Classy Kanturk power into an All-Ireland hurling final at Croker

Classy Kanturk power into an All-Ireland hurling final at Croker
Lorcan O'Neill in action. Picture: Moya Nolan

Kanturk 3-13

Middletown Na Fianna 0-12

KANTURK will face up to St Patrick’s of Ballyraggert in the All-Ireland final next weekend after the north Cork side saw off Ulster Champions Middletown Na Fianna of Armagh in the All-Ireland Intermediate Club semi-final on Saturday afternoon in Newbridge.

In less than ideal conditions for expansive hurling, the Duhallow men got off to the perfect start and never let up against a Middletown Na Fianna side that just couldn’t match the quality or fitness of the Cork and Munster Champions.

Kanturk came into this one knowing little about the opposition except that they had serious pedigree in Armagh and Ulster senior hurling. The men in green and white were still hot favourites to progress to headquarters thanks to their near meteoric rise through the 2017/18 season.

With names like Lorcán McLoughlin, Aidan Walsh and Anthony Nash in their line-up it is no surprise that Kanturk have reached the heights they have however the current successes have been achieved thanks to the efforts of over 30 players with the lesser known names all playing their part in the run to the national final.

Early goals from Alan O’Keeffe (1) and intercounty keeper Nash (14) eased any early nerves on the Cork side as Kanturk looked to put this one to bed well before the half-time interval. Nash’s penalty goal was a terrific strike however it was almost stopped by the diving Middletown Na Fianna keeper Fintan Woods.

Ian and Aidan Walsh impressed throughout from their wing-forward berths while McLoughlin deputised superbly for the club’s absent free-taker Liam O’Keeffe, who remains a doubt for the final with a hand injury.

Points from Lorcan O’Neill, the captain, John Browne, Ian Walsh and Nash (long-range free) all went a long way to keeping the vanquished side at bay on occasions when they looked to be fighting back in the first and second periods.

Nash’s long-range free on the stroke of the interval stopped a mini-revival that saw Middletown Na Fianna cut the gap from 10 to eight points.

Credit to Middletown Na Fianna and in particular their talisman and main threat Ryan Gaffney the 14 times county champions stuck to the task managing five points first-half points (four from frees) which left them with a slight chance as the sides headed for the changing rooms. (2-08 to 0-05). Kiernan McKernan also showed his worth from the middle third with a brace of points.

After the break Middletown kept up their challenge however they couldn’t cut the gap to anything like what would be required to mount a serious comeback as Kanturk never looked like losing their grip on this semi.

The victors ratcheted up the pressure on the resumption and when James Fitzpatrick bundled the ball over the Middletown line this one really was over – and the game still had all of 23 minutes to go.

Croke Park will hold no fears for at least three Kanturk players and while many others may never have even been inside the gates of headquarters this current Kanturk squad have earned the right to strut their stuff on the biggest stage of all.

Scorers for Kanturk: L McLoughlin 0-7 (0-4 f); A Nash 1-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1 f); A O’Keeffe, J Fitzpatrick 1-0 each; A Walsh 0-2; I Walsh, J Browne, L O’Neill 0-1 each.

Middletown Na Fianna: R Gaffney 0-6 f; K McKernan 0-2; N Curry (0-1 f), M Maguire, C Carvill, D Carvill 0-1 each.

KANTURK: A Nash; P Walsh, J McLoughlin, E O’Connor; J Browne, M Healy; L McLoughlin, R Walsh; I Walsh, L O’Neill, A Walsh; A Sheehy, A O’Keeffe, J Fitzpatrick.

Subs: D Kennelly for J Fitzpatrick (45), M O’Riordan for A Sheehy (52), D O’Connor for A Walsh (55), D O’Donoghue for A O’Keeffe (56).

MIDDLETOWN NA FIANNA: F Woods; O Curry, P Gaffney, P Hughes; P Lappin, N Curry, T Nevin; P McBride, K McKernan; P Gaffney, C Carvill, D Carvill; M Moran, M Maguire, L Woods.

Subs: S Toal for P Hughes (45), P Curry for P Lappin and B Mallon D Carvill (both 58).

Referee: G McGrath (Wexford)

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