Tower’s fightback cut short in IHC final

by Stephen Findlater
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Round Tower’s Eoin Walsh

ST SYLVESTER’S rode a second half Round Tower storm to claim their first ever Dublin intermediate hurling championship in Parnell Park last Saturday, leaving the Clondalkin club frustrated at the final hurdle for the second time in four years.

Substitute Gareth McGrath’s scrappy goal six minutes from time ultimately proved the difference, ending an incredible fightback that saw Syl’s almost scupper an eight-point half-time lead.

That was built on Martin Ormonde’s unerring accuracy from the placed ball as he clipped over six frees from six attempts from his personal tally of eight points. Daire O’Flaherty’s fortuitous goal in the 19th minute, his lengthy free deceiving Brian McLaughlin to slip into the net, further bolstered that advantage as Tower’s failed to gain any sort of momentum.

The Malahide side’s defence was feverish with Ian McCafferty putting in a string of strong blocks while the ageless Hilary Murray-Hession – 20 years since making his adult debut – picked off a string of dropping balls with effortless composure.

Alex Darbey did clip over a stunning point in response, plucking from the air with a giant leap before clearing the bar from all of 65 yards, but it was not enough to galvanise the Hoops before the break as they trailed 1-7 to 0-2.

Russell Cleere was cleaning up plenty of possession around midfield along with Andrew Richardson and it necessitated a string of changes from Tower’s to gain a foothold.

They did this by moving Dublin minor Gary Quinlivan into the half-forwards while the towering Fergal McDonagh became a huge presence around the break. Eric Finn and Eoghan Young found their range with a couple of frees to start the comeback before Eoin Ryan’s brilliant individual goal reeled the gap in to just four points.

He barrelled through three defenders before, using just his out-stretched right hand, clipping into the goal. It was a contentious effort in that the referee appeared to blow for a penalty as the ball crossed but the effort stood.

Tower’s duly added four successive points in just three minutes to tie the game up at 1-9 each with a full 14 minutes to go as Jack Whelan was getting free run of the centre channel by virtue of McDonagh’s catches and he put his side in front soon after.

The momentum looked all one way but Syl’s summoned a long ball into the square and it was not dealt with after three swishes, allowing McGrath the chance to wriggle free and sweep in the vital major.

Ormonde added two insurance points and while Tower’s nabbed another point they were unable to respond, handing Sylvester’s their first intermediate crown in just their second year at this level.

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