Croke Park agony for Eoghan Rua

Thomas Magee battles for possession. Picture: James Hislop
Thomas Magee battles for possession. Picture: James Hislop

All-Ireland glory just eluded Eoghan Rua as their sensational second half fightback came up just a couple of points short.

Glenmore were hanging on by the skin of their teeth as the Coleraine men came back from a rocky first half, falling behind 2-5 to 0-2 by the 17th minute, before claiming the title by just two points, 2-8 to 0-12, in Croke Park last Sunday afternoon.

Mark Phelan consoles Barry McGoldrick while Glenmore players celebrate in the background. Picture: James Hislop

Mark Phelan consoles Barry McGoldrick while Glenmore players celebrate in the background. Picture: James Hislop

The Kilkenny men seemed to be on their way to a comfortable victory when those two first half goals had then nine points clear by the 17th minute, seemingly justifying their pre-match odds on favouritism. Eoghan Rua made some headway in the last ten minutes of the first half but were still six down at the break, 2-6 to 0-6. Then came that magnificent comeback in the second half as Eoghan Rua threw everything they had at Glemore bursting through their defensive lines fire over some superb points. Three points in a row within six minutes of the restart had the Eoghan Rua contingent in the Hogan Stand chhering them on to the rafters. Glenmore however were able to nick points on a couple of occasions to edge it out to four, twice they did that, in the 37th and 47th minutes to lead 2-8 to 0-10.

Incredibly that Mark Alward point from a free in the 47th minute would be the Kilkenny sides’ last score as Eoghan Rua shut them down. Two Ciaran Gaile points from frees brought Eoghan Rua to within that tantalisingly close two points but the clock was against then with just two minutes pluas another added two to go. Still eoghan Rua drove forward, a Ciaran Gaile free from near the sideline was hoisted in and in the mad scramble the sliothar was cleared off the Glenmore line for another ‘65’, oh so close. Once again gaile sent the ‘hail mary’ ball into the edge of the ‘square’ in the hope that someone would get any sort of a strike or touch to get it over that line for the three pointer needed. The sliothar flashed about but it was a Glenmore stick that got the decisive touch clearing out to the side and to their utter relief and delight the final whistle sounded. Contrasting scenes then as Glenmore players danced with delight while the Eoghan Rua men sunk to their knees, heads down in the Croke Park turf.

The opening seconds saw Glenmore on the attack with Eoin Murphy flashing the ball over the bar on the Cusack Stand side. It took a while for Eoghan Rua to settle, Ciaran Gaile’s long range free coming off the ouside of the post at the Canal End but in the fifth minute Gaile found his range slotting one over from just outside the ‘65’.

Two minutes later came the first of Glenmore’s two goals. Eoin Murphy’s cross-field ball was collected by full forward Alan Murphy who cut inside to lash past a helpless Paddy Mullan into the Eoghan Rua net. The riposte from Eoghna Rua was super, Liam McGoldrick burst out from deep in his own defence to solo down the left side before firing over a wondrous point off his left side. However the next eight minutes, between the 9th and 17th, seen Glenmore establish a lead that would eventually see them all but seal victory although they had to cling on for dear life at the finish. Glenmore added four points in a row from Mark Aylward (2), Alan Murphy and Shane Murphy before they hit their second and eventually match-winning goal in the 17th minute. Shane Murphy’s long diagonal ball in was won cleanly by Alan Murphy who had a clear run on goal before firing past Paddy Mullan.

Ciaran Gaile attempts a free from distance. Picture: James Hislop

Ciaran Gaile attempts a free from distance. Picture: James Hislop

At that stage it seemed Eoghan Rua could be in for a really torrid time and they could have dropped the heads and accepted what had been predicted by the pundits ahead of the final. Noit a bit of it. For the next 40 minutes or so the Derry and Ulster representatives tore into Glemore all over the field and roared back into contention in a bold bid to overturn that nine point deficit. Three points in a row from Ciaran Gaile, two frees, and a sublime effort from near the sideline by Colm McGoldrick raised hope. Tempers frayed then as both Niall Holly and Eoin Murphy picked up yellow cards. The same Murphy pointed in the 28th minute but another fine poijt from Eoghan Rua’s Tomas Magee sent out a signal they were not going to accept their lot as they reduced the gap to six, 2-6 to 0-6 going into the break.

It could have been the perfect start to the second half as Ciaran McGoldrick got in behind the Glenmore defence but his shot from a tight angle was blocked out for a ‘65’ that was sent narrowly wide by Ciaran Gaile. Still the warning was there and Eoghan Rua continued to take the game to their more illustrious opponents. Again it was Ciaran Gaile accurately punishing fouls to fire over two frees while Sean Leo McGoldrick left just three between the sides. The sides then traded points going into the final quarter, Mark Aylward form a free and Sean Leo McGoldrick, who had been pushed forward from his sweeper role, adding his second in quick succession. The strong running of Declan Mullan had been causing Glenmore all sorts of problems as he drew With still almost a quarter of the game left to play Glenmore added their last score of the gamr from a Mark Aylward free to stretch the lead to four again, at 2-8 to 0-4. Twice Eoghan Rua had the lst lne of the glenmore defence under severe preassure but the experience of the likes of Richie Mullally and Fergal Freyne did just enough to prevent the three pointer Coleraine really needed. Ruari leonard was fouled and Ciaran gaile swept over another long range free from all of 65 meters, back to three with the clock running down. Two minutes of normal time on the clock and Gaile again punished a foul, it was down to two points, a goal would now win it for Eoghan Rua. There was still more drama to come as a free into the penalty area was fired towards goal amid a maelstrom of bodies and sticks and somehown the sliothar was edged off the goal line and out for a ‘65’ Time was now ticking well into the second of the two minutes of added time and there was no option but to leave the sliothar into the ‘small square’ and hope that an Eoghan Rua stick would get a strike of some description to propel the sliothar into the Glenmore net for a late, late winner. Not to be though as the massed ranks of Kilkenny men now defending for dear life managend to win possession and clear out towards the side line to end Eoghan Rua’s hopes of All-Ireland glory and reap the rewards themselves. A tremendous effort by Eoghan Rua had come up just that one nail biting strike of the sliothart short. The agony and ectascy was all to apparent on the final whistle, the Glenmore victors rightly celebrating joyously while the vanquished Eoghan Rua players on their knees for the one and only time on their great journey through the championship.