on the big day once again.
Ardclough: Aidan Buggle; Niall Coulston, Sean Buggle, Robbie Spain; Peter Coleman, Richie Hoban, Enda Duane; Martin Fitzgerald 0-2 (1 free), Jonathon Reeves; Tony Spain 0-1, Brian Coulston 0-1, Sean Buggy 0-2; Brendan Byrne, Colm Buggy 0-1, Paul Fitzgerald 0-4 (3 frees). Subs: Philip Fitzgerald for Reeves (blood-sub, 10-14 mins, 29 mins-h/t); Philip Fitzgerald 0-1 for Brian Coulston (36 mins); Colm Maguire for Sean Buggle (53 mins).
Celbridge: Niall Lanigan; Tom Finnerty, Pa Curtin, Conor Ryan; Kevin Murphy, Niall O Muineachain, Shane O’Flynn; Donal Moloney, Sam White 1-1; Danny Butler 1-3 (pen), Markus Kinsella, Eoin Doddy; Gerry Keegan 0-2, Sean Cotter 0-1, Billy White. Subs: Denis Kenny for Finnerty (inj, 9 mins); Niall Kenny for Doddy (38 mins).
Referee: Declan Peppard .