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Kiladangan and Kilruane MacDonaghs face off for North title

Thursday, 13 September 2018

It's just two short years ago since Kiladangan and Kilruane MacDonaghs met in the Hibernian Inn North Tipperary Senior Hurling Final at Thomas MacDonagh Park, Cloughjordan.
In claiming their sixth North final and their third in four years, Kiladangan made history that day by becoming the sixth North Tipperary club to retain the title bridging a six year gap since Toomevara achieved it in 2011.
The 2016 final was historic in other ways too. Thomas MacDonagh Park, Cloughjordan housed the final to coincide with the 1916 Centenary celebrations. Afterall Cloughjordan is the birthplace of Thomas MacDonagh, one of the Easter Rising signatories who was later killed by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol.
For both teams, reaching this year's final has been difficult. Difficult, not because of the closeness of the games but because of the time lapses between each round.
Because of the changes in the running of this year's Munster and All-Ireland championships, the month of April was designated for club hurling. North Tipp clubs played a round of the county senior hurling championship plus two rounds of the divisional grade.
On the weekend of April 22, Kilruane easily won their first round game against Lorrha while Kiladangan received a bye. One week later the quarter finals were played and Kiladangan defeated Boris-Ileigh by two points at Dolla while Kilruane MacDonaghs had an easy win over Newport at the same venue and same day.
Three months later the teams were poised for the semi finals when Kilruane overcame Toomevara while Kiladangan and Nenagh Eire Og drew. The replay was played a week ago with Kiladangan emerging winners.
Standout Games
That Kiladangan win was one of the standout games of the year especially the drawn game.
It wasn't the first game either when Kiladangan needed all their reserves to pull out all the stops.
Lets' recall quarter final clash against Borris-Ileigh. A meeting of the champions, Borris-Ileigh the 2017 winners against Kiladangan the 2016 winners.
There was little to spare between the teams approaching the final minutes when Borris-Ileigh looked to be in the driving seat as they held a 1-16 to 2-10 lead. Then came a turning point when a wonder goal by Darragh Egan sent the game into a new gear. Egan had just come on as a substitute when he re-acted best to a Willie Connors long range free which came back off the upright. As a result the sides were level and looked destined for a draw before late points by Willie Connors and Tadgh Gallagher sealed the win. It was a true test of character for Kiladangan when players like Tadgh Gallagher stood out with 0-4 from play while Bryan McLoughney scored 1-2 in his North championship debut. Joe Gallagher was supreme at centre back, a position he has finally held down after periods at midfield and centre forward.
Meanwhile Kilruane had followed up their first round win over Lorrha with eleven points to spare. Before easily accounting for Newport in the last eight and as a result they were drawn against Toomevara in the semi final, a team they had waited 28 years since they last defeated their great rivals in North championship hurling. Similar to the Kiladangan v Borris-Ileigh game, there was a fantastic finish. Toome had taken over but with ten minutes remaining and were two points to the good. But Kilruane gained inspiration from Brian O'Meara who formed a one two passing move with Conor Cleary for the latter to score a game changing goal. Despite Toome going level, Kilruane kicked on with Brian O'Meara scoring a point and much involved with two more as MacDonaghs ran on to win and end almost three decades of disappointment.
Semi finals
Meanwhile Kiladangan's semi final clash with Nenagh Eire Og turned out to be the standout game of the year. The sides finished level at 1-17 each at the end of normal time before adding 1-5 each in the two periods of extra time.
What made this game stand apart was the courage displayed by both sides with each taking turns to take a three or four point lead before the other side comeback to turn the lead over. Perhaps Nenagh would rue the 23 wides but Kiladangan had ten scorers with Bryan McLoughney scoring 2-4 in a man of the match performance. Andy Loughnane came on for Darragh Egan in the early stages before turning in a wonderful performance scoring five points from play.
In the replay Kiladangan dominated for most and should have been well out of sight only to see their ten points lead almost disappear as Nenagh Eire Og scored three injury time goals to come with four of the leaders before Billy Seymour's point sealed the issue.
Kiladangan will enter Sunday's game as slight favourites. The timing of the final could not be more perfect for them as they seem to have put all the injury worries behind them now that David Sweeney and James Quigley has returned from long term injury while both Willie Connors and Paul Flynn have returned from a sojourn in America. Ruairi Gleeson is another long time injury worry and he maybe ready to make an appearance next Sunday. However Darragh Egan is very doubtful as he left the scene last Saturday at half time and was replaced. He was also substitutes in the drawn semi final. Darren Moran is another worry.
Kiladangan's forward line possess scorers in all positions with McLoughney and company helped along by Tadgh Gallagher, Ciaran Kelly, Paul Flynn, Andy Loughnane and Billy Seymour more than capable to score. Throw in Dan O'Meara and Darragh Flannery for good measure.
Alan Flynn has been an inspiration at midfield this year while Joe Gallagher has never put a foot wrong at six. Declan McGrath, Jack Loughnane, David Sweeney are three players looking for the two wing positions while the full backline is made up of James Quigley, Martin Minehan and Fergal Hayes held their positions in the semi final with Darren Moran on the bench waiting for a call. Tipperary under-21 keeper Barry Hogan is another positive factor in the make of this team.
One word of caution is the leakage of goals in the last two days. Something team manger Garry Byrne and his men will have to address
Kilruane will want more than anything else to win back the Frank McGrath for the first time in 28 years. They have been troubled by injury with Jack Peters and Ray McLoughney out of the equation. Darragh Peters has stepped into the number three berth with ease and has two very sound corner backs in Stephen Cleary and Eoin Hogan. Thomas Williams continues to inspire on the goaline.
The half backline of Niall O'Meara and Craig Morgan have been helped enormously by the return of Justin Cahill at wing back. They possesses the ability to be one of the best half backline around but will need to continue the good work as they have yet to be tested by a half forward line such as Kiladangan have. This is where the game can be won or lost.
Jerome Cahill had a brilliant game against Eire Og Anacarty last day out and will need to repeat the effort because the Kilruane front six is not as potent as one would like. Kieran Cahill has his good moments while Sean McAdams is a valuable asset in his first year at senior level but much will depend of the return of Cian Darcy and Brian O'Meara if his he is fit to play. Both Thomas Cleary and Conor Cleary can turn the game in Kilruane's favour if the pick of the scores which they have the ability to do.
Seamus Hennessey sat out the last game before making a late appearance. Will Liam O'Shea repeat the trick and call on the Kilruane giant to inspire with a late rally? Time will tell.
It should be a very good game. Overall, Kiladangan seem to have the better balanced side and should win by six or seven points.

