Delvin’s Josh Coll makes a fine catch in last Saturday’s relegation playoff tie against Brownstown at TEG Cusack Park. Pics: J McCauley.

Delvin hold on after Clinton’s late scores

Delvin 1-23 Brownstown 2-19

You would be forgiven for thinking you were watching this year’s SHC ‘B’ final in TEG Cusack Park last Saturday evening, and not a relegation playoff.

In fact, such was the quality of hurling, and the abundance of thrills, spills, and pride in the parish, that you would wonder how these two local rivals ended up in a relegation playoff in the first place.

Depleted Brownstown, hit badly by suspensions to two of their key men, Conor Rice and Emmet Cunneen, put on a second-half display for the ages, dragging themselves back from what, at half-time, looked likely to be a heavy defeat.

However, they were outfoxed and eventually outscored by an experienced and skilful Delvin side which had stars all over the pitch. Darragh Clinton, Josh Coll, Aaron Fenlon, Paddy Farrington and Dean Ennis all impressed as the Valley, senior ‘B’ finalists last year, survived at the grade for 2024.

Coll found the net early on as Kevin Williams’ troops led by six at the break (1-13 to 0-10), and they extended this lead to nine by the 37th minute. But in the ensuing quarter-hour and in fading light, Brownstown snuck a couple of goals to set up a pulsating finale, and remarkably, they drew level by the 58th minute.

In the finish, Clinton picked off some crucial late points to consign Brownstown to intermediate grade for 2024. Nobody wanted this 45-score thriller to end.

Brownstown had the edge at 0-4 to 0-3 by the ninth minute thanks to Jamie Fitzsimons (a free), Robbie Dugdale, Niall Leonard and Jack Gavin, but Delvin responded with three high-quality scores from Clinton.

On 10 minutes, Eoin Carolan nudged down a long ball in the direction of Josh Coll, who got in behind the Brownstown defence to net from close range. A superb score from Aaron Fenlon followed, and the Maroons led by a goal.

Delvin could have pulled away by that point but hit five consecutive wides, and Fitzsimons pulled one back for the Blues from a free.

However, the Valley then rediscovered their accuracy and cancelled out those earlier wides with five scores on the trot from Clinton (0-3, two from play) and two magnificent long-range scores from Eoin Carolan and Dean Ennis. The second of these from Clinton might have been a goal but for a stunning save from Brownstown’s James Moore.

Delvin now had a six-point lead (1-9 to 0-6), and they maintained this cushion at the break. In the last ten minutes of the half, Fenlon (twice), Ennis and Coll found their range with scores of tremendous quality, with Leonard, Fitzsimons (two frees) and Dugdale responding for Brownstown.

Ennis also went wide after cutting inside for a goal opportunity, and though Brownstown had a commendable half, there was no question as to who was on top at the short whistle.

Delvin built on that lead in the opening seven minutes of the second half. Josh Coll pucked classy scores over the shoulder either side of a Clinton free, before Brownstown’s Paddy Reilly underlined his capabilities with a superb long-range effort. A minute later though, as the Blues played out from the back, Dean Ennis turned them over and extended Delvin’s lead to nine.

From there however, the Valley began to fade – along with the daylight – as the Archerstown outfit came back into the game. Lady Luck helped them along, with Conor Shaw’s perfectly-flighted ’65’ missing a forest of hurls and ending up in the back of the Delvin net.

The revival looked to be short-lived; Brownstown hit a couple of wides, before Eoin Carolan kicked the sliothar over the bar and then Clinton tacked on a free to make it 1-19 to 1-11.

Brownstown didn’t drop the heads, and went on to hit 1-4 in the space of five minutes. Robbie Dugdale and Jamie Fitzsimons (a free) found their range before Cormac Foley seized on chaos in the Delvin defence to kick to the net on 47 minutes. If the Maroons lost, they would have painfully rued such a soft goal.

Fitzsimons then added a free, before Niall Leonard reduced the arrears to a single point at the tail-end of a swift move involving Shaw and Dugdale.

Delvin finally caught their breath and steadied the ship with scores from Clinton and Josh Coll, although there was a suspicion that Clinton had fouled en route to his point.

At the Dunnes Stores end however, back came Brownstown, and Leonard, Fitzsimons (a free) and a powerful effort from Dugdale left it level (2-18 to 1-21) with two minutes to go. Extra time beckoned.

Try as they might, Brownstown just couldn’t get their noses in front, and in the closing moments Clinton added two more scores for Delvin to give them the advantage. The second, from play, came after he blocked down a clearance from Philip Gilsenan on the terrace side.

There was still time for some late drama, and Declan Mullen’s Brownstown charged won a free two minutes into stoppage time, converted by Jamie Fitzsimons, leaving just a point in it.

They also won a sideline ball at the death, but scuppered the opportunity, and amid some ferocious battles for possession the final whistle sounded, as Delvin prevailed.

Scorers - Delvin: D Clinton 0-11 (5f), J Coll 1-4, A Fenlon and D Ennis 0-3 each, E Carolan 0-2. Brownstown: J Fitzsimons 0-8f, N Leonard 0-5, C Shaw (’65’) and C Foley 1-0 each, R Dugdale 0-4, J Gavin and P Reilly 0-1 each.

Delvin: Steven Reilly; Seb McPherson, Patrick Clune, Frank McGrath; Liam Carolan, Adam Ennis, Jack Forde; Paddy Farrington, Dean Ennis; Darragh Clinton, Killian Murphy, Josh Coll; Seán Hoctor, Eoin Carolan, Aaron Fenlon. Subs used: Ross Gaffney for E Carolan (54), Brian Herward for McGrath (57).

Brownstown: James Moore; Tom Flynn, Conor Shaw, Kenny Higgins; Philip Gilsenan, Shaun Smith, Paddy Reilly; Oisín Kiernan, Tiernan Purcell; Niall Leonard, Robbie Dugdale, Jack Gavin; Jamie Fitzsimons, Cormac Foley, Darren Dugdale.

Ref: Barry Kelly (St Oliver Plunkett’s).

Footnote: Prior to the throw-in for Saturday’s game, a minute’s silence was observed in memory of the late James ‘J. O’Reilly, Ballyhealy, Delvin.