Kilkenny’s Mooncoin edge Ballygiblin of Cork in gripping All-Ireland junior hurling final

Mooncoin (Kilkenny) 0-22
Ballygiblin (Cork) 1-18

Kevin Egan reports from Croke Park

MOONCOIN’S GREATER OVERALL scoring threat, embodied by two utterly incredible scores from Adam Croke and Martin O’Neill at the end of this incredible and memorable All-Ireland junior club hurling final, proved to be the vital ingredient that edged them over the line against Ballygiblin of Cork this afternoon.

As with any one-point game, there were any number of ‘what if’ and ‘what might have been’ moments over the hour’s action from the perspective of both sides, but when the game was there to be won in the closing stages, Croke and O’Neill fired points that would be worthy of any All-Ireland final, senior or junior.

Croke’s effort, swept over the posts by the 18-year-old, from an incredibly tight angle right on the hour mark, looked like it would settle this contest as it pushed Mooncoin two points clear going into stoppage time.

A Joseph O’Sullivan free, his ninth of the game for Ballygiblin, reduced the gap to the bare minimum again but with the next play, a hard run by Máirtín Gannon down the right wing forced a sideline cut at midfield. With just 30 seconds of the announced three minutes of stoppage time to play, just getting the ball out of play seemed like it was enough, but instead O’Neill stepped up and cut the sideline ball over the bar for a majestic score.

Two pucks later, Darragh Flynn whipped over his fourth point from midfield after collecting the restart, but there was time for no more, as the final whistle sounded and the heartbreak from Mooncoin’s defeat at the same stage of this competition five years ago was fully washed away.

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On that occasion Cork opposition, in the form of Mayfield, proved too strong, and when Ballygiblin went in at half-time with a one-point lead after playing into a quite significant breeze, it seemed like the same might be the case again here.

Mooncoin had burst out of the blocks with a fantastic start, moving 0-6 to 0-2 in front after just nine minutes. Two points from John Fitzgerald were followed up by a brace of frees and then scores from O’Neill and Kevin Crowley, as Mooncoin seemed to thrive in what was a hard, physical contest in the middle third.

Gradually however, Ballygiblin worked their way back into the game. Ryan Donegan and Darragh Flynn gave them a foothold at midfield, Seán O’Sullivan dropped into deeper positions to get some possession, and a long range strike into the breeze from Michael Walsh roused the lively Ballygiblin crowd.

Mooncoin continued to create chances but their wides tally mounted, while a wonderful save from Christopher Noonan to deny Croke looked like it could be significant, all the more so when Seán O’Sullivan struck a point and then won a 65, which when converted by Joseph O’Sullivan, made it 0-10 to 0-9 in favour of the Cork club at the break.

As they had done in the first half however, Mooncoin made the stronger start in the second half, but the difference this time was that they didn’t let up.

Ciarán Quilty, Patrick Walsh and Killian Hogan got the first three points of the game and even after they were rocked by a close range goal from Dean Barry, they settled right back into their rhythm to get the next three scores to lead by 0-15 to 1-10.

Ballygiblin always possessed a scoring threat from distance and when Mark Keane was switched up to full forward to offer a physical and aerial threat close to goal, the former AFL player was able to win frees to keep his side in the game.

Mooncoin always seemed to be able to keep their noses in front however, and when they needed some moments of real magic late on to confirm their win, they had no shortage of heroes to step forward and deliver.

Scorers for Mooncoin: Patrick Walsh 0-7 (0-3f), John Fitzgerald 0-4, Martin O’Neill 0-4 (0-1f, 0-1 65, 0-1 s/l), Killian Hogan 0-3, Adam Croke 0-2, Kevin Crowley 0-1, Ciarán Quilty 0-1.

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Scorers for Ballygiblin: Joseph O’Sullivan 0-9 (0-8f, 0-1 65), Darragh Flynn 0-4, Dean Barry 1-0, Seán O’Sullivan, Ryan Donegan 0-1, Michael Walsh 0-1, Colin English 0-1.

BALLYGIBLIN: Christopher Noonan; Brian O’Gorman, Fionn Herlihy, James Mullins; Barry Coffey, Mark Keane, Michael Lewis; Ryan Donegan, Darragh Flynn; Michael Walsh, Colin English, Joseph O’Sullivan; Dean Barry, Seán O’Sullivan, Kieran Duggan.

Subs: Dillon Sheahan for Duggan (47), Aidan Donegan for Barry (57)

MOONCOIN: Eoin Purcell; Aidan Doyle, Cormac Daly, Mark Kearns; Martin O’Neill, Paul Henebry, Jim Delahunty; Máirtín Gannon, Seán Gannon; Ciarán Quilty, John Fitzgerald, Kevin Crowley; Adam Croke, Patrick Walsh, Killian Hogan.

Subs: Seán O’Dwyer for Crowley (40)

Referee: Ciarán Keon (Galway)

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