A master class from Mark Bergin ensured that O’Loughlin Gaels opened their senior hurling league programme in smooth fashion.
With an impressive central spine, O’Loughlin’s looked imposing from the start as they cut a lively dash in Castlecomer.
It was Martin’s who got the opening score of the game, John Maher pointing a free for a foul on John Mulhall, but that was wiped out when the industrious Martin Comerford got his assist tally underway after four minutes.
Mark Bergin was the benefactor, as Comerford lofted a hand pass into the path of the onrushing midfielder. Another break from the centre of the pitch allowed Bergin his second in as many minutes.
Both sides were sloppy in possession, as neither team looking settled in the opening exchanges. Eoin McGrath helped to calm the Martin’s nerves when his manoeuvre into space was picked out by Canice Maher, allowing the former to fire over.
Tomas Breen levelled the sides after ten minutes, winning McGrath’s puck out he sent the ball straight between the O’Loughlin’s posts. John Mulhall, named at corner-forward but operating in midfield, split the posts after picking up possession in the middle, but his side were rocking on their heels when late introduction David Burke nabbed the first goal of the day for the city side.
Sparked by a lengthy free from goalkeeper Stephen Murphy, which hopped precariously on the edge of the square, Burke met the sliotar with a venomous strike which flew past Colin McGrath.
Midway through the opening half it was O’Loughlin’s who were steering the game in their favour. The full-back line of Kearns, Grant and Padraig Meaney impressed as dominated their personal battles, sending the ball back up field time and time again. Martin Comerford was an imposing presence in the O’Loughlin’s attack, his quickly taken sideline allowing Mark Bergin to rack up another score. Sammy Johnstown forced a reaction from McGrath, the keeper saving well from the wing forward.
A long ball out of defence from Brian Hogan found Comerford, who rose highest before laying off once more to Bergin, whose accuracy had been unerring in the opening half (half-time: 1-6 to 0-4).
The second half started in solid fashion for the Gaels, Martin Comerford popping off a pass to Bergin who fired over.
It wasn’t until the 40th minute that Martin’s score via a John Maher placed ball special. Maher added two more scores, interrupted by a seventh score from Bergin. Comerford had been a thorn in the side of Ollie Walsh all afternoon, and his assists kept flowing, as he set up Sammy Johnston in the 50th minute.
Pressing on, O’Loughlin’s struck gold for the second time two minutes later. A sweet David Burke delivery met the superb run of substitute John Doyle. The corner forward provided a smart finish and O’Loughlin’s were well in the lead.
Martin’s looked out of sorts, and were at a loss at how to deal with Comerford and Bergin. John Mulhall shot a point, but Conor Bergin quickly cancelled this out with one of his own. Just before the hour mark Martin’s were handed a lifeline through another sub, this time David Breen. A long delivery popped out of the hand of James Maher. Breen was placed perfectly to smash the ball home from five yards out.
It proved too little too late however, as O’Loughlin’s powered through the closing stages to come out well on top.
SCORERS: O’Loughlin Gaels - Mark Bergin (0-9, 0-5 frees); David Burke, John Doyle (1-0 each); Mark Kelly (0-2); Sammy Johnston, Conor Bergin (0-1 each). St Martin’s - John Maher (0-5, frees), David Breen (1-0), John Mulhall (0-3), Eoin McGrath (0-2), Thomas Breen (0-1).
O’Loughlin Gaels - Stephen Murphy, Padraig Meaney, Eoghan Grant, Eddie Kearns, Martin Gibbons, Brian Hogan, Paddy Deegan, Paddy Butler, Mark Bergin, Conor Bergin, Mark Kelly, Sammy Johnston, David Burke, Martin Comerford, Jack Nolan. Sub: John Doyle.
St Martin’s - Colin McGrath, Shane Cadigan, Ollie Walsh, Patrick Dowling, Brian Byrne, Patrick Nolan, James Dowling, Thomas Breen, Michael Morrissey, Eoin McGrath, Canice Maher, John Maher, John Mulhall, Brian Mulhall, Shane Kinsella. Subs: David Breen, James Maher.
Referee - Gavin Quilty (Slieverue).