It was difficult to analyse this game from the point of view that for most of the game, the winners never looked like losing, but yet at the finish they could so easily have done so. What does that tell me, I ponder?
I am perplexed!
In honesty, Mullinavat had a far better spread of good hurlers in their ranks in this intermediate hurling league clash in Slieverue.
Their skills were sharper.
Their co-ordinates were more speedily expedited.
Their long-range striking was more successful, and driven with a greater degree of success.
Now if all of that was so much better, why were they struggling to win, and they only managed that by two points.
In fairness to Tullogher Rosbercon, what they lacked in skilful application, they more than made up for in commitment, cussedness, and courage. In Pat Hartley, they had the most consistent hurler on view. Nothing broke him.
Nothing out tested him. Nothing discommoded him. He stood unbowed and unbeaten at centre back for the losers.
It was a pity that his selectors were forced to move him forward in search of the win needed.
It was necessary but fatal.
Simon Aylward was the star of the show for Mullinavat as he clattered over some amazing frees from amazing distances with and against the biting breeze.
He shot seven from eight attempts, and he will certainly be subjected to some mild derision by his colleagues when they mention penalty-taking.
It wasn’t easy on Friday evening. An unholy shower of hail thundered down just before half time, and Referee, Richard Dowling correctly extended the half time period until the light improved and the arctic hail disappeared.
Thereafter it was not easy to play on a very slippy surface.
But the men from Tullogher and Mullinavat tried very hard to do the business for themselves, and give the nice crowd value for their money.
Most of the hurling in the first half happened in the middle third of the fine pitch. Most of the twelve scores were complimented by accurate free-takers.
Mullinavat had six points on the ’board (Aylward had three, Dinny Butler, Mark Mansfield, and Willie O’Dwyer had the rest), while Tullogher bagged points by Brendan Lawlor (3), Cian O’Donoghue, and Pat Hartley (2).
The second half was barely a pup, when we had the first goal.
A Mullinavat attack was woefully defended by dithering defenders, and Paddy Raftice slipped between the offenders to push the ball over the line. It should not have happened.
Whilst Pat Hartley narrowed the gap to two points within two minutes, points by a rampant Mullinavat, and helped by some poor silly discipline from the Tullogher lads, had the winners in a very comfortable spot by the 56th minute.
They were nicely placed as the game went into the final quarter, leading by 1-11 to 0-7. Then returning exile, Eddie Cullinane thundered through the Mullinavat defence to slam home an unstoppable goal. Even though Simon Aylward shot two good frees over, the Tullogher men had the bit between their teeth.
They sensed that maybe they might just get over the line ahead.
The moving of Hartley to midfield precipitated the anticipation, and it nearly paid off.
Joe Dollard hammered over a huge point in the added time to narrow the gap to four points.
Michael Murphy cancelled that out, but the very effective Brendan Lawlor took a delightful pass from youngster Cian O’Donoghue (played instead of the injured Wally) to provide the ’Vat men with a very anxious final 120 seconds.
They weathered the storm, however, and it was a relieved Mullinavat contingent leaving Slieverue, after a game they should have made more easy for themselves and their supporters.
Scorers: Mullinavat - Simon Aylward (0-7, five frees, two ’65); Paddy Raftice (1-0); Mark Mansfield, Joe Gahan (0-2 each); Willie O’Dwyer, Dinny Butler, Michael Murphy (0-1 each); Cian O’Donoghue (0-1). Tullogher Rosbercon - Brendan Lawlor (1-4, three pointed frees); Pat Hartley (0-3, one free, one ’65); Eddie Cullinane (1-0); Joe Dollard (0-1).
Mullinavat - John Walsh, Robert Malone, Seamus Farrell, Joe Fennelly, Thomas Aylward, Pauric Gahan, Liam Murphy, Simon Aylward, Mark Mansfield, Willie O’Dwyer, Dinny Butler, Ger Malone, Paddy Raftice, Michael Murphy, Joe Gahan.
Tullogher-Rosbercon - Martin Roche, Declan Grennan, John Hartley, Terence Croke, Molling Cottrell, Pat Hartley, Anthony Cottrell, Peter Meggs, John Cottrell, Cian O’Donoghue, Richard Dollard, John Barron, Padraig Ryan, Simon Kennedy, Brendan Lawlor. Subs - Donnacha O’Connor for S. Kennedy; Eddie Cullinane for P. Meggs; John ‘Tinaree’ Murphy for P. Ryan.