Goals against the run of play proved crucial for Athleague in Sunday afternoon's Roscommon senior hurling final at their home ground of Waldron Park, as they eventually overcame their fellow-parish side Tremane by six points to win back the county championship for the first time since 2018.
Playing with the wind at their backs, Tremane controlled the game in the opening half, with county footballer Niall Kilroy dominating proceedings from full forward. Seamus Qualter's side pulled their half-forward line deep and that opened up plenty of space for Kilroy to come out and build up his tally from play, while he was also incredibly accurate from frees.
Kilroy shot nine of his teams 0-10 total in that opening half hour, but they only led by a single point thanks to two excellent Athleague goals. A stunning catch and finish from teenage corner forward Eoin Ward meant that the first attack mounted by the club ended with the green flag flying. Tremane responded well and got back on terms by the first half water break, but another superb team move saw the sliotar move through the hands quickly across the 20 metre line into the possession of Cormac Kelly, who duly added the perfect finish.
Another free from Kilroy early in the second half, struck over from his own 65m line, proved that the wind wasn't going to be an insurmountable obstacle for the Tremane club, who were chasing a first senior title since 1995. He exchanged points with Aengus Lyons to move the score to 0-12 to 2-04, but a crucial swing moment was to go Athleague’s way with just six minutes gone in the half. A floated shot from Cormac Kelly led to confusion between Seán Melia and goalkeeper Liam Óg Murray on the Tremane side, and when the sliotar broke down it left Robbie Fallon with the simplest tap in goal he will ever score.
A straight red card to defender Alan Moore gave Tremane an extra player on the field for the closing 20 minutes, but they simply didn’t have the range of scorers in the side. Mark Ward did well at nullifying the threat posed by Kilroy, forcing him into difficult shots from wide angles, while substitute Michael Brennan was the only other scorer for the team in the second half, picking off two good scores in the final quarter.
Athleague, in contrast, were able to fire over some superb points from distance to close out the win. Man of the match Aengus Lyons fired over two, with Cian Murray and former Lorrha player Ronan O’Meara also on the mark. That margin meant that Tremane had to chase goals in the closing stages and while there was no end of goalmouth action, a fantastic hook from Niall Connolly to deny Darren Gately from close range was enough to ensure that veteran David Connell never had a difficult save to make.
Athleague: David Connell; David Delaney, Alan Moore, Mark Ward; Niall Connolly, Eoghan Coyle, Naoise Coyle; Darragh Heavey, Aengus Lyons (0-02); Gary Fallon, Ronan O’Meara (0-01), Ben McGahon (0-05, 0-01 65, 0-02 frees, 0-01 sideline); Robbie Fallon (1-01), Cormac Kelly (1-00), Eoin Ward (1-01).
Subs: Cian Murray (0-02) for G Fallon (40), Pat Nolan for Delaney (50), David Flaherty for R Fallon (60), Stephen Kilcommins for Heavey (60+5).
Tremane: Liam Óg Murray; Seamus Lynch, Seán Melia, Adrian Flanagan; Cathal Mahony, Joe Brennan, Warren Boyle; Peter Kellehan, Pádraic Brennan; David Mullen, Niall Keenan, Cathal Brennan; Darren Gately (0-01), Niall Kilroy (0-12, 0-08 frees), Seán Mahony.
Subs: John Brennan for Lynch (half-time), Michael Brennan (0-02) for S Mahony (42), Brian Keenan for Flanagan (50)
Referee: Aaron Clogher