Clinical Conroys shoot Slieve Bloom to Laois IHC final

Rory Delaney

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Rory Delaney

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rory@leinsterexpress.ie

Clinical Conroys shoot Slieve Bloom to Laois IHC final

The Conroys scored 2-10 between them.

Slieve Bloom are through to the Laois IHC final after powerful opening 30 minutes set them on their way to victory over Clough-Ballacolla on Saturday evening.

Slieve Bloom 2-14

Clough-Ballacolla 0-14

Led by the scoring prowess of the Conroy brothers, Ben and Ciaran, Slieve Bloom had to withstand a determined second half comeback from Clough-Ballacolla.

By the time Clough-Ballacolla had started to tap into their best form, however, they were already ten points in arrears. They will be left to wonder throughout the winter what could have been if they had hit form a bit earlier, but for Slieve Bloom, it's county final day once again, after their JHC victory in 2016.

There was a confident air about Slieve Bloom throughout their warm up and that followed throughout into the game. With less than a minute played, full-forward Lynus Breen had registered their first score.

Ben Conroy then showed his marker a clean pair of heels before launching over their second, and then younger brother Ciaran tapped over a free as they lead by three points after just four minutes.

Almost ten minutes would pass before we were graced with another score, as Clough-Ballacolla took a while to get their radar zoned in. They had hit a few bad wides before Ciaran Finnane finally opened their account in the 13th minute, and Chris Rafter added another soon after with a fine effort from a tight angle.

Ciaran Conroy and Gavin Conroy cancelled out those scores with frees for Slieve Bloom, as the men in orange continued to dictate the play. Damien Bergin hit back for Clough-Ballacolla with a free, but Slieve Bloom raced further ahead after that.

Ben Conroy and Ciaran Conroy both pointed from the right wing before Ben was then fouled for a penalty. He took it himself, powering a shot into the bottom left hand corner, as Slieve Bloom opened up a seven point lead.

Clough-Ballacolla responded well, Damien Bergin and Chris Rafter pointing, but Ciaran Conroy nailed another free for Slieve Bloom.

Then came a bizarre moment in the game, the Slieve Bloom goal led a charmed life. Damien Bergin's shot for a point hit the upright and bounced down in the penalty area, where Ray Cummins reacted quickest to get a flick on the ball. It bounced across the goal and hti the post again, rebounding into the penalty area. Cummins was then all set to apply the finish, but a brilliant bit of work from Tom Delaney saw him stretch a hurl out and somehow deflect it away from goal.

A Darragh Delaney point finished the scoring for the half, and Slieve Bloom were 1-9 to 0-5 to the good the interval.

Things quickly got better for Slieve Bloom when the game resumed, as Ciaran Conroy started the second half with a bang. He showed great pace and strength to cut in along the right wing, and with just 14 seconds on the clock, he powered a shot past Tommy Nolan for a superb goal.

Slieve Bloom now held a ten point lead, and with their defence playing well, it was hard to see how Clough-Ballacolla were going to force their way back into the game.

Damien Bergin and Ciaran Conroy traded frees in the aftermath of the goal, but rather than wallow in self-pity, Clough-Ballacolla slowly but surely started to play their way back into the game.

Aidan Doyle landed a point and Bergin followed it up with two frees, and for the first time in the game they had scored three times without reply.

Ciaran Conroy again proved to be the man to lead the response for Slieve Bloom as he added another free, but Clough-Ballacolla were building some momentum now.

Damien Bergin's free taking was crucial, and he hit two more either side of a point from Diarmuid Conway, and now Clough-Ballacolla were back within five.

They needed to press ahead now, but what probably sealed the win for Slieve Bloom was points from Darragh Delaney and Ciaran Conroy at this juncture to kill the Clough-Ballacolla momentum, and Slieve Bloom held on to seal victory.

SLIEVE BLOOM

Scorers: Ciaran Conroy 1-8 (0-5 frees), Ben Conroy 1-2 (1-0 pen), Darragh Delaney 0-2, Gavin Conroy (free), Lynus Breen 0-1 each.

Team: Gavin Conroy; Fergal Burke, Tom Delaney Jnr, Enda Conroy; John Lowry, James Tobin, Shane Farrell; Robbie Burke, Stephen Phelan; Ben Conroy, Darragh Delaney, Ciaran Conroy; Martin Delaney, Lynus Breen, John Paul Campion. Subs: Glen Tobin for Phelan (40 mins), Ross Holmes for Campion (49 mins)

CLOUGH-BALLACOLLA

Scorers: Damien Bergin 0-7 (frees), Aidan Doyle, Chris Rafter 0-2, Ciaran Finnane, Diarmuid Conway, Jim Doyle 0-1 each.

Team: Tommy Nolan; John Keane, Brian Costigan, Matthew Bergin; Jim Doyle, Brendan McEvoy, Johnny Finnane; John Doyle, Diarmuid Conway; Damien Bergin, Aidan Doyle, Shane Hyland; Chris Rafter, Ray Cummins, Ciaran Finnane. Subs: Ben Delaney for John Doyle (47 mins), David Campion for Hyland (53 mins), David Hennessy for Cummins (58 mins)

Referee: Noel Toomey (Park-Ratheniska)