GRAIGUE-Ballycallan escaped from the relegation quagmire after an inspired performance from Eddie Brennan helped see off the challenge of Danesfort in this first round tie in the senior hurling championship which they won by 0-13 to 0-1, writes Jim Buggy.
During an open game both sides had penalties saved and neither really dominated. Eddie Brennan’s brilliance and Niall Millea’s free taking clinched victory for Graigue in a gripping encounter.
Paddy Hogan registered the first score for Danesfort with a well struck free against the breeze. His brother, Richie shot over one a minute later. Willie O’Connor settled Graigue nerves when he slotted over the game’s first score from play after five minutes. Niall Millea scored a free a minute later and the sides were level for the first time.
Paddy Hogan’s placed ball then found James Cunningham, whose run had split the Graigue defence. Cunningham was pushed out and won a 20 metre free. Paddy Hogan’s low effort was saved and the momentum was now with Ballycallan. Soon after, midfielder Dermot Heafey pointed sweetly from midfield, Graigue’s passing leaving Danesfort trailing them all over the middle third. Richie Hogan responded, plucking an enormous free down the field and firing over with ease.
Eddie Brennan at midfield was starting to dominate. He won virtually every ball that came his way. His shot from the sideline after 15 minutes was the score of the game, and it put his side back in front. Richie Hogan had started to come deeper to win ball, his work rate paying off after winning a Manogue puck-out before laying off to Paul Murphy with a long winded hand pass. Murphy pointed. The sides were level again.
Brennan’s predatory instincts again found him in a great position, drifting into the space behind the ’Fort full back line. A hopeful ball in was won by Brennan, and he was fouled for a penalty. His drive was saved and the scores stayed level until Niall Millea converted his second free. Brennan shot over his second soon after, his shot slicing off the post before dropping over the bar.
Millea scored twice more before another foul on Richie Hogan gave Danesfort a 20 metre free. This time Hogan’s shot was saved and the ball flew over the bar. Danesfort trailed by 0-8 to 0-5 at the interval.
Graigue had been the more impressive team, their chance conversion rate much tidier than their opponents. The Danesfort tactic of getting the ball to Richie Hogan wasn’t working because Ballycallan closed down the space in front of him. Paddy Hogan was also at full stretch trying to deal with the roving Brennan.
Danesfort came out flying in the second half, winning the throw in before a lovely delivery by Murphy allowed Robbie Walsh to fire over. Oisin Daly kept the momentum going, pointing sweetly after a searching pass from Paddy Hogan. Ben O’Connor, playing as a late change, shot over his side’s eighth point to level the scores.
On a roll
Niall Millea pointed a free before exquisite link up play allowed John Purcell to shoot over in acres of space. Hogan tapped over a free but Ballycallan were on a roll. Substitute Dara Walton and Niall Millea both pointed in quick succession. Millea won and converted another placed ball before being substituted, leaving the game with seven points to his credit.
Richie Hogan pointed again to leave three between the sides. Substitute Cillian Treacy had just been introduced when a delicate ball from Hogan hopped into his path in front of the Ballycallan goal. He was pulled down and a penalty was awarded. Paddy Hogan’s effort was saved by P.J. Trant. Graigue held on for a deserved victory.
Danesfort play Dunnamaggin in the high pressure relegation final. Graigue’s young players, O’Connor and Egan in particular, did extremely well, giving the club a solid foundation to build on in years to come.
Scorers: Graigue-Ballycallan - Niall Millea (0-7, frees); Eddie Brennan (0-2); Willie O’Connor, Dermot Heafey, John Purcell, Dara Walton (0-1 each). Danesfort - Richie Hogan (0-5, four frees); Paddy Hogan (0-1, free); Robbie Walsh, Oisin Daly, Ben O’Connor, Paul Murphy (0-1 each).
Graigue-Ballycallan - P.J. Trant, Darragh Egan, Ger Teehan, Shane Murphy, Bob Murphy, James Ryall, Jimmy Murphy, Adrian Burke, Dermot Heafey, Eddie Brennan, Niall Millea, Tomas Ryan, Willie O’Connor, John Hoyne, John Purcell. Subs - Dara Walton, Sean O’ Dwyer, Ciaran Hoyne.
Danesfort - Frank Manogue, Gavin O Keeffe, Liam Forrestal, Michael Cunningham, Tony Woodcock, Paul Murphy, Philip Walsh, Padraig Forrestal, Paddy Hogan, James Cunningham, David Forrestal, Oisin Daly, Ben O’Connor, Richie Hogan, Robbie Walsh. Subs - Cillian Treacy, Cathal O’Neill.