By Gearoid Loughnane
Padraig Pearses 1:10
Neil Keary was the hero for Loughrea as he struck for the last two scores of the game to edge Loughrea into the county semi-finals and in doing so break the hearts of a spirited Pearses outfit. With the game in injury time and Pearses a point to the good Keary held his nerve to slot two pressure frees and ensure Loughreas passage to the penultimate stage of the county championship yet again.
The opening half of this game was tit-for-tat, with the sides’ level on no less than five occasions in that opening thirty minutes. Paul Hoban opened the scoring for Loughrea with a fine point in the 1st minute before Feargal Flannery blazed a close range free over the bar in the 3rd minute. Then Sean Sweeney and Johnny Maher pointed frees for Loughrea to edge them two ahead by the 7th minute before Tomás Flannery replied for Pearses with his first free of the day. Cormac Ward then struck for two points to put his side ahead for the first time but this lead was short lived as Johnny Coen struck for a fine point off his left to tie the game for the fourth time in the 17th minute. Johnny Maher then traded two points with Tomás Flannery to leave the teams deadlocked six points apiece at half time.
Loughrea made a quick start to the second half with Johnny O’Loughlin and Johnny Coen registering white flags inside the opening minutes. The third quarter of this game however was very error-ridden and the scoring rate dropped considerably. Tomás Flannery only scored his sides first second half point in the 44th minute with Neil Keary responding with his first point a minute later. Keary had now taken over the free taking duties and he was on target from the placed ball again in the 48th minute to leave the Town three points to the good. Pearses needed a goal to get back in the game and that’s exactly what they got when Cormac Ward netted from a narrow angle with just ten minutes left to bring his side right back into contention. Pearses now had renewed vigour and took the lead through a Ronan Bellew point in the 52nd minute. Loughrea never gave up though and soon got back on terms through a Neil Keary point from play. Keary struck again with another free to edge Loughrea ahead before Tomás Flannery hit for two late frees to see his side ahead by one entering injury time. However Loughrea were not to be denied and despite being reduced to 14 men after the dismissal of Johnny Maher, engineered two more chances, which were taken with aplomb by the nerveless Keary.
Pearses will be desperately disappointed to lose this game, with their lack of firepower up front proving to be their downfall. The fact that they only had one forward score from play all day shows just how dependent they were on frees for scores. Loughrea, for their part will not be overly happy with their performance but will only be too happy to still be standing. They now face the dark horses of this years championship, Beagh, who reached the semi- finals for the first time in their history with a well-deserved victory over Turloughmore last weekend. Both sides will look forward to this clash with relish as the thought of a county final appearance looms. All-Ireland champions St. Thomas’ face bitter rivals Portumna in the other semi-final which will both be played in two weeks time.
Loughrea scorers: Neil Keary 0:06(5f’s), Johnny Maher 0:03(1f), Johnny Coen 0:02, Paul Hoban, 0:01, Sean Sweeney 0:01, Johnny O’Loughlin 0:01.
Padraig Pearses scorers: Tomás Flannery 0:05(5f’s), Cormac Ward 1:02, Feargal Flannery 0:02 (2f’s), Ronan Bellew 0:01.
Loughrea: Nigel Murray, Tom Regan, Damien McClearn, Eoin Mahony, Vincent Maher, Brian Mahony, Sean Sweeney, Gavin Keary, Emmet Mahony, Neil Keary, Johnny Coen, Paul Hoban, Johnny O’Loughlin, Johnny Maher, Jamie Ryan(Thomas Hoban)
Padraig Pearses: Feargal Flannery, Anthony Kenny, Tomás Kenny, Padraic Raftery, Shane Raftery, Cyril Donnellan, Kerrill Hardiman, Ronan Bellew, Jimmy Gelston, Sean Hardiman, Cormac Ward, Colm Raftery, Garry Lally, Emmett Ward, Thomas Lally.
Referee: Leonard Fay