Flashes of brilliance were enough to get James Stephens back on the senior hurling league’s winning trail.
The city side bounced back from last week’s loss to the Rower-Inistioge with the right result, but didn’t have to go full throttle against a subdued Erin’s Own (Castlecomer).
The Village were impressive at stages, particularly in the first half. They did most of the spadework in that 30-minute spell at a well-appointed Jenkinstown on Friday evening.
The chief catalysts for their success lay in midfield, where a solid axis of Eamon Sheehy and Jack McGrath starred. While Sheehy dominated under the high ball McGrath was masterful on the scoring front, hitting ’Comer with a bunch of fives as Stephens threatened to run riot.
McGrath was at the heart of the action in the early stages, as James Stephens took the game by the scruff of the neck and didn’t let go.
Up and running
The young midfielder got his side up and running with a fine pointed free from inside his own half. After Ger Flood grabbed the first score from play, McGrath added another, Sheehy setting him up with a fine catch and pass.
There was a much slower start from Erin’s Own, who saw their first three efforts tail wide of the posts. Michael Murphy did get them off the mark via a 10th minute free, but there was little else to cheer about as the Village backline kept the Castlecomer forwards quiet.
’Comer had no answer to Sheehy’s play, resulting in fouls on the midfielder which McGrath punished from placed balls. When Eoin Larkin added another free they stretched their lead out to five - it could have been greater, as David Hennessy’s long diagonal ball fell to Ger Flood on the edge of the square, but a timely challenge from Conor Fogarty denied the Village forward a 17th minute goal.
With David Walton (2) getting in on the act, Stephens pushed their lead out to seven points (0-8 to 0-1) by the 23rd minute. It was a rapidly turning into a frustrating evening for ’Comer - their half-forward line saw little of the ball and, when they did, they were kept at distance from the Stephens posts.
Erin’s Own did lift a little of the gloom in the latter stages, Murphy adding two more frees to treble their total, but a mammoth McGrath effort and snappy point from Walton saw James Stephens go in seven points to the good (0-10 to 0-3).
Having played so well in the opening half it seemed as if James Stephens would pick up where they had left off after the restart, but the game didn’t play out that way. The city side took their foot off the gas in the third quarter, but Erin’s Own couldn’t use the extra space to turn the game their way.
Eat into deficit
They did eat into the deficit, Murphy scoring either side of another Larkin free - his second point was impressive, the ’Comer man beating Jackie Tyrrell to a puck-out and then finding space to split the scoreboard end posts - but they couldn’t find a way through to goal.
They had one big chance when Murphy was tripped up under a high dropping Conor Fogarty ball. Given a free on the edge of the square, Murphy went for goal, but his 41st minute effort was beaten away from danger.
There were still 20 minutes left in the game at that stage, but that was as close as the ’Comer men would come to threatening their opponents. The Village raised their game after that, rattling off points through Ben Lahart and Larkin (2) to make the game safe with 10 minutes left on the clock.
In truth Erin’s Own never looked liked getting back into the game, but they could have closed the gap. They had chances to do just that in the closing stages but were wasteful with their shooting, hitting several wides in the latter stages as they limped to the final whistle.
SCORERS: James Stephens - Jack McGrath (0-5, 0-4 frees); Eoin Larkin (0-4, frees); David Walton (0-3); Ger Flood, Ben Lahart, Richie Hayes (0-1 each). Erin’s Own - Michael Murphy (0-5, 0-4 frees); Peadar Boran (0-1).
James Stephens - Gavin Costigan, John Comerford, Tomas Keogh, Luke Hickey, Niall McQuillan, Jackie Tyrrell, David Hennessy, Jack McGrath, Eamon Sheehy, David Walton, Ger Flood, Ben Lahart, Luke Scanlon, Eoin Larkin, Conor Browne. Sub: Richie Hayes for Flood, 30 mins.
Erin’s Own - Tom Brophy, Liam Wallace, Conor Fogarty, Niall McMahon, Ciaran Wallace, Jerry Callinan, Robert Moran, Conor Delaney, Declan Dunne, Brian Dillon, Michael Murphy, Jimmy Byrne, Martin Boran, Martin Hawley, Peadar Boran. Subs: Andrew Carron for Dillon, Dara Brennan for Hawley, both 47 mins.
Referee - Richard Dowling (Kilmacow).