Reporting by Marisa Kennedy in Croke Park
Dunnamaggin are the AIB junior hurling club champions following a nervy four-point win over Castleblayney of Monaghan in Croke Park this afternoon.
It was far from the expected easy win for the Kilkenny side as Castleblayney dominated the final stages of the opening half to lead by two points at half-time. The title looked to be heading to an Ulster until a late scoring spree from Dunnamaggin sealed the win.
Their main threat, John Fitzpatrick, got Dunnamaggin off the mark with only a minute on the board. Their intention to go for goal was clear from the offset as Thomas Maher floated a free into the square but the danger was quickly dealt with by Castleblayney goalkeeper, Paddy Collins.
The Kilkenny champions continued to torment the young Castleblayney full-back line but failed to show that on the scoreboard, registering eight first-half wides. The story was entirely different at the other end of the field as Dunnamaggin veteran, Noel Hickey, mopped up ball from full-back.
It took until the eighth minute for Castleblayney to get their first score through Fergal Rafter and the corner-forward soon added his second from a free but their momentum was quickly broken when an attempted clearance from Jim McHugh was broken down and Fitzpatrick pounced, burying the ball past Collins.
Dunnamaggin floated over two further points from Darragh O’Keeffe and Ronan Coffey before the Monaghan side came roaring into the game. Mark Treanor was instrumental in gathering possession in the middle of the field and drew frees, which Rafter gratefully pointed.
Dunnamaggin looked rattled as Hugh Byrne left one between the sides and on the 28 minute, Rafter leveled the game through another placed ball. The Kilkenny side was left shocked when Treanor gathered possession in the half-forward line before dispatching the ball to Brian McGuigan who had drifted off his marker and drove it past Seaghan O’Neill. Thomas Maher pointed a free to settle Dunnamaggin and leave two between the sides at half-time.
Eamonn Kennedy’s side started the second half as brightly as the first as Ray Cody floated over a point from the throw-in before another goal chance from Fitzpatrick was snuffed out by a thundering shoulder from Cormac McNally. Yet, their discipline worked against them once again as Rafter was allowed to restore their lead from a free. Croke Park erupted as McGuigan added a further point immediately.
Dunnamaggin refused to go away, however, as Coffey raced in on goal but they were once again denied, this time by a wonderful hook from Eoin Leonard though Maher did manage to get a point from the situation.
While Dunnamaggin were wasteful in possession, Blayney showed them how it’s done as Rafter notched over another two frees to restore their three-point lead. As the game ticked into the final 10 minutes, Dunnamaggin went on a scoring spree, reeling off five points without reply through Maher, Cody, and Fitzpatrick. Coffey had another goal chance denied by Collins to keep Castleblayney’s hopes alive but with the All Ireland title in sight, the Kilkenny side weren’t going to let this one slip away.
Final points from Maher and Coffey ensured the win and and the All Ireland junior club title.
Castleblayney: Paddy Collins; Eoin Leonard, Jim McHugh, Collin Merrick; Aaron Kenny, Peter Treanor, Cormac McNally (0-1); Brian Flanagan, Paddy Finnegan; Hugh Byrne (0-1), Mark Treanor, Brian McGuigan (1-2); Fergal Rafter (0-9, 6f, 1 65), Craig Callan, Pauric Malone.
Dunnamaggin: Seaghan O’Neill; Mark Heffernan, Noel Hickey, Victor Costello; Michael Cody, William Phelan, Andrew Fitzpatrick; Darren Fitzpatrick, Eoghan Kearney (0-1, 1f); Thomas Maher (0-6, 4f), John Fitzpatrick (1-5, 1f), Darragh O’Keeffe (0-1); Ronan Coffey (0-2), Ray Cody (0-2), Adam Fitzpatrick.
Substitutions: Jack Brett for Heffernan (35), Ian Walsh for Adam Fitzpatrick (45)