This was a game Thomastown could have won, but didn’t. It was also a game Mullinavat should have won, but nearly didn’t.
This South under-21 Roinn A hurling championship semi-finals in Ballyhale on Saturday was thrilling. Thomastown displayed tremendous courage and determination but it was not enought to down last year’s county finalists.
Thomastown were short their leader forward, having been red carded the previous week. That may have cost them. With the likes of the Donnellys’ - Robbie and Michael - they would have posed an enormous threat to the Mullinavat defenders, good and all as it was.
The same Donnellys’, with Adrian Burke, posed big questions for the Mullinavat defence. Robbie was outstanding, while Burke and Michael caused havoc. Points by the Donnellys’, Gary Lehane and Burke had Thomastown flying with a full spinnaker as they reached the end of the first quarter with six smashing points on the ’board.
In the same time the winners had one point from their best forward, Ger Malone. However, it must be said that Mullinavat could conceivably have been ahead if they had not been so awfully wasteful. They shot five wides in the same time, while Thomastown were far sharper, with only one wayward shot.
Thomastown were still looking clever, and probable victors as the game sped towards half time. The Donnollys’, Lehane, Burke and a terrific long-range free from Robbie O’Hanrahan shot another five points while Malone and Mark Mansfield were struggling to keep the runaway Thomastown in their sights with a few points of their own.
Mullinavat were non-plussed about the wastage.
At half time Thomastown looked comfortably when leading by 0-11 to 0-5. The game was there to be won or lost.
Mullinavat roared back after the break. Mark Mansfield started the onslaught with a point in the 34th minute. Points by Darren Watters, and a necklace of points by the fearless Ger Malone pushed Thomastown onto the back foot.
Additional points by Mark and Adam Mansfield and John Walsh had the game tied up at 12 points apiece at the 46 minute mark. The action was horse-power!
It seemed that AET would appear on this report. Mark Mansfield shot the ’Vat in front in the 48th minute. Adrian Burke levelled within 40 seconds. Robbie O’Hanrahan, with an outrageous free, pushed the ‘Town out the ways by the 52nd minute.
There was action all over the park. Near misses and wides decorated the Mullinavat canvas. Blocked attempts at scores was the Thomastown lot. Robbie Donnelly pushed the ’Town further ahead by the 59th minute. They looked home and hosed.
Mullinavat were not done. They worked the ball goalwards. Simon Aylward started it. Pat Mulhearn kept the wood on the fire. He threw it to Malone, whose shot was blocked out by Brain Murphy. The rebound came to Mossy Jones, whose shot thundered back off Dylan Walsh.
Liam Fennelly’s attempt met with more stern resistance, but this time the ball hopped perfectly for John Walsh. Like the good player he is, the county minor clipped the ball off the ground. Dylan Walsh never saw it, and neither did anyone else.
Scorers: Mullinavat - Ger Malone (0-5); Mark Mansfield (0-6, two frees); John Walsh (1-1); Darren Watters, Adam Mansfield (0-1 each). Thomastown - Robbie Donnelly (0-6, four frees); Adrian Burke, Gary Lehane, Michael Donnelly (0-2 each); Robbie O’Hanrahan (0-2, frees); Dylan Waugh (0-1).
Mullinavat - Conor Frisby, Michael Jones, Tom Aylward, Conor Duggan, Brian Phelan, Simon Aylward, Robbie Malone, Mark Mansfield, Darren Kenneally, Ger Malone, Pat Mulhearn, Darren Watters, Mossy Jones, Liam Fennelly, John Walsh. Sub - Adam Mansfield.
Thomastown - Dylan Walsh, Kieran Treacy, Brian Murphy, Jay Burke, Cian O’Meara, Barry Whelan, Robbie O’Hanrahan, Dylan Waugh, Eoin Manning, John Barron, Gary Lehane, Andy Walsh, Robbie Donnelly, Adrian Burke, Michael Donnelly. Sub - Danny Monks.