THREE scores during the closing five minutes of the opening half turned the tide and set-up St Martin’s (Muckalee) for a good first win in the senior hurling league at wind lashed and well attended Gowran on Sunday.
Clara had been the more daring side for much of the opening half in that they did most of the attacking. However, their shooting was off – nine first half wides – and then the game blew up in their faces when they concede a goal and point within a minute nearing the end of the half.
The losers had struggled to put together a 0-3 to 0-1 lead by the 17th minute thanks to scores from Keith Hogan (free), Lester Ryan and a lovely one from Neal Prendergast after great approach work by Lester Ryan and Stephen Quinlan.
There didn’t appear to be any great danger to their castle when Martin’s main marksman, John Maher pointed from a difficult angle moments later. However, in the 25th minute the game swung violently in favour of the winners.
Eoin McGrath worked hard in the right corner at the town end to create space for John Maher, who from no more than 12 metres blasted a low shot into the far corner of the net. The puck-out was won by Joe Maher. He hit the target from a healthy distance.
All of a sudden the tables were turned. Martin’s were 1-3 to 0-3 in front. Before the rest John Maher added another point after taking an over-head hand-pass from a gradually improving John Mulhall to add to Clara’s woes.
While the winners opened the new half with a minor from Joe Maher, the losers hit back smartly. They fought hard to earn points for Keith Hogan (two frees), one following a foul on Quinlan, and Eoin O’Shea to leave but a brace between the sides as the contest entered the closing 20 minutes.
Alas, that was the best we were to see from the losers. St Martin’s slowly but surely grew in confidence and their half-back trio of Alan Murphy, Ronan Maher and James Dowling all but buried the opposition. What ball got passed them was mopped up by Ollie Walsh, who was in top order in the left corner.
Further afield then John Mulhall took on more responsibility and carried the game to the opposition, and with Joe Maher another lively lad, Clara began to go backwards.
Mulhall found a new high level to his game after shooting two quick points to extend the gap between the sides to 1-6 to 0-6. John Maher extended that again when he pointed after Eoin McGrath had threatened the opposing goal.
Maher added another pair of points to extend Martin’s unanswered run to five before Keith Hogan hit back for a Clara point in the 53rd minute (1-10 to 0-7). Sadly, for Clara, the game was gone by then and they were condemned to their second defeat.
To be fair to the losers, they opened promisingly and they looked good. David Langton made two spectacular early catches and he was on top of his man, while Liam Ryan got through some powerful hurling. However, the back-up, apart from that provided by Shane Prendergast, just seemed to peter out and after the quick goal and point the losers simply went backwards.
Scorers: St Martin’s – John Maher (1-6, three points frees); John Mulhall (0-3); Joe Maher (0-3); Tomas Breen (0-1). Clara – Keith Hogan (0-5, four frees, one 65); Neal Prendergast, Lester Ryan, Eoin O’Shea (0-1 each).
St Martin’s – Colin McGrath, Shane Cadigan, Paddy Nolan, Ollie Walsh, Alan Murphy, James Dowling, Ronan Maher, Brian Byrne, Damien Maher, John Mulhall, Eoin McGrath, Joe Maher, John Maher, Tomas Breen, Robert Short. Subs – Shane Coonan, Noel Darcy.
Clara – Kevin Nolan, Tom Ryan, Shane Prendergast, Sean O’Shea, David Prendergast, Conor Phelan, David Langton, Liam Ryan, Neal Prendergast, Lester Ryan, Stephen Quinlan, Eoin O’Shea, Keith Hogan, Brian Phelan, Brian O’Shea. Subs – Peter Nolan, Ben Nolan, Dermot Nolan, Killian Phelan.
Referee – Eddie Crowley (Mooncoin).