Abbeyknockmoy hang on for provincial glory

Abbeyknockmoy full back John Culkin who conceded little ground against Four Roads.



REVENGE for Abbeyknockmoy hurlers against Four Roads might have taken 27 years to arrive, but come it did in Athleague on Saturday as the Galway champions settled an old score when winning the Connacht intermediate title after one tough struggle.

Abbeyknockmoy’s late blossoming at the closing stages of the Galway intermediate championship made them red-hot favourites for this provincial final but by the time Kilkenny referee Sean Cleere sounded the final whistle, they breathed one mighty sigh of relief.

Four Roads proved themselves to be a strong physical team but also quite skilled stickmen as well, and had they been a mite more economical up front in the final quarter, then surely a draw at least would have been within their radar.

Emotionally, in more ways than one, this was a tie for Abbey to win by Hook or by Crook. On November 20, 1988, minus the services of one Michael Coleman, they suffered a shock 3-5 to 1-8 defeat to Four Roads in Ballyforan in the Connacht senior final, a match forever etched into the lore of Roscommon hurling.

That spirit of ’88 was again evident in the early play of the Roscommon champions as they stormed into a wind assisted 0-4 to 0-2 lead, with points from David Dolan (2 frees) and two inspirational efforts from lion hearted centre back, Micheál Kelly. The accuracy of Paul Flaherty kept Abbey in touch before the critical score of the match arrived in the 21st minute.

A long range free from Flaherty, bang on target, just held up in the wind but full forward Padraig O’Donnell slipped in between back and keeper to flick the sliotar to the net. When Fionnán Garvey and Paul Flaherty tacked on three quick points, the general assumption among the crowd of about 800 people was that Abbeyknockmoy would power on to a comfortable victory . . . nothing could have been further from the truth.

Abbeyknockmoy led at the interval by 1-7 to 0-5 and 12 minutes into the second half they were still five in front at 1-10 to 0-8 thanks to two Danny Mullins points and a Paul Flaherty free, but from there on, Four Roads took over.

Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune.