Intermediate Hurling Championship Quarter Final – Aghada 2-12 v Midleton 2-9; Carrigtwohill 23/9/2017.
If they weren’t singing, Aghada supporters were certainly smiling in the rain, after safely dispatching Midleton to advance to the semi final stages of this year’s Intermediate championship. Two things stood out on the night – the 1st was the atrocious conditions of wind and rain that continued unabated for the 70 odd minutes. The second was the outstanding performance of Cian Fleming in the left corner forward position. The Aghada sharpshooter finished with 2-4 from play, plus 3 points from dead balls (one of which he earned himself), and ultimately he was the difference between two very gutsy outfits under the lights in Carrigtwohill.
While the wind was blowing mostly across the field, it slightly favoured Midleton in the 1st period, and the opening 10 minutes were even stephen with both sides pointing twice. Aghada scores came from Fleming and Will Leahy after they had latched onto clearances from Tim Hartnett and Shane Wall respectively. Both these defenders were to the fore for Aghada. Midleton led for the 1st and only time in the contest when they had their 1st point from play on 15 minutes. This was quickly cancelled out by a Fleming ’65 a minute later. Next up Aghada hit a scoring purple patch. Will Leahy hit a super point from the right wing, before excellent midfielder Stephen O’Keeffe pointed a monster from the puck out. From the next puck out, Aghada again gained possession. Stevie Keeffe fed Fleming and when his marker slipped, the pacey corner forward took off towards goal. Despite the pursuit of the Midleton rearguard, he wasn’t going to be caught and at the end of his solo run he riffled home for a green flag for Aghada. Midleton steadied the ship somewhat with their 4th point, but Fleming was in the groove now and pointed again from play on 25 minutes after taking a pass from Pearse O’Neill. John Looney had the final score of the 1st half, when he pointed smartly after 1st dispossessing his marker. Aghada were in a good place at the short whistle as they held a 6 point advantage – 1-7 vs 0-4.
Midleton pointed a ’65 3 minutes after the restart. Next up though, Fleming and Looney scored similar points after gaining possession and rounding their opponents. 10 minutes gone and Aghada looked comfortable, but that was about to change as Midleton ran through the Aghada defence for 2 goals in the 10th and 12th minute. The second goal actually came from the puck out after the 1st goal, the reason for the 2 minutes between scores was stoppage time for an injured player. So now there was just a point between the sides and Aghada needed a response. They produced it, and how. Fleming caught a long delivery and again spun his man, before unleashing an unstoppable shot to the bottom right hand corner of the net. He followed that up with another fine score from play. A minute later substitute Kevin O’Hanlon was fouled and Fleming pointed the free. On 24 minutes Fleming was fouled when off on another solo run. He again pointed the free, and it seemed Aghada had weathered the brief Midleton resurgence. To their credit the Magpies never stopped battling. They were winning nearly all of the 50/50 balls and anytime there was a ruck, it seemed that a Midleton man inevitably emerged with the sliothar. However, they weren’t posing a major threat to the scoreboard. Billy Hennessy was playing very well and put in a good shift for the hour at wing back, while Trevor O’Keeffe in goals dealt very well with a lot of tricky situations on a night that made things very difficult for goalies. Still it was Midleton on top in the closing stages. They hit 3 fine scores from play in the last 3 minutes of normal time. As the 60 minutes elapsed the rain got even worse and Aghada held a 4 point lead. Midleton pointed again in the 5th minute of injury time and all of a sudden there was just a puck of a ball between the sides again. 2 more minutes of injury time were played and while Midleton dropped a number of balls into the danger area, the Aghada defence withstood the pressure and Aghada were both grateful and happy when they heard referee Ger Scully finally blow the long whistle.
So Aghada are back in very familiar territory. A 4th semi-final in as many years. This time we face last years All Ireland junior champions, Mayfield. The game is currently fixed for October the 7th in Pairc Ui Rinn. Let’s hope that after that contest we find ourselves in less familiar territory than the last 3 attempts.
Aghada Team and scorers – Trevor O’Keeffe, Tim Hartnett, John O’Connor (capt), Jake O’Donoghue, Billy Hennessy, Tom O’Neill, Shane Wall, Stephen O’Keeffe (0-1), Aaron Stafford, Ronan Kennedy, Will Leahy (0-2), Jack McDonald, Pearse O’Neill, John Looney(0-2), Cian Fleming(2-7, 2 f’s, 1 ‘65). Subs Used Charlie Terry, Kevin O’Hanlon, Ger Melvin, Conal Rabbitte.