St. Mary's Clonmel

Founded 1929

Co. Tipperary

South U19 Champions

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St Mary's 2-12 Carrick Swan 2-11

St Mary’s maintained their dominance of the O’Sullivan Insurances South Tipperary Under 19 A Hurling Championship with their third win in a row at a rainswept Duneske Sports Complex in Cahir last Wednesday night, edging out Carrick Swan by a single point.

Add in the 2020 victory in the Under 18 precursor to the present grade and it’s a remarkable four-in-a-row for the Clonmel club.

Driving wind and rain at an exposed Duneske venue was not suited to slick hurling, but both sides provided a tremendous contest in such poor conditions. With supporters lining the touchline on both sides, it led to a great atmosphere at one of the South Board’s showpiece deciders.

The sides were evenly matched, but the difference was the brilliant performance of St Mary’s star player Ruairi Leahy. A week after turning in a man of the match display for the club’s Premier Intermediate team, Leahy was imperious again, roaming between midfield and attack, scoring five points from play, pointing three frees in such extreme conditions, and setting up Aaron Cagney and Joe Higgins for both Clonmel goals.

St Mary’s led by three points, 1-8 to 1-5, at the break and maintained an advantage throughout most of the second half. They were four ahead as the game ticked into added time, but a spirited Swan side never gave up the fight. They shocked St Mary’s with a Kieran O’Donnell goal from a goalmouth scramble and their supporters were urging them on to secure the equaliser that would have forced the game into extra time, when referee Sean Lonergan’s final whistle brought their bid to an end.

Aaron O’Halloran impressed at the heart of the defence on his welcome return from injury, while Callum Walsh, Stefan Tobin and Callum Lanigan brought the battle to St Mary’s from first whistle to last.

Swan started brighter and were two points up after seven minutes with scores from Darragh Dunne and Callum Walsh. However, when St Mary’s settled, they hit three points in the space of three minutes from Joe Higgins, Ruairi Leahy and Oisin Forristal to take the lead and they were never headed again.

A super point from Stefan Tobin tied the scores again but the champions went on to play some of their best hurling of the game, with Leahy orchestrating the play. Aaron Cagney restored their lead at the end of the first quarter and followed up with a goal, taking a pass from Leahy, and giving Keane Harrigan no chance in the Swan goal to make it 1-4 to 0-3.

Leahy then added to the lead from a free, before adding two from play in a virtuoso display, to put the Clonmel side 1-7 to 0-3 ahead and looking like they might put the game beyond Swan even before the interval.

But underestimating a Swan team is never a good idea. A point from a Callum Lanigan free was their first score in nearly fifteen minutes, and although St Mary’s hit back with yet another Leahy point, it was the Carrick side that finished the half stronger.

A Lanigan free caused panic in the St Mary’s square and Callum Walsh reacted quickest to fire past Cian Corcoran in the St Mary’s goal. Another pointed free from Lanigan made it a three-point game at the break, 1-8 to 1-5.

With no let-up in the rain after the restart, it was Swan who started better and early points from Callum Lanigan and Callum Walsh reduced the margin to a single point. Ruairi Leahy had the first Clonmel point of the second half, but Swan were now really putting it up to the champions.

Stefan Tobin brought the lead back to a single point again, and Dale Power tied it up for only the second time as the game entered the final quarter.

It was there to be won for both sides but St Mary’s always looked more dangerous in attack, creating chances that Swan struggled to find.

Clonmel pressure won a free on the touchline, that was brought closer to goal by referee Sean Lonergan for dissent, and Ruairi Leahy restored the lead. And then Leahy turned provider again for St Mary’s’ crucial second goal, bursting through the centre before offloading to Joe Higgins, who found the bottom of the net.

A four-point lead, 2-10 to 1-9, was crucial at that stage as scoring was proving difficult in the conditions and under lights. And yet two further frees from Callum Lanigan reduced the Clonmel lead to just two points again, with just over five minutes left.

However, as happened throughout the evening, St Mary’s responded best when they needed to, and after Leahy pointed a free, his eighth score of the night, St Mary’s won possession from the puckout and substitute Alex McSherry slotted over.

With only minutes left on the clock, Swan needed two scores to at least draw level, and two missed frees didn’t help their cause.

They got the first score they needed, when unrelenting pressure resulted in a scramble in front of goal saw Kieran O’Donnell pull on the ground to the net.

The second, and equalising score, might have followed but a brave Swan effort ran out of time at the very end.

Another title copperfastens the strength of underage hurling in St Mary’s. Players such as Ruairi Leahy, Darragh O’Connor, Thomas Charles and Tadhg Sheehan are starters with the club’s Premier Intermediates and their experience proved vital in this game, with Leahy putting in a man of the match performance, while Joe Higgins and fifteen year old Aaron Cagney took their goals well.

Swan also have Premier Intermediates in their ranks, such as Callum Lanigan, Callum Walsh and Owen Harrigan and they excelled in trying conditions. Lanigan’s six points were crucial, with Stefan Tobin also having a great game in attack and Aaron O’Halloran starring in defence.

St. Mary’s: Cian Corcoran, David McSweeney, Eoghan Walsh, Darragh Landers, Paraic Bond, Tadhg Sheehan, Darragh O’Connor, Thomas Charles, Oisin Forristal 0-1; James Power, Shane Ryan, Joe Higgins 1-1; Niall Deely, Ruairi Leahy 0-8, 3 frees; Aaron Cagney 1-1.

Subs: Jack Lawlor for Niall Deely, Alex McSherry 0-1 for Shane Ryan, Finn Napier for James Power.

Carrick Swan: Keane Harrigan, Jack Waters, Senan Campbell, Lorcan O’Sullivan, Daryl Hanrahan, Aaron O’Halloran, Harry Still, Dale Power 0-1; Sean Foley, Kieran O’Donnell 1-0; Owen Harrigan, Callum Walsh 1-1; Stefan Tobin 0-2; Callum Lanigan 0-6, 4 frees; Darragh Dunne 0-1.

Subs: Ronan Redmond for Daryl Hanrahan, Callum Smith for Dale Power.

Referee: Sean Lonergan (Moyle Rovers).

Match report by Michael Heverin, Nationalist Newspaper.

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