Tooreen gave it absolutely everything in this evening’s All-Ireland Intermediate club hurling final against Monaleen of Limerick at Croke Park but suffered heartbreak at the finish as they were overhauled in the closing stages. They lost at the end by just two points, on a scoreline of 1-17 to 1-15.
This was a marvellous performance by the tight-knit, hard battling Mayo team. Up against a club from the country’s top hurling county, that had only briefly dipped down to Intermediate status, Tooreen were always going to be up against it in this final. It’s a testament to their hard-working qualities that they were on top for much of the contest and that, for long stretches, it looked like they would prevail.
Monaleen’s strength, in particular their sharp-shooting prowess up front, finally told, as they came with a late scoring burst to snatch victory. Tooreen fought them all the way, though, their resistance finally broken only when Monaleen bagged the insurance score with virtually the last puck of the game.
Tooreen, roared on by a big, raucous following – was there anyone at all left in the parish tonight, I wonder? – started tonight’s decider like an express train. Ten minutes in, they had four points on the board with their opponents yet to score. It was the best possible start for the Mayo lads.
Dan Power’s goal for Monaleen hauled them level but that score was completely against the run of play. Tooreen responded in kind, with Eoin Delaney feeding Liam Lavin who crashed the sliotar to the net.
Tooreen continued to have the better of the exchanges up to half-time, stretching their lead back out to four points. They conceded two scores just before the break, though, and the two-point lead they took into half-time didn’t seem sufficient reward for all the hard work they’d put in.
As the second half went on, there was a clear sense that Monaleen were starting to get on top. Tooreen continued to battle like lions but the Limerick side’s silkier ball skills were beginning to tell. Upfront the devastating sharp-shooting of Donnacha Ó Dálaigh, who fired over five excellent second half points, finally tipped this cracking contest in their favour.
Monaleen left it late to hit the front – they led for the first time with just six minutes of normal time to play – but Cathal Freeman then showed enormous battling qualities to haul Tooreen level. The Limerick lads now had their tails up, though, and further points from Ó Dálaigh and Joseph Fitzgerald gave them the upper hand as the game went into injury time.
Fergal Boland cut the gap to the minimum deep in added time but, after fending off Tooreen’s last-gasp attempts to pull level, Ó Dálaigh then landed a sensational final score from out under the Hogan Stand to seal the title for the lads from the Treaty County.
It was rough justice for Tooreen, who were never overawed by the occasion and who hurled throughout as if their lives depended on it. While they were forced to give way at the finish, they made Monaleen fight all the way for their All-Ireland title and their performance tonight has certainly raised the profile of hurling in Mayo. They can be hugely proud of their battling display at Croke Park tonight.
Tooreen: Bobby Douglas; Conor Henry, Michael Morley, Oisín Greally; Joe Boyle, Stpehen Coyne, David Kenny (0-1); Seán Kenny, Daniel Huane; Liam Lavin (1-1), Fergal Boland (0-2), Cathal Freeman (0-3); Shane Boland (0-4, one free), Seán Regan (0-2), Eoin Delaney (0-2). Subs: Kenny Feeney for Huane, Gary Nolan for Henry.