Intermediate Hurling Championship Rd 2a – Aghada 3-14 v Sarsfields 2-19; Cobh 24/6/2017
Sometimes no matter how hard you might try, it can be hard to avoid using the same old clichés. But for Aghada this game last Saturday, the proverbial cliché of the “game of two half’s” is totally unavoidable. In the 1st half Aghada were extremely impressive. The backs were playing well especially the half back line, while up front Aghada looked extremely dangerous, creating chances at will, scoring 3-9 but maybe letting behind another half a dozen scores at least. 5 points up at the break and while turning to play into the breeze it would have been a pessimistic supporter who would have predicted that Aghada would only score 5 points in the 2nd half and in truth never really looked like scoring much more than that. Sarsfields 2nd string totally dominated the 2nd half, hitting 12 points and never let Aghada get any momentum for the 2nd period. And when the final whistle sounded in sunny Cobh, Sars were victorious and head into the draw for Rd 4. The consolation for Aghada is that we too remain in championship and are now in the draw for Rd 3.
Aghada, via John Looney, were out of the blocks in a shot as the current Cork u21 player gained possession from the throw in and left a number of players in his wake before finishing his solo run with a strike on goal. His 1st attempt was saved, but he was first to the rebound and buried the sliothar to the back of the net to give us the perfect start. Incredibly Sars 1st score was also a green flag, when they goaled after a well worked move. They had the lead on 5 minutes when they sent over the 1st of what would total 9 points from placed balls. Significantly by the time a Will Leahy free had drawn Aghada level, we hit 3 very soft wides. The Aghada halfback line of Jake O’Donoghue, Tom O’Neill and in particular Billy Hennessy were very good in this opening period, and Hennessy set up Aghada’s next two scores when he played in two fine passes, first to Cian Fleming and then to Kevin O’Hanlon. Both finished smartly and when Aaron Stafford hit a super point on 10 minutes, Aghada were 3 to the good again. Sars hit the next 2 points before Looney got his second. But on 16 minutes against the run of play Sars hit the front again when another good move saw them strike for their 2nd major of the night. 2 minutes later O’Hanlon made a super catch, beat his man, and with a goal for the taking, saw his attempt well saved and tipped over the bar. Charlie Terry intercepted the resulting puck out and dispatched it back over the crossbar, and Aghada led again and all 6 forwards were now on the scoreboard. If it felt like Sars were hanging in there, they were doing a good job of it and another couple of points, one from play and one free gave them back the lead by the 22nd minute. O’Donoghue and Stafford combined well to set up midfielder Ger Melvin for Aghada’s 8th point. Next up a clever flick from John Looney put Leahy through on goals. His attempt hit the butt of the upright, but O’Hanlon was fouled trying to get the rebound and Aghada had a penalty. Looney made no mistake and rattled the net from the one v one. More good play from Hennessy from the puck out, helped set up Leahy, who buried a fine goal, to all of a sudden give Aghada a 6 point lead with four minutes to halftime. It should have been more a few minutes later, but the Sars ‘keeper made another fine stop. A ’65 was the outcome which Leahy pointed to push Aghada 7 clear as the halftime whistle approached. In time added on, Sars hit two important points from their point of view, while Aghada saw another goal chance from Looney go narrowly wide. 3-9 vs 2-7 at half time, it was still all to play for.
Aghada were dealt a blow at halftime. Already down Michael Russell and Pearse O’Neill through injuries, corner back David Rice also picked up and injury which ruled him out for the 2nd half. While the wind was far from strong, it did have the affect of helping Sars bypass the Aghada halfback line with their clearances at the start of the 2nd half. For the 1st 5 minutes after the restart, the Riverstown club looked like they were going to score at will. 4 points in this 5 minute period reduced the Aghada lead very quickly down to one point. Aghada countered this start by putting Ger Melvin in as sweeper and this definitely stemmed the flow of scores against Aghada. However the down side for Aghada was that our forward line, never again carried the same threat, and Sars were able to deploy the experienced Ray Ryan as their spare man at the back. Ryan would go on to be the most dominant player on the pitch for the second half.
Still over the next 15 minutes Aghada outscored Sars, hitting 4 points to their 2, albeit Sars now started to hit a few soft wides. Leahy hit two fine scores from the right wing. Hanlon hit his 3rd from right out on the left sideline, and Looney almost goaled again on the 13th minute but his effort flew narrowly over the bar. 3 points up with 10 to go, a Sars point from play reduced the deficit to 2 points before Aghada were dealt a huge blow. Cian Fleming picked up a second yellow card to reduce Aghada to 14 men. From there on it was all Sars. They hit points every other minute from the 23rd on, 5 in total to lead by 3 points as the game headed into injury time. Looney again broke forward on 33 minutes and with no choice only to go for goal, he again blazed over. The lead was down to 2 points but despite mounting another couple of attacks, nothing came of them for Aghada and Sars held on for the win. Major disappointment for the Aghada camp, but at the end of the day, we are still in championship and still more than capable of mounting a serious attempt on this title before the year is out.
Aghada Team and scorers – Trevor O’Keeffe, Tim Hartnett, John O’Connor (capt), David Rice, Billy Hennessy, Tom O’Neill, Jake O’Donoghue, Stephen O’Keeffe, Ger Melvin(0-1), Aaron Stafford(0-1), John Looney(2-3, 1-0 pen), Charlie Terry (0-1),Cian Fleming(0-1), Will Leahy(1-4, 1f,1 ‘65),Kevin O’Hanlon(0-3). Subs Used Alan Creedon, Ronan Kennedy, Jordan Tynan.