Thomastown United were narrow but deserved winners over Ballyhale Shamrocks on Sunday at a drizzly Grennan when the junior hurling ‘A’ league swung into action.
This season, there is one group of seven teams in the Southern championship. The placings after six rounds will decide the quarter-final match ups, with whoever tops the table earning a bye into the semi-finals.
A fresh and carrying breeze dominated the contest, with the home side enjoying first use of it. Ahead by five points at the break, 0-12 to 1-4, they were good value for the gap.
It had been considerably wider until Liam Grant deftly goaled seconds before half-time after fetching a long free around the square.
Although Enda Fitzpatrick had opened the scoring, pointing in the third minute, it was the only moment Ballyhale led. Thomastown took control and were 0-8 to 0-3 to the good on 17 minutes, after Robbie Donnelly slotted his fifth free. A minute earlier, he had converted from play.
Willie Coogan replied shortly afterwards, but the leaders stayed in the driving seat. A monster free swept over by James Hoyne was augmented by Donnelly. Pádraig Caulfield (sideline) and Luke Blanchfield were on the mark before Grant threw his men a lifeline via his opportunism.
The Shamrocks were right in it when Brian Cody clipped over two frees in the five minutes after the resumption. Robbie Donnelly replied before Rónan Corcoran, now moving beautifully, shot a super brace in the 45th and 47th minutes, giving a two-point chase at 0-13 to 1-8.
They did cut the margin to the bare minimum five minutes later when Keith Nolan belted over a long free. But Thomastown kept chipping away, posting a few crucial points.
None was more important than Gary Lehane’s excellent effort from the left wing on 55 minutes, which made it 0-15 to 1-10. Donnelly subsequently sent over an eighth free.
Cody did convert two more dead balls and had a tricky free to equalize at the death. But the breeze, the day’s dominant factor, gusted the ball wrong side of the post and Thomastown took the spoils on foot of a more consistent performance.
For the winners, Paul Barron kept a sound goal. James Hoyne was a towering figure at centre back. Colin Clarke got through a lot of hurling at full back. James Burke and Cían O’Meara also showed well.
Gary Lehane and Andy Walsh were a decent midfield pairing. Robbie Donnelly, lively in open play, proved an accomplished freetaker. The fact that the other five forwards all scored says a lot.
The visitors were capably served by David Harrington between the posts. Tom Coogan was by far their most effective defender, gaining best assistance from Gavin Butler and Keith Nolan. Willie Coogan moved well when shifted to midfield.
The attack never really clicked. The promising Rónan Corcoran carried the most threat. Brian Cody showed in flashes, with Donnchadh Fitzpatrick and Liam Grant grafting to the end.
Thomastown United - Paul Barron, James Burke, Colin Clarke, Kieran Treacy, Cían O’Meara, James Hoyne 0-1 (f), Eóin Treacy, Gary Lehane 0-1, Andy Walsh, Robbie Donnelly 0-9 (8f), Jamie Lanigan 0-1, Johnny Barron 0-1, Pádraig Caulfield 0-1 (sl), James O’Hanrahan 0-1, Luke Blanchfield 0-1. Sub - Conor Corway for Luke Blanchfield (56m).
Ballyhale Shamrocks - David Harrington, Tom Coogan, Kieran Grace, Eugene Aylward, Keith Nolan 01 (f), Gavin Butler, Eóin Doyle, Dylan Doran, Enda Fitzpatrick 0-1, Brian Cody 0-4 (f), Liam Grant 1-1, Willie Coogan 0-1, Mark Phelan, Donnchadh Fitzpatrick (captain) 0-1, Rónan Corcoran 0-3. Sub - Conor Phelan for Mark Phelan (39m).
Referee - Dominic Connolly (Mooncoin).