The county junior hurling championship is upon us. In this first round game in Ballyhale on Sunday the appreciative patrons were treated to a fine tie with an aggregate score of 5-25.
The best performance came from probably the youngest player on the field, John Walsh from Mullinavat.
I happened to be working in Croke Park when the Kilkenny minor team bowed out of contention against a spirited Waterford, but I was struck by the performance of a youngster from Mullinavat, the same John Walsh. In Ballyhale he creamed the opposition on at least three occasions when clattering three superb goals past the O’Loughlin’s goalkeeper.
The game was hugely entertaining, and more and more this scribe is impressed with the hurling qualities displayed by all junior clubs, relative to their competitions.
If Mullinavat had young Walsh, O’Loughlin’s certainly owed plenty to the silken free-taking skills of Nigel Skehan. He was unerring from any distances, or angles. Pure diamond!
O’Loughlins had a dream start when first Shem Cummins and then Paddy Cantwell within two minutes of each other had the ball in the net within 10 minutes of the start. That helped to get them to half time in the lead by 2-6 to Mullinavat’s 0-7.
The first of Walsh’s goals were posted in the 39th minute. O’Loughlins were still ahead by 1-1. His second goal, a superb solo effort, narrowed the gap to three points by the 52nd minute. His third goal gave his side a very positive kick in the posterior of reality, as it reduced the O’Loughlin lead to a mere two points.
They peppered the O’Loughlin goal area, but to no gain. Up stepped the ‘go to’ O’Loughlin man, who obliged with a welcoming safety point, and it was game set and match to the city side who surely could have won the junior title last year, or indeed the previous year.
Scorers: O’Loughlin-Gaels - Nigel Skehan (0-10, five frees); Shem Cummins, Paddy Cantwell (1-0 each); Alan Geoghegan (0-4); Billy Leydon (0-2); Brian Dowling (0-2). Mullinavat - John Walsh (3-4); Paddy Raftice (0-5, four frees); Pat Mulhearn, John Reid (0-1 each); Liam Murphy (0-1, free).
O’Loughlin Gaels - Sam Johnson, Steven Tyrrell, Brian Murphy, Kevin O’Brien, Anthony Forristal, Jason Quan, Eoin Grant, Paddy Deegan, Brian Dowling, Paddy Cantwell, Kevin Morrissey, Alan Geoghegan, Billy Leydon, Seamie Cummins, Nigel Skehan. Subs - Jack Nolan, Evan Walsh.
Mullinavat - Paddy Jones, Richie Raftice, Kevin Aylward, Conor Duggan, Ger Anthony, Brian Phelan, Liam Murphy, John Walsh, Michael Jones, Paddy Raftice, Michael Murphy, Joe Gahan, Brian Kenneally, Pat Mulhearn, John Reid. Subs - Andrew McGovern, Darren Kenneally.
Referee - Domo Connolly (Mooncoin). -