The U-21 hurling trophy is sitting in Abbeyleix for the first time in nearly 35 years after Abbeyleix-Ballypickas put on a powerful display in Saturday’s replayed final to prevail over an under-par Borris Kilcotton side in O’Moore Park.
Last weekend Eoghan Fennelly struck a late goal to set up this replay and he was again at the fore as his side picked up where they left off to dominate for the hour against a Borris Kilcotton side that were never allowed to find their feet. Fennelly struck nine points but it was an all-round team performance that won the day. The Abbeyleix defence superbly marshalled PJ Scully and Neil Foyle and with the Borris Kilcotton scoring threat nullified Abbeyleix Ballypickas took an early lead and never let it go.
Early frees from Eoghan Fennelly and Ryan Peacock set the tone and despite a superb individual point from PJ Scully at the other end Borris Kilcotton were looking a yard off the pace and second to every ball. Fennelly added his second free from 65 yards and then Daniel Coffey stole possession from Jim Fitzpatrick and batted straight over the bar to put his side three points up inside ten minutes.
Daire Quinlan pointed neatly at the other end but three unanswered points from the Abbeyleix side underlined their superiority. MJ Lalor jinked inside to float a lovely score over Eoin Fleming’s crossbar before Martin Scully and Eoghan Fennelly added to their growing lead midway through the half.
Borris Kilcotton managed to quell the tide briefly with a brace from Neil Foyle. Both of those came from the dead ball as their key forward struggled to evade the attentions of the miserly Abbeyleix Ballypickas rearguard but he was at least finding his range from frees and he and Eoghan Fennelly traded scores as the half time whistle approached.
However, after dominating possession, Abbeyleix added two late scores from Dan Shanahan and another Fennelly free to leave them 0-10 to 0-5 at the break. Indeed, only for an excellent save from Borris keeper Eoin Fleming his side could have been facing an even tougher task after the break. Fleming somehow batted away a stinging strike from MJ Lalor. The rebound fell to Dan Shanahan who should have done better but his low strike went wide of the mark.
Abbeyleix Ballypickas left an eager looking Borris Kilcotton side waiting at the start of the second half but when the men in yellow finally emerged they flew out of the blocks with the first three scores of the second period that sent them eight points clear. Eoghan Fennelly hit all of three and at that stage it looked as though the title was as good as theirs. They sat back a little to protect their healthy cushion and indeed it would be their last score for almost twenty minutes.
In the interim Borris Kilcotton tried desperately to get back in contention and they pushed more and more men forward in search of a goal that might change the game. Neil Foyle led that charge but any time he or any of his attacking teammates came close to the danger zone they were fouled. Foyle started the attempted comeback with a free that he earned himself and with just short of twenty minutes remaining on the clock Foyle had a super chance of bagging that elusive goal. Daire Quinlan’s run was cynically halted by Abbeyleix Ballypickas skipper Daire McWey who picked up a yellow card for his troubles. That foul resulted in a 21-yard free which Foyle struck goalwards but Enda Rowland was up to the task and diverted the shot over the bar.
PJ Scully fired over another free five minutes later but time was running out and Borris Kilcotton weren’t finding the scores necessary to worry the near-impenetrable Abbeyleix defence. Foyle then had another 21-yarder but this time his effort was a lot easier to block and the chance went begging. Another Scully free with five minutes left cut the deficit to four points and a few doubts must have started to creep in amongst the vocal Abbeyleix Ballypickas supporters.
That didn’t transcend onto the pitch however, and with just over two minutes of the game remaining Abbeyleix Ballypickas ended their scoring drought with yet another Eoghan Fennelly free, his ninth point of the game. His opposite number 13 PJ Scully cancelled that out on the stroke of full-time and the delirious Abbeyleix Ballypickas crowd poured onto the pitch to celebrate their first title at this level since 1978.
SCORERS - Abbeyleix-Ballypickas: Eoghan Fennelly 0-9 (eight frees), Ryan Peacock, Daniel Coffey, MJ Lalor, Martin Scully and Dan Shanahan 0-1 each; Borris-Kilcotton: Neil Foyle 0-5 (four frees), PJ Scully 0-4 (three frees), Daire Quinlan 0-1.
ABBEYLEIX-BALLYPICKAS: Enda Rowland; Kieran Bowe, Oisin Carroll, Mark Cahill; David Moloney, Daire McWey, Tomas Moore; Tom Doyle, Ryan Peacock; Ricky Nolan, MJ Lalor, Dan Shanahan; Eoghan Fennelly, Martin Scully, Daniel Coffey. Subs: Joe Bergin for Nolan (30 mins), Tommy Walton for McWey (44 mins)
BORRIS-KILCOTTON: Eoin Fleming; John Wall, Des Daly, Killian Delaney; Adrian Phelan, Jim Fitzpatrick, Patrick Whelan; John Tracey, Daire Quinlan; John Wall, William Campion, Joe Campion; PJ Scully, Neil Foyle, Colm Delaney. Subs: Colm Stapleton for Wall (28 mins), Emmet Jones for W Campion (36 mins), William Whelan for Quinlan (56 mins).
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Rathdowney)