TO THE credit of James Stephens they tried so very hard to offset a stunning opening salvo by Mooncoin of two goals inside the first four minutes, but ultimately pulled up short after the end of a hectic, passionate, determined junior hurling encounter in Mullinavat on Friday evening.
Corner forward J.P. Purcell slammed home the first Mooncoin major after just two minutes. Less than 120 seconds later Davy O’Brien got on the end of a long delivery from midfield to slip home the second killer blow.
Mooncoin had first use of the very stiff breeze, and exerted maximum returns from the natural assistance. James Stephens made a fine recovery when smart corner-forward Joey Murray slipped home a terrific goal in the seventh minute.
In truth, however, it was Mooncoin who looked the more likely winners during a first half when they gelled well, creating good opportunities for their forwards. Davy O’Brien was unerring from whatever chances came his way. Aidan Walsh also got on the scoresheet as did the remarkable J.P. Purcell. By the same token the likes of the evergreen former All-Ireland winner, Philly Larkin, and Jack McGrath were not for capitulation, and they presented a bold defence against the marauding Mooncoin attackers.
At half-time Mooncoin led by 2-9 to 1-6. Even though the James Stephens lads were on the very young side, they would still have fancied their chances of upsetting the Southern maestros.
The Village came out in the second half and bore down on the Mooncoin defence. Joey Murray (two frees and a point from play), Mark Hoban, Garry Whelan and Jack McGrath clattered home points to narrow the gap to a single point by the 52nd minute.
It was nervy stuff, and the city side looked the more likely winners at that stage.
However, due credit must be apportioned to the Mooncoin defenders who worked like beavers to stall the James Stephens impetus. They added three points through O’Brien, J.P. Purcell, and Ray Wall to get themselves over the winning line in a photo-finish.
The winners are now in the county junior quarter-final. They will make a bould bid for the honours as the championship progresses.
Mooncoin - Patrick Kinsella, Dick Mackey, Alan Henebery, Tom Walsh, Tom O’Hanlon, Sean Wall, Shane Walsh, Ethan Ryan, Ray Wall (0-2), Aidan Walsh (0-1), Liam Walsh, John Phelan, Davy O’Brien (1-7, 0-5 frees, 0-1 65), Nicky Henebery, J.P. Purcell (1-2). Subs: Niall O’Hanlon, Niall Madden, Eamonn Henebery, Pauric Doody.
James Stephens - Franny Cantwell, Luke Hickey, Patrick Butler, Patrick Duggan, David Hennessy, Philly Larkin, Jack McGrath (0-3), Eamon Sheehy, John Comerford, Mark Hoban (0-1), Garry Whelan (0-2), Michael Morris, Keith Mulcahy, Diarmuid Cody, Joey Murray (1-6, 0-4 frees). Subs: Ben Lahart, Anthony Lawlor.
Referee - John Kennedy (Shamrocks).