All-Ireland junior champions, St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) tasted defeat for the first time in competitive hurling since early last year when they were beaten by the narrowest of margins by Emeralds (Urlingford) in the intermediate hurling league in dry but cool conditions at well presented Johnstown on Saturday. The concession of two first half goals, plus the spurning of a couple of good point scoring chances, were the main reasons for this defeat in a game in which the Urlingford side were never headed.
Emeralds were first off the mark when midfielder Padraig Phelan pointed a line ball from about 30 metres. With defences generally in control scores were hard to come by and the next chance fell to Emeralds corner-forward, Jamie Ryan, who was unlucky with a goal attempt.
Emeralds first goal came when Ian Grant fired home past an advancing Ballyragget goalie, Michael Gannon. That gave the Urlingford side a 1-1 to 0-1 lead.
A Conor Martin free stretched that lead to four points as the Emeralds began to shade the exchanges. Emeralds had their second major in the 25th minute, and again it was Ian Grant who delivered the final touch giving Michael Gannon no chance in the Ballyragget goal.
That second goal put the Urlingford side six points clear (2-2 to 0-2) and in a commanding position approaching half-time. St Pat’s goalie Gannon then made a couple of smart saves as Emeralds tried to kill off the game.
Conor Martin extended Emeralds lead with a pointed free in the 30th minute, but Kevin Kelly negated that score with a similar effort before referee Pat Dunphy blew the half-time whistle, leaving the score at the interval: Emeralds 2-4, St Patrick’s 0-4.
In positive mood
St Patrick’s began the second half in positive mood. Four unanswered points from Kevin Kelly (3) and Seoirse Kenny reduced the arrears to two and Ballyragget looked to be heading for victory. Emeralds re-asserted and points from Eamon O’Gorman and Conor Martin (free) again put them four points ahead.
Kevin Kelly and Conor Martin exchanged points in the 47th and 48th minutes before another Kelly point kept the Ballyragget side in the hunt.
The St Patrick’s selectors rang the changes at this stage and introduced Kieran Delaney, who has recovered after a long term injury, as well as Michael Brennan and Sean Mooney. The changes improved matters somewhat and when Michael Brennan found the net in injury-time the deficit was just one point.
However, time ran out on them and Emeralds held on for a narrow if deserved victory.
This was the Ballyragget side’s first loss in the intermediate league following a good win in the opening round over Tullogher-Rosbercon. They will be disappointed with some of the missed chances.
There was little between the sides and the junior champions should be able give as good as they get in this grade. Emeralds on the other hand have much more experience at this level and just about deserved their win.
Scorers: Emeralds - Ian Grant (2-0); Conor Martin (0-6, four frees); Padraig Phelan, Eamon O’Gorman, Eddie Ryan (0-1 each). St Patrick’s - Kevin Kelly (0-8, three frees, one 65); Michael Brennan (1-0); Joe Brennan (0-2); Seoirse Kenny (0-1).
Emeralds - Alan Guilfoyle, Conor Costelloe, Pa Doheny, Eoin Moriarty, Shane Norton, Derek Lyng, Joe Doheny, Padraig Phelan, Brian Troy, Brian Campion, Eddie Ryan, Eamon O’Gorman, Conor Martin, Ian Grant, Jamie Ryan.
St Patrick’s - Michael Gannon, John Mooney, Geoff Morrissey, Stephen Staunton, Paddy Cahill, Geoff Brennan, Robbie Healy, Brian Mulhall, James Gannon, Eoin Bergin, Seoirse Kenny, Kevin Kelly, Bill Staunton, Brian Phelan, Joe Brennan. Subs - Stephen Roberts for G. Morrissey; Kieran Delaney for P. Cahill; Michael Brennan for B. Phelan; Sean Mooney for E. Bergin.
Referee - Pat Dunphy (Carrigeen).