ARDCLOUGH’S Senior Hurling Championship hopes are still well and truly alive after they had five points to spare over Confey when the sides met in a crunch tie in Clane last Sunday evening, writes John Ryan.
Senior Hurling Championship
Ardclough, county and provincial champions as recently as 2006, came into this game knowing that their destiny rested primarily in their own hands, safe in the knowledge that anything other than a win here would mean a premature end to their season.
Certainly, the threat of bowing out at the group stage acted as an adequate incentive for the ‘Cloughs, who took the game to Confey for long spells, before weathering a third quarter rally from the Creighton Park men to see their way first past the finishing post.
In the end goals in either half from Richie Hoban and Brendan Byrne proved decisive against a mis-firing Confey side who relied far too heavily on scores from Paul Divilly.
Divilly kept up his side of the bargain with a haul of ten points, five of which were scored on the spin between the 35th and 44th minutes that closed his side to within two points of Ardclough.
On previous days Ardclough’s aging legs might have given way to the ascendency of their younger opponents, but after Tony Spain pointed a badly needed score for Ardclough – their first since the opening minute of the second half – in the 44th minute to briefly steady the ship and check Confey in their stride, it proved the perfect tonic, for within two minutes Byrne had the ball in the net with an emphatic finish that flew past ‘keeper, Ian Baker that made it a six-point game with 14 minutes still to play, yet effectively game over given Ardclough’s desire to get the win that their hopes so desperately craved.
In what was a promising opening to a game that had so much riding on it, both sides started well, even if Confey’s approach was a little easier on the eye in comparison to Ardclough’s more direct route to goal. Points from Kieran Divilly, Paul Divilly (2) and Darragh Nolan established a 0-4 to 0-2 Confey advantage after 13 minutes.
Yet, while Ardclough took the easier path, it was nonetheless highly effective and with a tactical reshuffle that brought more bite to what was previously a toothless attack, they found themselves back on parity by the 18th minute by virtue of points from Colm Buggy and Martin Fitzgerald, before Fitzgerald (free) pointed them in front for the first time.
Better was to come for Ardclough after 23 minutes and unsurprisingly the Fitzgerald brothers were involved, with Paul fouled by Paul Keegan as he tried to turn for goal after Martin fed him possession from the middle of the park. For good measure, centre-back Richie Hoban crashed home the resulting penalty that propelled his side four points (1-5 to 0-4) clear.
Twice more by the 29th minute four points separated the sides, before Sean Buggy and Paul Fitzgerald increased Ardclough’s advantage to six a minute into time added on. Confey, in particular Paul Divilly, pared one off that before the interval when converting a free but at half-time Ardclough were in a commanding position, leading by 1-9 to 0-7.
It was more of the same following the restart, with both sides adding two points each to their respective tallies inside the opening eight minutes.
That being said, cracks were appearing in Ardclough’s resolve as their previous intensive exploits appeared to be taking their toll. Divilly, driving on his side with incredible maturity, added three successive points by the 44th minute to close with two points (1-11 to 0-12), but just when it seemed they had a run on Ardclough, Confey were hit with a quick-fire 1-1 in two minutes via the sticks of Spain and Byrne.
Brian Coulston added another point as Ardclough moved 2-13 to 0-12 in front after 48 minutes, and while Divilly fired three points for Confey, it all proved immaterial, with a late point from Colm Buggy wrapping up a deserving win for Ardclough.
Ardclough: Martin Fitzgerald 0-4 (2f, 1 ’65), Richie Hoban 1-0 (pen), Brendan Byrne 1-0, Sean Buggy 0-2, Tony Spain 0-2, Colm Buggy 0-2, Paul Fitzgerald 0-2, Kailyn Domican 0-1, Brian Coulston 0-1.
Confey: Paul Divilly 0-10 (5f, 2 ’65), Kieran Divilly 0-3, Eoin Fitzpatrick 0-1, Darragh Nolan 0-1.
Aidan Buggle; Niall Coulston, Sean Buggle, Peter Coleman; Enda Duane, Richie Hoban, Kailyn Domican; Martin Fitzgerald, Ronan O’Malley; Sean Buggy, Brian Coulston, Tony Spain; Colm Buggy, Brendan Byrne, Paul Fitzgerald. Subs: Philip Fitzgerald for Domican (inj, 32 mins); Johnny Reeves for Coulston (57 mins).
Ian Baker; Sean Leamy, Paul Keegan, Brian Dowd; Colm Chan, Michael Divilly, Kevin Chan; Paul Divilly, Paraic Keegan; John O’Neill, Philip Quigley, Eoin Fitzpatrick; Darragh Nolan, Kieran Divilly, Anto Hoare. Subs: Paul Feerick for Nolan (36 mins); Roger Quinn for O’Neill (56 mins).
Paddy Moore (Clane).