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Athenry Boys’ National School are County Schools Hurling Champions for 1998. Despite a 3-point _defeat in a group-match by Loughrea N.S., they qualified for the final by defeating Gort, Monivea and Craughwell schools. Athenry’s opponents in the final, which was played in Kenny Park on June 25th, were their group-match conquerors, Loughrea school.
Throughout the final the defenders on both sides were well on top and scores were few and far between. Loughrea looked the more threatening early on and, after 10 minutes, led by 2 points to no score. Athenry’s only score in first half came from Paul Gardiner, who collected a cross from Kieran Healy and shot a lovely point.
The score remained 2 points to one for much of the second half as the backs continued to dominate. The crucial breakthrough came 5 minutes from the end when the youngest player on the field, Kevin Kilkelly, finished an Athenry attack to the net. Loughrea pressed hard for the remainder of the game but the Athenry defence held firm to ensure a great victory by one point.
The final score was Athenry 1-1, Loughrea O-3.
Emmet McGowan did well to keep his goal intact and defenders Brian Forde, Alan Fahy, Joseph O’ Connor and Kenny Mc Namara kept the Loughrea forwards well in check. Tony Coffey tried very hard at mid-field as did forwards, Sean Glynn, Paul Gardiner, Kieran Healy, David Gannon and Kevin Kilkelly against a very strong back line. Substitutes Mark Feeney and Stephen Kelly did well when they came on . However, Athenry’s two outstanding players were captain, Michael Donnellan at mid-field and centre-back, Ciaran O’Donovan. Both were dominant throughout the game and were at their best in the closing stages as Loughrea tried for the winning scores.
After the game Michael Donnellan accepted the trophy on behalf of his team from Michael Brennan of Coiste Iomána na n-Óg.
Written by Tom Cloonan
Published here 08 Mar 2023 and originally published Summer 1998
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