HE WAS the man with No. 26 on his back, but Mark Culleton turned out to be the No. 1 guy when Piltown thundered through to the junior hurling championship final at Nowlan Park on Sunday.
Culleton, lining out at full-forward, helped himself to 2-3 during the opening half as the Northerners were all but cut adrift before the contest had run even half its course.
While Lisdowney were strong and willing afterwards, they never looked like matching a team with plenty of good hurlers and scorching pace in vital sectors.
The opening 10 minutes or so were evenly contested as the teams shared equally in four points.
Within a minute Piltown put together a lighting fast move. They attacked the city end goal, and after Richie McCarthy and Peter McCarthy combined to lay bare the Lisdowney cover, Mark Culleton blasted to the net from the edge of the square.
Philip Kenny and Rory Hickey, the losers most threatening attacker, traded points before Mark Culleton pounced on a ball after a defender slipped and lashed it over the bar (1-4 to 0-3).
Ciaran Mackey hit back for a Lisdowney point, but that was swallowed by efforts at the other end from Richie McCarthy (free) and a top rate one from Nickey Kenny after Kevin Walsh and the hard-working Philip Kenny had created the opening in another deadly Piltown move.
An exchange of scores followed before Piltown netted again in the 29th minute. This time Richie McCarthy robbed the ball virtually from r no more than a few metres to the left of goal. He popped a quick hand pass across goal. Mark Culleton was left unattended. Goal!
That score fired Piltown into a commanding interval lead of 2-9 to 0-5 and they looked well on their way to a place in the final against St Patrick’s (Ballyragget).
Lisdowney headed the exchanges during the third quarter, mainly thanks to a goal from a free by Rory Hickey, discharged like a bullet from 20-metres, to cut the deficit slightly to 1-7 to 2-11.
As good as it got
Alas, that was as good as it was to get for the losers. During the following minutes Piltown hit back smartly for unanswered scores from Kevin Walsh, Richie McCarthy (free), Nicky Kenny and Robbie Culleton to up the divide to 11-points with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The contest was done and dusted. Lisdowney, who had tried for a goal from a few close in free during this period, won a penalty in the 56th minute when Eddie Hickey was fouled. Rory Hickey’s effort was saved.
That typified their day of misery, despite the best efforts of Rory Hickey, Vinny Fitzpatrick, Sean and Martin Phelan.
Piltown, whose first touch and combination play impressed hugely, had an array of stars, including Mark Culleton, Robbie Culleton, the zippy Richie McCarthy, Nicky Kenny, Andrew McCarthy, Michael Burchill, agile goalie James Norris and their marathon man in midfield, Philip Kenny.
Scorers: Piltown – Mark Culleton (2-3); Nicky Kenny (0-4); Robbie Culleton (0-4, one free); Richie McCarthy (0-2, one free); Kevin Walsh (0-2, one free); Peter McCarthy, Philip Kenny (0-1 each). Lisdowney – Rory Hickey (1-4, 1-3 frees); Ciaran Mackey (0-2); Eddie Hickey, Kevin Sweeney (0-1 each).
Piltown – James Norris, Brendan Norris, Pa Connolly, Michael Burchill, John Brophy, Andrew McCarthy, Shane Kinsella, Philip Kenny, Kevin Walsh, Nicky Kenny, Peter McCarthy, Kevin Brophy, Richie McCarthy, Mark Culleton, Robbie Culleton. Subs – James Phelan, Martin Power, Paul Kirby, Daniel Norris, Neil Kelly.
Lisdowney – Aaron Fogarty, Padraig Kenny, Shane Clyne, Anthony O’Hara, Niall O’Hara, Martin Phelan, Pat O’Carroll, Vinny Fitzpatrick, Sean Phelan, Eddie Hickey, Paddy Bowden, Peter Bergin, Eoin Delahunty, Rory Hickey, Ciaran Mackey. Subs – Ray Fitzpatrick, Niall Mackey, Kevin Sweeney, David Dowling.
Referee – Gerry Rafter (Threecastles).