Sports

Kilcormac/Killoughey outclassed but not outfought

Thursday, 7 December 2017

DEFEAT is never easy to take and Kilcormac/Killoughey will feel that in the weeks and months to come. Had a few breaks gone their way, the game might have gone down a different avenue but on the whole, the Offaly champions were beaten by the better side on the day.
Cuala had struggled to get going in their Leinster club games to date. They took in or around 10 minutes to score against St Martin's in the semi final but on Sunday, they led 1-3 to 0-0 after 12 minutes.
That moved on to 1-8 to 0-0 after 18 minutes and their fast start was something they admitted afterwards that they had targeted. They were untouchable in that period. They were dominant in the air, on the breaking ball while their forwards were feasting on the ball being zipped into them.
On the flipside, nothing was going right for K/K. They were on the wrong side of a few dodgy refereeing decisions while they were off target with a few chances. It was a nightmare start and it was one that they were always unlikely to recover from.
Keep in mind, they were playing the three in a row Dublin senior hurling champions and reigning Leinster and All Ireland champions and now barely over half way through the first half, they were 11 points down.
Lesser teams would have folded there and then and lost by 30 odd points but not K/K. One thing you can't fault was their commitment to the cause. They kept battling and battling and while that is little or no consolation to them, they can dissect the defeat over the Winter knowing that they left every ounce on the Portlaoise sod.
The loss of Conor Mahon was also cruel on them at the tail end of the opening half. He was starting to make hay and suddenly, in a moment of rashness, that outlet was taken from them. With Cillian Kiely also suspended, they were now down two key figures.
Sunday' loss will be as hard a loss to take as any. It was referenced numerous time in the aftermath of their county final win this year that it was possibly the sweetest of all four county titles with the backbone of the team like the Healions, Ciaran Slevin, Conor Mahon and Dan Currams all five years older than they were at the time of their first success. Another Leinster would have been monumental but they came up against a monumental team at the peak of their powers.
Cuala were also short key figures. Mark Schutte is out injured while his brother, Paul, had to go off injured in the opening half. They were tested also. Con O'Callaghan is the name on everyone's lips in 2017 but he didn't score for the last 42 minutes of the game thanks to the sterling job that Enda Grogan did on marking him once switched onto him. If you had said that before the game, not many would have believed you but they had others only too happy to step into the scoring spotlight.
No doubt Kevin Martin was there watching on and the defensive display of Grogan is sure to have registered with him also.
K/K can be proud of their achievements in 2017. That's not patronising either. Offaly is a hugely competitive championship and to come through that with a 100 percent record and make a Leinster final was a very good innings especially in the first year of a new management team.
Stephen Byrne put his stamp on the team and up until Sunday, had key men back in form while also unearthing players that wouldn't have been tipped to star at the outset of the year.
Players and management alike have commented on the other and the effort and commitment given, therefore it is safe to say that all concerned can take the Winter of reflection knowing they gave all to the cause even if they didn't finish as they would have liked.
2018 won't be long about coming around and they will have a bullseye on their back again when they set out to retain their Offaly crown.

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