The Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge Cup finals took place across three venues over the course of this weekend, and there were wins for Sligo, Kildare Lily Whites, North Cork, Offaly and Tipperary in their games played at Abbottstown, Markievicz Park and the TUS Gaelic Grounds.
ELECTRIC IRELAND CELTIC CHALLENGE FINAL RESULTS
Corn Michael Feery
SLIGO 1-11 MAYO 2-7
Corn Tom Hogan
KILDARE LILY WHITES 5-12 WICKLOW GOLD 0-5
Corn John Scott
NORTH CORK 4-16 LIMERICK SARSFIELDS 2-12
Corn Jerome O’Leary
OFFALY 3-21 WESTMEATH 0-4
Corn Michael Hogan
TIPPERARY 3-16 GALWAY 0-9
Corn William Robinson
WICKLOW BLUE 1-16 LAOIS 2-13 (after extra time)
The action will also extend into next week as Wicklow Blue and Laois played out a thrilling 1-16 to 2-13 draw in Sunday’s only contest, with the replay provisionally set to take place next Saturday.
The action got underway with three 12 noon throw ins on Saturday, and from early on Kildare Lily Whites took control of their battle with Wicklow Gold in the Corn Tom Hogan.
Both sides struggled with the tricky cross breeze in the early stages, but even though the Lily Whites led by the bare minimum after ten minutes, 0-2 to 0-1, their power and craft was already telling.
Wicklow Gold almost found the net when Thomas Walsh’s flick was blocked by Kildare Lilywhites goalkeeper Cormac Doolan. Adrian Kinsella’s side countered with a Shane Henry ball over the top, allowing Mark Kiernan to drop in behind and pull first time to the net.
Kiernan broke through again for a second in the 22nd minute. A David Peppard free for Wicklow Gold couldn’t break their momentum and soon, Kiernan batted in a third goal after Wicklow Gold ‘keeper Christy Connors had initially done well to deal with a dangerous dipping free.
3-8 to 0-3 up at half-time, the Lily Whites didn’t score as freely after the break but subsequent goals from Jack Courtney and Kieran Ryan ensured they enjoyed a 5-12 to 0-5 victory.
Arguably the game of the day took place at Markievicz Park, where Sligo edged out Mayo to win the Corn Michael Feery by the bare minimum, 1-11 to 2-7.
The contest caught fire midway through the first half when the dangerous Mayo full forward Aidan Cunningham fired in an excellent goal for the visiting side, but Sligo replied with their best spell of the game, rattling off 1-4 without reply to lead by four points at half time.
Donnchadha O’Brien hammered in the goal for the Yeats county while three frees from Ciarán Keenan and an excellent score from play from Patrick Walsh pushed them further in front.
Mayo needed a big response after half-time and they got it when Aidan Cunningham fired in a second goal, but they failed to convert enough of their chances and couldn’t quite find a way to break through a strong Sligo defensive unit, anchored by their ‘Best and Fairest’ winner, Michael Costigan.
North Cork travelled to the TUS Gaelic Grounds to take on Limerick Sarsfields in the Corn John Scott final, and a strong second half performance was key for this particular group of young Rebels, as they prevailed by 4-16 to 2-12 at the Ennis Road venue.
The visitors played with the aid of a quite strong breeze in the first half but struggled to make that count on the scoreboard, and needed a few strokes of good fortune to take a 2-10 to 1-9 interval lead, their goals coming off the stick of Kieran Murphy and Ethan Buckley.
A host of changes were made to shuffle the North Cork deck and it had the desired result as their defence did a superb job of containing the Limerick side in the second half. Substitute Conor Twomey set up Brendan Daly for one goal, Tiernan Mahon added another, while solid dead ball striking helped Kieran Murphy to bring his tally to 1-9 for the afternoon.
Shane Gleeson crashed in a late goal from a free for the Limerick West and City side.
In a repeat of one of last year’s finals, midlands rivals Offaly and Westmeath clashed in Abbottstown to fight it out for the Corn Jerome O’Leary. Offaly’s control at midfield and half-back proved absolutely crucial to a comfortable 3-21 to 0-4 victory, with midfielder Mark Mulrooney picking up the Best and Fairest award for the Faithful men.
A plethora of early misses meant that Westmeath stayed in the game throughout the first quarter, with Neale Pierson and Caolan Reidy their only scorers on a day when Gearóid Maher and Niall Kelly were outstanding in the Offaly half back line.
James Morkan found the net for Offaly in the 17th minute to round off a quick-fire run of 1-4 in the space of three minutes for Offaly, and after a ten-minute scoreless spell, they went through the gears again before half-time to move 1-10 to 0-3 in front.
A truly stunning long-range lift and strike from Maher shortly after half-time followed points from Morkan and Darragh Scully, and once Niall Flannery delivered their second goal, they cruised to victory.
The action concluded on the main pitch at Abbottstown where Tipperary and Galway played out a contest of incredible intensity and physicality, with the Premier County eventually showing their class to lift the Corn Michael Hogan.
Robbie Ryan top-scored for the winners with a bountiful haul of 1-10, but it was the industry and power of players like Simon Blackmore, Daniel Rossiter and Bill Flanagan that helped set the tone to Tipperary.
Vice-captain Jim Ryan played a free role as a sweeper and Galway couldn’t find a way to keep the ball away from the Holycross/Ballycahill player, despite some excellent hurling from players like Niall Feeney and David Mannion.
At 0-9 to 0-4 at half-time, Galway were just about hanging in, but they were rocked back when a barnstorming run from Blackmore set up Rossiter for the game’s first goal in the opening minute of the second half.
Darragh Kelly fired in a second with his very first touch, also laid on by Blackmore, and Tipperary were well on their way to their 3-16 to 0-9 victory by the time Ryan whipped in the third goal with roughly ten minutes to play.
Due to Laois playing Clare in the Electric Ireland minor championship yesterday, the O’Moore County’s Corn William Robinson final clash with Wicklow Blue was played today at the National Centre of Excellence, and excellence was an appropriate term to describe a game where Wicklow burst out of the blocks and Laois produced not one but two remarkable comebacks to salvage a 1-16 to 2-13 draw.
Full back Seán Kenny was outstanding for the Garden County as they built up an incredible eleven-point lead early in the game, despite failing to beat Ricky Bannon in the Laois goal.
James Boland and Willie Cash knocked over some excellent scores from the half-forward line as they moved to an 0-13 to 0-4 interval lead. Cash also struck the first score of the second half, but that was to be their only score in the 30 minutes as Laois rattled off 1-7 without reply to force extra time.
Eoin Shortall flicked in a goal for Laois to ignite their comeback, and with Will Duggan, Tom O’Keeffe and Oisín Smeaton all making strong contributions off the bench, they worked their way back into the tie. Ryan Peters and Evan Cassin took control of the half-back line as they finally forced their way to level terms, 0-14 to 1-11.
Points from Cash and Boland, as well as a goal from Brandon Rossiter, moved Wicklow five points ahead in overtime, but Laois hung in there, reduced the gap to three points, then secured another day out for themselves when Eoin Shortall crashed a superb free to the net with two minutes to play.