Eight points separated Young Irelands and Conahy Shamrocks at the finish and while the result was a little flattering to the winners there was no denying that the better side won.
A stiff breeze into the country goal in St John’s Park aided the Gowran men in the opening half yet the sides were level after 21 minutes at 0-4 each.
Conahy missed a gilt-edged goal scoring chance after three minutes when a shot from Shane Brennan was deflected by Martin Carey for a ’65. Throughout the opening half in particular, the winners held a distinct advantage over their opponents in the aerial exchanges.
Although the Conahy defence was stretched on a number of occasions in the opening half the players coped well with the Young Irelands pressure. They were punished though, on a couple of occasions, when needlessly conceded frees resulted in points.
A crucial period of the game came just before the half-time interval. Young Irelands led by a point with five minutes remaining but they hit a purple patch in the closing stages of the half with three unanswered points.
These scores were a big confidence-booster to the team.
Conahy needed a good start to the new half but it was Young Irelands who were quickest out of the traps, Dick Carroll raising the first white flag to put his side five points ahead. It was now looking difficult for the Conahy men, even though they had wind advantage.
The Northerners enjoyed much more of the ball after the break but some resolute defending from Young Irelands kept the Conahy scores to a minimum.
The Shamrocks were far too dependent on the accuracy of Shane Brennan from frees for their scores. Conahy know that a return of just three points from play over 60 minutes will not win many games.
Despite being the better side Young Irelands only held a two-point advantage with five minutes remaining. With the elements favouring the Conahy men, the game was still very much up for grabs.
Paul Holden edged his side three points ahead on the 55th but the game was ultimately decided three minutes later when Conahy goalie Andy O’Keeffe dropped a delivery which the in-rushing Thomas Carroll crashed into the net.
There was no comeback for Conahy at that stage. Further points for Young Irelands from Paul Holden and Thomas Carroll made sure of victory.
Young Irelands will be delighted to have got their campaign off to the best possible start, but both teams know they have a lot of work ahead this year to match the top sides. The winners were strong in key central positions with Michael Walsh and J.P. Treacy playing a big part in the victory.
The Gowran men produced a good work ethic throughout the game especially in the second half when their opponents had the wind advantage.
Conahy’s full-back line was its strongest sector while Brian Healy, at centre half-back, also had a good game.
Elsewhere Conahy struggled. Five of the Young Irelands forwards and a midfielder scored from play, while only two attackers and a midfielder hit the target from play for Conahy. The losers required a much better return from attack to earn victory.
The winners displayed a greater appetite throughout the game and worked hard for every score. Conahy’s play lacked the passion required to win important games, while too often the players’ first touch let them down.
A poor finish to both halves ultimately proved Conahy’s undoing but over the 60 minutes Young Irelands were the more impressive side and deservedly picked up the two league points.
SCORERS: Young Irelands - Paul Kehoe (0-5, 0-4 frees); Thomas Carroll (1-1); Paul Holden (0-3, 0-2 frees); Sean Kehoe (0-2); J.P. Treacy (0-2, free, 65); Michael Lennon, Dick Carroll (0-1 each). Conahy Shamrocks - Shane Brennan (0-7, 0-6 frees), Kieran Mooney (0-2, 0-1 65), Alan Healy (0-1).
Young Irelands - Martin Carey, Niall Walsh, Michael Walsh, Emmett Byrne, Jonny Dunphy, J.P. Treacy, Chris Nolan, Michael Lennon, J.J. Lennon, Thomas Carroll, Sean Kehoe, Dick Carroll, Paul Kehoe, Paul Holden, John Morris. Subs: Jodie Foley, Sean Carey. Conahy Shamrocks - Andy O’Keeffe, Seamus Óg Brennan, David Healy, Nicholas Feehan, John Mullan, Brian Healy, Philly Cass, Kieran Mooney, Padraig Harding, Donal Brennan, Gary Kavanagh, Paddy Mullan, Alan Healy, Micheál Lawler, Shane Brennan. Subs: Tom Phelan, Peter Vickery.
Referee - Thomas Duggan (Mullinavat).