Another Connacht hurling title for Mayo's Tooreen
Defending AIB Connacht club intermediate hurling champions Tooreen retained their title with a fully merited three-point victory over Galway challengers Killimor today, winning by 0-22 to 1-15 in Athleague.
With outstanding displays from midfielders Fergal Boland and man of the match Sean Kenny allied to a strong defensive showing and some inventive forward play, Tooreen were full value for their victory over a tough Killimor team, who scored the only goal of the game early on through their most dangerous player, Kevin Hanney.
The dismissal of Hanney on a straight red in the final minute of normal time, when his team were well in the hunt at just two points in arrears (1-14 to 0-19), didn't help their cause but Tooreen were the better team throughout and Killimor could have few complains about the final result.
Tooreen shaded the first half and led by the minimum at the break, 0-11 to 1-7. Fergal Boland illuminated the play with some remarkable scores from distance, while Sean Kenny was in good form on placed ball duty too. He had to be too, because Shane Boland – who wasn't named to start but took his place at top of the right – departed the fray after just 23 minutes due to injury, but not before scoring twice (two frees).
Kenny Feeney had earlier been subbed off, also due to injury, but his replacement, Liam Lavin, made a telling impact, as did Sean Regan, who replaced Shane Boland.
Following the game, Tooreen manager Ray Larkin referenced the strength of the bench, and it was a major reason the club were able to take home the Connacht title for the third time in succession.
So too was their ability to remain calm when the pressure came on. They responded to the concession of that goal to Killimor's Hanney on 12 minutes – which put the Galway men 1-3 to 0-2 ahead – by rattling off five points in succession.
Killimor were leading by a point again (1-6 to 0-8) with eight minutes of the first half remaining but Tooreen scored three in a row to open up an 0-11 to 1-6 lead before the prolific Eoin Horan pointed his fifth free of the half for the Galway champions, leaving the minimum between the sides at the break.
Killimor responded to Tooreen's good start to the second half by reeling them in and going ahead by 1-14 to 0-16 with just seven minutes remaining.
But just like in the first half, the reigning Connacht champions never showed any signs of panic and they dominated the closing exchanges, scoring six points to just one in reply for Killimor.
Sean Kenny scored four in succession, all great efforts. Three were frees, two of them long-distance and all into the wind, while his final score was a brilliant effort from play. After collecting a puck out from Bobby Douglas on the right-hand side of midfield, he soloed up the wing before dissecting the posts from a tight angle.
It was a killer blow for Killimor, who just moments earlier had lost the influential Hanney to a red card following an incident near the Tooreen goal.
Down by three (0-21 to 1-15) deep into injury time, Killimor won a close-range which offered a glimmer of hope. Goalkeeper Sean O'Grady came up from his berth to blast a shot towards the Tooreen goal but his opposite number, Bobby Douglas, batted it away and Fergal Boland emerged with the sliotar from the resultant ruck, winning a free out to lift the pressure.
Tooreen worked the ball forward from the free to Cathal Freeman who landed his second score in succession to put the seal on another fabulous victory for the famed east Mayo club after a breathtaking final.
Tooreen: B. Douglas; C. Henry, M. Morley, O. Greally; J. Boyle, S. Coyne, D. Kenny; S. Kenny (0-10), F. Boland (0-4); C. Freeman (0-2), D. Huane (0-1), B. Morley; S. Boland (0-2), K. Feeney, E. Delaney (0-2).
Subs used: L. Lavin (0-1), S. Regan, J. Cassidy, D. Harrison.
Killimor: S. O'Grady; O. McDonagh, E. Duane, S. Whelan; S. Treacy (0-1). L. Fahy, R. Porter; E. McEvoy, J. Broderick (0-1); J. O'Meara, R. Egan (0-1), A. Keary; J. Kelly, K. Hanney (1-4), E. Horan (0-7).
Subs used: N. Muldoon, A. Callaghy (0-1), S. Kelly, C. Treacy, N. Fitzgerald.
Referee: S. Stack (Roscommon).