Path To the Final
First Round
April 1 at Dolla: Toomevara 0-16 Roscrea 1-11, Ref John Cleary, Knockshegowna
April 21 at Borrisokane: Kilruane MacDonaghs 3-22 Lorrha 2-14, Ref Peter Carroll, Burgess
April 21 at Newport: Nenagh Eire Og 4-24 Ballina 0-14, Ref Conor Doyle, Silvermines.
April 22 at Templederry: Borris-Ileigh 2-19 Silvermines 1-8, Kieran Delaney, Toomevara
April 22 at Nenagh: Burgess 1-21 Templederry 0-12, Tommy Ryan, Kiladangan.
Quarter Finals
April 28 at Nenagh: Toomevara 3-15 Portroe 0-15, Ref John Cleary, Knockshegowna.
April 29 at Toomevara: Nenagh Eire Og 2-23 Burgess 0-9, Ref Michael Murphy, Toomevara.
April 29 at Dolla: Kilruane MacD 1-19 Newport 0-11, Ref Conor Doyle, Silvermines.
April 29 at Dolla: Kiladangan 3-12 Borris-Ileigh 1-16, Ref Philip Kelly, Ballinahinch.
Semi Finals
July 27 at Templederry: Kiladangan 2-22 Nenagh Eire Og 2-22 a.e.t., Ref Conor Doyle, Silvermines.
July 27 at Dolla: Kilruane MacDonaghs 1-18 Toomevara 1-13, Ref Philip Kelly, Ballinahinch
Replay Sept 8 at Templederry: Kiladangan 3-18 Nenagh Eire Og 4-10, Ref Kieran Delaney, Toomevara

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