By John Murphy
MEMORIES are made of this.
The sporting year just concluded has been marked by some remarkable performances and achievements in all facets of sport nationwide.
From the heady heights of the O’Donovan brothers’ continued dominance of rowing worldwide, Limerick’s memorable triumph in the All-Ireland senior hurling final, Dublin’s seemingly endless mastery of Gaelic football, Herculean deeds in soccer, rugby, boxing, athletics, the list seems endless.
One is spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a personal sporting highlight of 2018.
Hurling is reputed to be the fastest field sport on planet Earth and given some of the thrills, spills and excitement it produced in this year’s championships at all levels, club and inter-county, few will quibble with that definition.
Hence it is with the small ball that we stick when relating a remarkable game we witnessed way back in August. Ironically, the match was played at Kilbree GAA grounds, adjacent to charming Rossmore, the small hamlet that derives fame from being dubbed the drama capital of West Cork.
In action in the South West U21 B hurling championship final were Owen Gaels and Dohenys. The sides were no strangers, having met the previous year at the semi-final stage when it took extra-time to produce a result after a pulsating encounter, Dohenys edging out the Ballinascarthy/St Oliver Plunkett’s amalgamated side.
So, the big crowd on a foggy evening awaited with bated breath for the reprise to commence and boy the participants did not let them down.
But few of the supporters on either side could have predicted the amazing conclusion to what was a frenetic and absorbing game of hurling, evidencing once again that this grade produces some of the most spectacular fare of all.
Both teams traded some superb early points, but a two-goal scoring fest by Owen Gaels seemed to have put them in pole position as they approached the interval eight points to the good and seemingly dominating proceedings, albeit the boys from Dunmanway had their moments and could never be discounted.
But when Ben Murray’s vicious drive took some of the paint off the Dohenys crossbar on resuming, the cup seemed to be heading east.
But doughty Dohenys had other ideas. When two-goal hero Brian Arnott stroked home the first of his majors in the 36th minute, the fat was really in the fire. Their momentum was gathering pace by the minute, but still the good money appeared to be on Gaels as the match ticked over into injury-time, granted their two-point advantage, 2-12 to 1-13, was a dangerous one.
Watches were scanned and the blood pressure increased a few decibels as both goalmouths bore charmed lives.
Then the moment of truth, Brian Arnott’s name emblazoned in lights for immortality in Dohenys country as he crashed the ball to the net following a goalmouth scramble in the 64th minute.
The full-time whistle sounded, Owen Gaels fell to their knees in despair while Dohenys celebrated deliriously.
It was hurling robbery without violence, but such are the vagaries of sport, the joy and the sorrow all intertwined on the Theatre of Dreams at Rossmore. It was a remarkable conclusion to a scintillating game of high-octane hurling.