THE prowess of the rangy Conor Joyce at full-forward proved the undoing of battling John Lockes (Callan) in this fiercely fought, all action and engaging intermediate hurling league tie at wind-swept Ballyhale on Sunday, writes John Knox.
The towering Joyce, who threatened in the air several time before snatching the goal that squared the game in the 42nd minute (1-7 to 0-10), actually turned the tide with that big score that finished John Lockes time in front.
Shortly afterwards James Cashin hit a quick brace of points for the Rower-Inistioge, and from there to the finish they showed a great appetite to protect their gains as they held out for their first win.
The action opened with a storming effort from both sides, but it was the Rower, who faced the wind, who drew first blood. Two deliveries aimed at Joyce on the edge of the square drew fouls, which were turned into points by reliable free taker, James Cassin.
The ’Lockes, with Jason Corcoran, Owen McGrath and Jack McDowell already flying on the half-back line, didn’t take long to find their way back into the match. By the 10th minute a pair of pointed frees from Simon Burke, the first after a foul on Ger Shelly, levelled matters.
The Callan drive continued, with the speeding Ger Shelly getting in some exhilarating runs up the left wing, and by the end of the quarter they showed 0-4 to 0-2 in front thanks to scoring contributions from Jason Corcoran, a massive free from 80 metres, and Shelly.
For nearly 20 minutes the Rower depended on James Cassin for all their scores, and he couldn’t get enough to reel in the opposition. At half-time the hard working ’Lockes showed 0-8 to 0-6 in front, a lead that could have been better had they not run up six wides against two from the opposition.
Three scores were added during the opening nine minutes of the new half, two to the losers. Then came the goal from Conor Joyce, after he fielded a high ball from Sean Grace, before bursting through and shooting home from eight metres to the left of the village end goal (0-10 to 1-7).
The next score didn’t arrive for five minutes or so, but in between some mighty hurling was produced by both sides, with no quarter asked for or given. There was no ‘fancy dan’ stuff. It was ‘give it your all’ effort from both sides, and I found the fare to be absolutely engrossing.
Cassin’s brace of points upped the divide to 1-9 to 0-10 before he extended it further by tapping over a free following a foul on Sean Grace. The ’Lockes were not lacking in effort, but against a rigid Rower defence with county star, Kieran Joyce at the heart of it - he started in midfield - they got little change.
They did, however, fail to gain any reward from two handy enough frees. Those misses were made even worse when Conor Joyce claimed another long delivery, this time from Joe Lyng, before shooting his side 1-11 to 0-10 clear with less than seven minutes remaining.
The losers did snatch a point through sub Brendan Grace subsequently, but by then the Rower were within sight of the line and they were not in the mood to surrender.
Along with those already mentioned, the winners had star performers in defender Sean Cummins, who was supreme in front of goal, Joe Lyng, Sean Grace, Joyce and James Cassin.
Others who showed to good effect for the losers were Simon Burke, who is a very fine hurler, Michael Gordon and Dan McCormack.
Scorers: Rower-Inistioge - James Cassin (0-8, five frees, one 65); Conor Joyce (1-2); Sean Lyster, Sean Grace (0-1 each). John Lockes - Simon Burke (0-5, four frees); Jason Corcoran (0-1, free); Ger Shelly, Shane Bergin, Matty Holohan, Dan McCormack, Brendan Grace (0-1 each).
Rower-Inistioge - Liam Tierney, Eoin Doyle, Sean Cummins, James Doyle, Neil Lyng, Joe Lyng, Rory Galavan, Kieran Joyce (capt), Sean Lyster, Sean Grace, Mark Moore, Tommy Murphy, John James Kenny, Conor Joyce, James Cassin. Subs - Michael Coady, Richard Ryan.
John Lockes - Paul Morrissey, Michael Gordon, John O’Neill (capt), Tony Delaney, Owen McGrath, Jason Corcoran, Jack McDowell, Jim O’Dwyer, Paddy Kennedy, Shane bergin, Simon Burke, Ger Shelly, Dan McCormack, Matty Holohan, Shane Bergin. Subs - Brendan Grace, Niall Hennessy.
Referee - John Kennedy (Ballyhale Shamrocks).