Kilmallock end 63-year wait with impressive display

Junior A Hurling Championship Final

Kilmallock team who – Photo John Mortell

By Matt O’Callaghan
Kilmallock were crowned Limerick Junior A Hurling champions for the first time since 1956
following a convincing victory over Castletown-Ballyagran in LIT Gaelic Grounds on Saturday afternoon.
It was Kilmallock’s third final appearance of the decade which makes this victory all the sweeter and banishes the disappointments of losing to Cappamore in 2011 and St. Patrick’s in 2017 both after replays.
Having come so tantalisingly close to success in the competition, Paul Tobin and his men arrived at Limerick GAA headquarters determined to make it third time lucky and take home the silverware.
That they did with style and panache as they hit the ground running from Jason O’Mahony’s first whistle and used all their experience of the wide spaces of the Ennis Road venue to plant early seeds of doubt in their opponents. When Castletown-Ballyagran finally got up to the pace of the game, Kilmallock, who were playing into the elements had a grip on proceedings which though hauled back to parity at the change of ends was regained immediately on the resumption as the drive to end 63 years in the junior hurling wilderness finally came to an end.
A memorable performance of points scoring from play by David Woulfe marked this final. The Kilmallock midfielder landed six points from play, which was only two less than the tally he recorded in the county Premier Under 21 final in 2018 when again all eight were from play.
It was a day that Castletown-Ballyagran did not do themselves justice as they found it hard to get accustomed to life on the big stage. The fluency and efficient approach of what was a very impressive march to west Limerick honours and to Saturday’s final deserted them as they found it very hard to get any rhythm going.
Kilmallock’s experienced
Eoin Ryan, captain Paudie O’Dwyer, Kevin O’Mahony, Conor Stanton and John Meade were on top of the game from the get-go and they inspired those around them and the younger players responded and all added up to the Baalbec boys being a very formidable force on the lush Gaelic Grounds sward.
Castletown-Ballyagran will have learned from the experience, they are no less a side because of Saturday’s reversal and they have the manpower to recover and regroup in a bid to go one better in 2020.
They have the consolation prize of a Munster Clubs Championship to look forward to when they travel to Waterford on 16th November to take of the Déise’s St. Mary’s or Ballydurn.
Kilmallock despite playing into the breeze that blew in from the Clare hills raised two white flags inside the opening minute courtesy of Eoin Ryan and Gearóid Barry. Ryan added a third for the Baalbec boys before Harry Dore from a free opened Castletown-Ballyagran’s account in the 4th minute.
Eoin Ryan’s third and Conor Staunton put Kilmallock four clear ahead of Aidan McAuliffe with a neat effort and Eoin Ryan swapping points.
Harry Dore and Jack Walsh were on the mark for Castletown-Ballyagran only to have their encroachment in the Kilmallock quickly cancelled out by a David Woulfe double.
The west champions staged a revival in the last ten minutes of the half that yielded four unanswered points from a Harry Dore brace, Aidan McAuliffe and Dore again to troop off for the half time team talk on level terms 0-8 apiece.
Eoin Ryan put Kilmallock in front within seconds of the restart but his effort was cancelled out by a Harry Dore free.
Over the next 13 minutes, Kilmallock chalked up six unanswered points to take a vice like grip on matters, David Woulfe, Conor Staunton, Kevin O’Mahony from distance and David Woulfe each side of one from Paul Doona saw Paul Tobin’s men go 0-15 to 0-9 clear as they game entered the last quarter.
Castletown-Ballyagran staged a mini revival chalking up four of the next five points from three Harry Dore frees and David Riordan from play with David Woulfe adding to Kilmallock’s tally. The margin was now down to a more manageable three points, 0-16 to 0-13, with the clock ticking up to the hour mark.
Ryan and Dore traded frees and that was as good as it got for Castletown-Ballyagran as two late Ryan frees sealed the deal for Kilmallock.
Kilmallock: Eoin Ryan 0-8, 4fs; David Woulfe 0-6; Conor Staunton 0-2; Gearóid Barry, Kevin O’Mahony, Paul Doona 0-1 each.
Castletown-Ballyagran: Harry Dore 0-10, 9fs; Aidan McAuliffe 0-2; Jack Walsh, David Riordan 0-1 each.
Kilmallock: Adan Costello; Noel Foley, John Meade, Thomas English; Conor Barry, Paudie O’Dwyer (Captain), Kevin O’Mahony; Stephen Quirke, David Woulfe; Conor Staunton, Eoin Ryan, Dylan O’Brien; Gearóid Barry, Anthony Barrett, Paul Doona.
Sub: Thomas savage for Paul Doona (60).
Castletown-Ballyagran: Alan Roche; Darragh Cotter, James McDermott, Ben Herlihy; William Enright, Paul Hourigan, Bill Walsh; Conor Dillon, Jack Walsh; James Dillon (Captain), Gerard Barry, Aidan McAuliffe; Harry Dore David Riordan, Edmund O’Donnell.
Subs: Chris McElligott for Gerard Barry (41), Shane Hourigan for Conor Dillon (44).
Referee: Jason O’Mahony, Kildimo-Pallaskenry.