Roscrea claim North title in thriller
North Tipperary Under 15 'A' Hurling Final
By Liam Hogan
The GAA’s decision to change the age brackets for underage hurling in North Tipperary has certainly brought about great excitement and last Saturday’s North Tipperary Under 15 ‘A’ Hurling final was no different as Roscrea defeated Ballina in a brilliant game.
In a clash of champions with Roscrea the North Under 14 ‘B’ winners in 2020 against the Under 14 ‘A’ winners Ballina as the Reds displayed a marked step up in their game by producing a ten point turnaround to win their first Under 15 title since 1969.
They defeated Nenagh by ten goals that year and according to the Nenagh Guardian match report Ger Brussels scored eight goals and for a while last Saturday it looked as if Ballina were going to produce their goal-scoring hero with Alex Quinn scoring three inside six minutes early on. The fourteen-year-old lined out at full forward and had green flags in the 7th, 12th and 13th minutes helping the lakesiders to a 3-2 to 0-3 lead by the first waterbreak.
When play resumed it was Roscrea’s turn to play the game at their pace, starting with a very good point by midfielder Declan Walshe. Charlie Grace replied with a free before Sam Dooley pointed from play followed by a 65 from Sean Synnott.
Synnott was by now on a marking mission as he matched Alex Quinn at full back and was beginning to compete quite well. Meanwhile Sam Dooley would go on to become the games top-scorer in a brilliant display of free-taking.
Meanwhile Sean Synnott continued the Roscrea comeback with a pointed free in the 25th minute before Leigh Loughnane found Sam Dooley with a great pass before the latter prized home a good goal. Ballina replied with Charlie Grace, excellent on frees, converting his fourth free to give his side a 3-4 to 1-7 lead at half time.
Sam Dooley began the second half with a point after eighty seconds. Luke Power responded with a point before the game really came to life in the 35th minute thanks to a brilliant Leigh Loughnane goal from twenty five metres.
One minute later the Reds had their third goal through Paul Dooley after backs and forwards contested the breaking ball in the small square.
Charlie Grace’s response from a free had Ballina two in arrears by the 39th minute and with the blues continuing to apply the pressure they won a penalty which Grace drove brilliantly past goalkeeper Harry Loughnane to give Blues a 4-6 to 3-8 lead.
Loughnane’s puckouts were enormous and Roscrea began to take the game to Ballina again as Sam Dooley levelled matters with a brilliant point before he gave Roscrea the lead in time for the final waterbreak.
After play returned, Dooley increased his team’s lead with two more frees. Charlie Grace replied from play to keep Ballina in the frame before Roscrea’s Billy Hayes stepped up to produce a well-taken goal.
Five points clear and four minutes left on the clock, it looked good for Roscrea but Ballina’s determination shone once more first with Luke Power doubling his tally with a well-taken score before securing their fifth goal through Alex Quinn (his fourth) after a great pass from Billy Collins.
Entering added time, a one point advantage was dangerous. Anything was possible but when play fell to Billy Hayes, he found space to settle Roscrea’s nerves with a well-taken point.
Anxious moments for Roscrea followers and in one more attack Roscrea sealed the win with another Dooley free before referee Gerry Treacy called time.
History was made. The first under 15 title in modern times and the clubs third as Roscrea had a satisfactory day for Dooley, Synnott, Hayes and Leigh Loughnane with Declan Walshe, Cathal McDonald and Josh Loughnane in command at the back in front of a reliable goalkeeper in Harry Loughnane who made one great save in the eleventh minute as Ballina were in the ascendancy.
It was disappointment for Ballina who contributed greatly to the game and were gracious losers as Sean Lyons, Ruadhan O’Callaghan and Cillian Ryan can look back with satisfaction. Billy Collins got through a lot of hurling at midfield while Quinn and Grace excelled up front.
Roscrea: Harry Loughnane; Luke Tooher, Cathal McDonald, Mikie Loughnane; Oisin O’Shea, Josh Loughnane, Corey Moloney; Sean Synnott (0-2, 1f, 1 65), Declan Walshe (0-2); Sam Dooley (1-8, 0-5f), Leigh Loughnane (1-1), Darragh Fletcher; Paul Dooley (1-0), Billy Hayes (1-1), Conor Hoctor.
Sub: Jack Maloney for Hoctor (17).
Ballina: William Bennett Quaid; Paddy Dowling, Sean Lyons, Ruadhan O’Callaghan; Paul McKeogh, Cillian Ryan, Ronan Coughlan; Billy Collins, Niall Hannon; Evan Molloy, Alex Quinn (4-0), Donal Houlihan; Tomas Shanahan, Charlie Grace (1-6, 1-0 pen, 0-5f), Luke McKeogh.
Sub: Luke Power (0-2) for L McKeogh (17).
Referee: Gerry Treacy (Borris-Ileigh).