KILBREE are the high kings of South West junior A hurling for the second time in three seasons.
The boys in blue fought off the challenge of Ballinascarthy in Sunday evening’s divisional decider in Ballinacarriga.
Unerring free-taker Don McCarthy came up trumps for the winners with three late points and the icing on the cake was a beauty from captain fantastic Dylan Coffey.
But rewind four minutes earlier and Kilbree, despite being the better team, were in all sorts of trouble.
Ballinascarthy had been playing second fiddle for most of this game but they threatened to spoil the party when Sean Ryan stole inside the Kilbree cover and, taking a high delivery by Jeremy Ryan in his stride, he billowed the Blues net for a second time. It pushed Bal ahead for the first time, 2-12 to 1-14, with less than four minutes left.
But Kilbree kept their head to conjure up the all-important winning scores.
It would have been a travesty of justice if they had been beaten given that in an overall context they were the better hurlers on the day, but you have to feel for Bal who have now lost back-to-back finals.
It was Bal who conceded early advantage around the middle third as Ray Collins and Dylan Coffey were providing service to the inside sextet. Óige Scannell, Dylan Coffey (free), Don McCarthy and Shane Scannell all split the Bal posts inside the opening five minutes, as Jeremy Ryan (free) and two cracking points by Daniel Nyhan and Seamus McCarthy cut the deficit to the minimum, 0-4 to 0-3, by the tenth minute.
Darragh Coakley put the Blues noses ahead, but two Jeremy Ryan frees tied it all up, 0-5 to 0-5, at the close of the opening quarter.
Given their possession imbalance, Ballinascarthy could count themselves lucky to be so well positioned – but the Murray brothers, Jeremy Ryan, Chris Ryan, Ciarán Nyhan, JC O’Flynn and Daniel Nyhan were working hard.
Dylan Coffey and two superb scores by the impressive Óige Scannell had the Blues followers in good voice, but a Jeremy Ryan converted 65 cut the deficit.
Ballinascarthy shot-stopper Darragh Hennessy saved two certain goals, advancing smartly to foil Shane Scannell and Dylan Coffey, as Darragh Coakley, Ben Murray, Don McCarthy (free) and Jeremy Ryan (free) shared the next four scores leaving the half-time tally, Kilbree 0-10 to Ballinascarthy’s 0-8, the losers now facing the stiff breeze.
Bal resumed with Ben Murray and Ciarán Nyhan in the middle of the park while substitutes Brian O’Donovan, Daniel O’Brien and David McCarthy put more life into an ailing Bal attack. Now the pendulum of supremacy seemed to be turning in the Reds’ direction, 0-13 to 0-10 in arrears as the last quarter dawned.
Kilbree went on the attack, a hectic scramble saw Don McCarthy send over a peach of a cross and the unmarked Damien O’Gorman flashed the ball to the Ballinascarthy rigging in the 46th minute.
But Bal never bowed. With Cillian Cullinane, Luke Murray, Jeremy Ryan, Chris Ryan and the substitutes making an ever-increasing impact, a move involving Cillian Cullinane and David McCarthy saw the latter find Sean Ryan who hammered the ball home.
Don McCarthy and Jeremy Ryan exchanged points, but that second Ryan goal really threw the cat amongst the pigeons.
However, Kilbree held the line in a pulsating finish to hold off that late Reds’ bombardment and were worthy winners of a game, that while it may have not been in the classic hurling mode, was interesting, sporting and closely fought out to the end.
Kilbree: Don McCarthy 0-8 (7f), Damien O’Gorman 1-1, Dylan Coffey, Óige Scannell 0-3 each, Darragh Coakley 0-2, Shane Scannell 0-1.
Ballinascarthy: Jeremy Ryan 0-7 (6f, 1 65), Sean Ryan 2-1, Seamus McCarthy, Ben Murray, Cillian Cullinane, Daniel Nyhan 0-1 each.
Kilbree: Denis Dullea; Brian Keohane, Jonathan Deasy, Sean Deasy; John Clancy, Brian O’Donovan, Kevin Keohane; Dylan Coffey, Ray Collins; Darragh Coakley, Don McCarthy, Óige Scannell; Shane Scannell, Damien O’Gorman, Joe O’Donovan.
Subs: Eamonn Shanahan for Shane Scannell (58), Donal McSweeney for Óige Scannell (59), Sean Reale for Joe O’Donovan (60), Joe O’Donovan for Reale (60).
Ballinascarthy; Darragh Hennessy; JC O’Flynn, Chris Ryan, David O’Brien; Luke Murray, Ciarán Nyhan; Daniel Nyhan, Jeremy Ryan; Cillian Cullinane, Seamus McCarthy, David Walsh; Ben Murray, Mikey Kirby, Sean Ryan.
Subs: Ciarán O’Neill for Colin Crowley (21), Brian O’Donovan for Seamus McCarthy (35), David O’Brien for David Walsh (46), David McCarthy for Mikey Kirby (45), Ricky O ‘Flynn for JC O’Flynn (58).
Referee: Joe Kelly (Dohenys).