RISING county star Donnacha Ó Dálaigh announced himself to the wider hurling world with an inspirational performance for Monaleen in their thrilling AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club Hurling Final defeat of Tooreen (Mayo) at Croke Park.
Ó Dálaigh, who has been a notable Limerick Under-20 performer for the past couple of seasons, shone like a beacon when moved to the inside forward unit with a contribution of five points in the second half of Saturday’s epic tussle .
“Donnacha is a player that needs to be on the ball but in fairness to Tooreen they didn’t let that happen for us in the opening half, by crowding us out of it in the middle third,” Monaleen manager Eoin Brislane explained.
“At half-time, we decided to push up man-for-man and use our wingbacks (Leo Morrison and Ronan Lyons) more, in an effort to get the ball up the field quicker. That game could have gone either way, but we had that little bit of class inside with Donnacha and Mark (O’Dwyer, 0-7) which kept us ahead at the end.”
In a showpiece watched by a huge national television audience on TG4, Gaeilgeoir Ó Dálaigh was an appropriate, but also richly deserving, winner of the station’s Man-of-the-Match.
Goal Machine Dan Power’s contribution helped Monaleen trail by only two points (1-9 to 1-7) at the interval, and it wasn’t until well inside the closing ten minutes that the now All-Ireland kingpins hit the front, courtesy of Ó Dálaigh.
Monaleen soaked up immense pressure in the frantic closing stages.
“The work those lads (our defenders) put in with the last few balls, the last ten minutes, winning those dirty rucks on the sideline – an absolute credit to themselves, fantastic work,” said a modest Ó Dálaigh in this post-final television interview.
“It was fantastic, playing that type of hurling in Croke Park, with those lads, it’s unbelievable.”
Monaleen: Jamie Power; Simon Griffin, Bryan Canny, Jamie Porter; Leo Morrison, Lorcan Lyons (captain), Ronan Lyons; Joseph Fitzgerald, Lochlann McHale; Donnacha Ó Dálaigh, Mark O’Dwyer, Andrew La Touche Cosgrave; Dan Power, Ed Doyle, Luke Murphy.
Substitutes used: David Moloney and Eoghan O’Driscoll.