Walton penalty moves Village into pole position

James Stephens 1-15

James Stephens 1-15

O’Loughlin Gaels 0-14

A WIN over local rivals and top spot in the League table. That was the enticing double secured by James Stephens as they edged out a somewhat understrength O’Loughlin Gaels at Nowlan Park on Friday.

In a game that was competitive but never reached the heights of some of their previous encounters, a goal from a David Walton penalty in the 12th minute was eventually to prove to be the vital score.

O’Loughlin’s, who started the game without the services of goalie Stephen Murphy, defender Eddie Kearns midfielder Peter Dowling and attackers Brian Dowling and Conor Bergin, started brightly with points from Martin Comerford and Seamie Cummins inside the first three minutes.

To add to Stephens’ woes at this stage midfielder Ray Coady was carried off injured after just two minutes. Coady was replaced by Niall Tyrrell, who got the Village’s first score a minute after entering the fray.

Fine score

The excellent Martin Comerford restored O’Loughlin’s two-point lead with a fine score from out on the right wing, but points from Jackie Tyrrell and Matthew Ruth squared matters by the seventh minute.

The game then turned the way of the Larchfield side when a 12th minute foul on Eoin Larkin handed Stephens a penalty. David Walton stepped up and coolly drilled the sliotar to the net, a goal which pushed ’Stephens into a lead they would never relinquish. By the end of the opening quarter they had extended their lead to six points (1-6 to 0-3) thanks to further points from Eamon Sheehy (two frees) and a fine effort by Thomas Keogh.

James Stephens continued to hold the upper hand and stretched their lead to seven points by the 27th minute (1-8 to 0-4). They seemed to be easing away from their city rivals, but O’Loughlin’s finished the half strongly with two points from Mark Bergin (one free) and one from Comerford to leave the game very much in the melting pot at the break (1-8 to 0-7).

Big influence

James Stephens started the second half with Jackie Tyrrell at full-back, playing on his former inter-county colleague Martin Comerford who was having a big influence on the game. Comerford continued to cause problems for the Larchfield side’s defence but by the third quarter the Village had increased their lead to seven points (1-12 to 0-8).

There seemed to be no way back for O’Loughlin’s from there, but local rivalry ensured that nothing would be won easily. Four unanswered points from Mark Bergin frees left just a goal between the sides before Stephens conceded a 20 metre free, but Maurice Nolan’s goal attempt was saved.

Matthew Ruth settled his side’s nerves with a good point three minutes from time, but Mark Kelly then fired over a fine point for O’Loughlin’s to ensure a nervous finish.

O’Loughlin’s went for the jugular at this stage and Maurice Nolan was extremely unlucky to see an attempt take a deflection and fly across the face of the goal.

Eoin Larkin pointed a free for the Larchfield side as the game ticked into injury time. Mark Bergin negated that score before Larkin finished the scoring with a great point to see Stephens home by four points with the local bragging rights intact.

SCORERS: James Stephens – David Walton (1-4, 0-4 frees, 1-0 pen); Matthew Ruth (0-3); Eoin Larkin (0-3, 0-1 free); Jackie Tyrrell (0-2); Niall Tyrrell, Tomas Keogh, David McCormack (0-1 each). O’Loughlin Gaels – Mark Bergin (0-8, 0-7 frees); Martin Comerford (0-3); Seamie Cummins, Mark Kelly, Alan Geoghegan (0-1 each).

James Stephens – D. Brennan, N. McQuillan, Donnacha Cody, P. Butler, C. McQuillan, J. Tyrrell, S. Campion, R. Coady, E. Sheehy, M. Ruth, T. Keogh, D. McCormack, Diarmuid Cody, E. Larkin, D. Walton. Subs: N. Tyrrell for Coady (inj), G. Whelan for N. Tyrrell, M. Morris for Walton.

O’Loughlin Gaels – S. Johnson, B. Kelly, B. Hogan, B. Murphy, A. O’Brien, A. Kearns, N. Bergin, M. Kelly, M. Nolan, A. Geoghegan, M. Bergin, N. McEvoy, S. Cummins, M. Comerford, D. Loughnane. Subs: D. Broderick for McEvoy, K. Morrissey for Geoghegan.  

Referee – D. Connolly (Mooncoin).