What an advertisement for junior hurling! In Mooncoin on Friday, visitors Barrow Rangers (Paulstown) and Mooncoin presented the sparse attendance with a terrific encounter in the All County hurling league, writes Barrie Henriques.
From start to glorious finish, the players from never flinched from the challenge. The ball zipped from end to end with mesmerising pace and velocity. There was excitement around every corner, and some decisions did not meet with universal approval. Mooncoin won by 0-18 to 1-13.
I felt Ray Byrne, the Glenmore referee, had a good game. His handling of affairs was significantly helpful to the entertainment value and enjoyment of the fare. He had the courage to red card a Mooncoin player.
Mooncoin were forced to battle with 14 men, and even though they led by the odd point in 21 at the break, some considered that the numerical advantage would take its toll. It was hard to underscore a weak link in either side.
Every player made a contribution, and it would be fair to say that most of them could be allocated a good to very good rating at game’s end. There were so many great things to admire.
Ray Wall was perfect with his free taking. He went nap on every attempt. Richie Doyle never gave him an inch in his efforts. There is no doubt that Mooncoin goalkeeper, Patrick Kinsella kept his side in the game with three stunning saves.
In the 19th minute he took the best that Doyle could muster from nigh on 10 metres, and deflected teh ball out for a 65. Just before half time, Michael Whiteley fired in a rasper. Kinsella was a match for that one too. A goal at that stage could have been more than demoralising for the home side. Then in the 37th minute Kinsella took a Doyle 20-metre free in hand, and again saved.
Defenders on both sides were excellent. The ’Rangers had mighty defenders in Eddie Prendergast, John Brennan and Tom Whiteley. Cathal Kenny (the Fitzgibbon winner, and a class act) was a colossus at midfield, while Michael Whiteley, Martin Bambrick, Ciarán Breen and Richie Doyle emptied their tanks for the cause.
Mooncoin too had superb performers. How else could they win a tight game with 14 men for 40 minutes? Eamon Henebery, Conor Brophy and Seamus Kearns never took a backward step. They were too engrossed in going forward with venom and fire in their bellies. David Kearns and Kevin Crowley went to war at midfield, and won plenty of battles.
The best forward on view was Michael Grace, who had a game one could only dream about. His awareness of people around him was uncanny. His speed would be envied by Usain Bolt, and his striking had thew accuracy of Jockey Wilson-bulls eye every time.
The major difference between the sides was the combination play of the winners. They hit target every time, while some of the ’Rangers attempts were wayward. Every score was a delight.
The half-time score read: Mooncoin 0-11, Barrow Rangers 0-10. Goalkeepers (Kinsella in particular and the free-takers) were responsible for that.
The second half was fought with tremendous intensity; produced great entertainment and raw passion. It was great value, and if it is indicative of the quality of the junior hurling yet to come, well I for one will be looking forward to it.
I have abandoned my customary analysis as I feel the game deserved a more general observation. It was that good, and there were two great teams on the park. On the evidence, I now feel that Bennettsbridge are not the shoe-in certainties first imagined.
Roll on the Championship. PS: For all of their admirable facilities, most patrons were resorted to following players for the final 15 minutes it was so dark. They should have turned on the lights. I don’t be critical of anything Mooncoin do, because they generally do it well, but a venial sin on this occasion methinks!
Scorers: Mooncoin - Ray Wall (0-10, eight frees, two 65s’); Michael Grace, Jamie McGrath (0-3 each); Cormac Fleming, Eoin Henebery (0-1 each). Barrow Rangers - Richie Doyle (0-9, five frees, two 65s’); Martin Bambrick (1-0); Cathal Kenny (0-2); Eddie Prendergast, Ciaran Breen (0-1 each).
Mooncoin - Patrick Kinsella, Neil Mackey, Niall Blanchfield, Tom Healy, Eamon Henebery, Conor Brophy, Seamus Kearns, david Kearns, Kevin Crowley, Ray Wall, Jamie McGrath, Eoin Henebery, Steven Crowley, Cormac Fleming, Michael Grace. Subs - Danny Purcell, Tom ‘Brooke’ Henebery.
Barrow Rangers - Jason Holden, Kevin Brennan, Ciarán Doyle, John Kealy, Edward Prendergast, Tom Brennan, Tom Whitely, Cathal Kenny, Willie Hennessy, Tom Brennan, Michael Whitely, Martin Bambrick, Bill Hanlon, Richie Doyle, Ciarán Breen. Subs - Joe Hughes, Kevin Flavin.
Referee - Ray Byrne.