A FAST START and some strong finishing helped Mooncoin get their intermediate hurling league campaign up and running.
There was a coolness and composure about the South Kilkenny side as they operated a level above Young Irelands (Gowran) at Mullinavat on Saturday evening.
The key for the winners was the way they were able to look to different players to help them ride out a spell of Gowran pressure. After 60 minutes Mooncoin had eight different names on the scoresheet, twice the number of their opponents.
Mooncoin were smartly out of the blocks, snapping up the opening points via Danny Purcell and Eoin Hennebry (2) as they made light of the absence of their scoring talisman, Diarmuid Mackey.
It took Young Irelands a little longer to get up and running, but once their main threat Paul Keogh got into gear they imposed themselves on the game.
Keogh opened the Gowran account with a brace of frees, then fired them into the lead when he pounced on a dropping ball and slammed a ground strike past Paddy Kinsella to turn a three-point deficit into a two-point lead by the 14th minute (1-3 to 0-4).
The Mooncoin response was swift and emphatic. They took control of the scoreboard, posting five points in 11 minutes to move back in front. Midfielder Ray Wall had a golden spell, scoring two points and making another for Keith Kirwan, while Cormac Fleming and Danny Purcell also got in on the act (0-9 to 1-3).
Paul Keogh took it upon himself to lift the Gowran charge, converting two frees to end a 14-minute barren spell and take his first half tally to 1-4.
Mooncoin thought they had made the perfect reply when Purcell wriggled past his marker to boot the sliotar to the net on 30 minutes, but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for overcarrying.
Nevertheless, they maintained their composure until half-time, Ethan Ryan delivering a perfect crossfield ball to Wall, who had time and space to steady himself and split the Waterford Road end posts from distance and give his side a two-point cushion at the interval (0-10 to 1-5).
There was a strong response from Gowran after the restart – not least in the way they moved centre-half Paul Holden up to a full-forward role – but try as they might, they found a second goal to be inches from their grasp.
Paul Keogh was first to have a crack, getting the better of a tussle with Tomas Holden before lofting the sliotar over netminder Paddy Kinsella, but his 32nd minute diagonal effort clattered off the far post and stayed out.
They had another effort to bag a three-pointer 10 minutes later. Paul Keogh was involved again, working a Jack Glendon clearance on to Sean Keogh, but he was left holding his head in his hands after blasting his point-blank shot over the crossbar.
Although Gowran got a point for their troubles, the goal could have made for a totally different final quarter. Instead Mooncoin had a two-point cushion (0-13 to 1-8) and made it work to their favour, using it as a platform to kick on towards victory. Michael Grace led the way with booming free from inside his own 65 before Niall Madden added another, this time after Kinsella had made a good stop to deny Thomas Carroll a goal.
That steadied Mooncoin, who sealed the points in the dying seconds of normal time when Crowley drilled home a fine ground strike from outside the square (1-17 to 1-9). Gowran did halve the deficit with a Paul Holden goal and Paul Keogh point, but the gap proved too great to close so late on.
Mooncoin - Paddy Kinsella, Tomas Hanlon, Niall Mackey, Eoin Crowley, David Kearns, Michael Grace (0-2, 0-1 free), Sean Wall, Niall Madden (0-1), Ray Wall (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 65), Keith Kirwan (0-4), Eoin Hennebry (0-3), Cormac Fleming (0-1), Stephen Crowley (1-1), Danny Purcell (0-2), Ethan Ryan. Subs: Shane Walsh for S. Wall, 31 mins; Conor Brophy for Hanlon, 33 mins; J.P. Purcell for Crowley, 60 mins.
Young Irelands - Martin Carey, Jack Glendon, Michael Walsh, Ciaran Carroll, Niall Walsh, Paul Holden (1-1, 0-1 free), Eoin Walsh, J.J. Lennon, Michael Lennon, Chris Nolan, Dick Carroll, Sean Keogh (0-3), Thomas Carroll (0-1), John Morris, Paul Keogh (1-5, 0-5 frees). Subs: Jodie Foley for Morris, 31 mins; J.P. Treacy for E. Walsh, 44 mins; Paul Delahunty for Glendon, 60 mins.
Referee - Tom Duggan (Mullinavat).