Martin’s hold nerve in tight finish and the reward was Shield final place

A MILD and overcast afternoon in Palmerstown was the setting for St Martin’s (Muckalee) and Graigue Ballycallan to square up to each other in the final round of the senior hurling league with both teams teetering over the edge of the relegation zone.

A MILD and overcast afternoon in Palmerstown was the setting for St Martin’s (Muckalee) and Graigue Ballycallan to square up to each other in the final round of the senior hurling league with both teams teetering over the edge of the relegation zone.

Both were desperate for a win. St Martin’s snatched it and ended up in second place in the group, which earned them the bonus of a place in the Shield final against O’Loughlin Gaels.

John Mulhall got Martin’s off to a flying start when he pointed within 20 seconds of the throw-in. John Purcell (G.B.)shot the first of his nine from a placed ball in front of goal. John Maher grabbed his first from play before adding another following a delivery from Shane Coonan.

James Ryall responded with a huge point from wing back for Graigue before fouls on Kevin Cleere and Eddie Brennan were turned into two points by shooting ace John Purcell. Eddie Brennan got his first point after 15 minutes after winning the break from a long clearance before Michael Hoyne and John Maher traded points from placed balls.

Seven point lead

John Purcell pointed another free before Willie O’Connor put a high ball across the face of goal where it fell kindly for Darragh Walton, who stuck it past golie Colin McGrath. Purcell tapped over another free to push Graigue into the lead by seven.

John Maher rifled over two frees before Jimmy Murphy and corner-back Adrian Burke pointed with two great strikes from the middle of the pitch. The Muckalee boys dragged themselves back into the game when a great run by Joe Maher resulted in a goal for the wing forward when his shot found the top corner of the net.

John Maher tapped over another free before half-time to reduce the deficit to two points.

St Martin’s came out in the second half all fired up. They grabbed points straight away through John and Paul Maher. All of a sudden the teams were level again.

John Purcell pointed three frees, two for fouls on himself, before Damien Maher pointed with a great strike from midfield. Maher and Purcell traded scores before Maher caught a booming puck-out from ’keeper McGrath before taking a point with style. Eddie Brennan scored his third and Ballycallan found themselves leading by two with only five minutes of normal time remaining.

John Maher tapped over another two frees to draw the sides level again before Joe Maher showed a great burst of speed down the right sideline before shooting over a lovely point on the run. John Maher then registered his 13th of the game and his fourth from play when he shot over from in front of the goal.

Ballycallan had a great chance to win the game when Eddie Brennan was fouled inside the 20-metre line when on his way through to goal. Michael Hoyne’s shot was saved. St Martin’s went home the victors by two points, leaving Graigue-Ballycallan facing a tough relegation battle against neighbours Tullaroan.

The luck breaks didn’t always go with Ballycallan, but with good young players like Darragh Egan, who held his man scoreless, and John Purcell, who hit just one wide from 10 frees, they have a good chance of turning things around.

St Martin’s are now guaranteed a quarter-final place in the championship. They will be hoping that the likes of John and Joe Maher will perform like they did here and that oculd see them through to the semi-finals.

Scorers: St Martin’s - John Maher (0-13, nine frees); Joe Maher (1-2); Paul Maher (0-2); John Mulhall, Damien Maher (0-1 each). Graigue-Ballycallan - John Purcell (0-9, frees); Darragh Walton (1-0); Eddie Brennan (0-3); Michael Hoyne (0-1, free); Adrian Burke, James Ryall, Jimmy Murphy, James Smith (0-1 each).

St Martin’s - Colin McGrath, Shane Cadigan, Paddy Nolan, Ollie Walsh, Alan Murphy, James Dowling, Ronan Maher, Damien Maher, Shane Coonan, Paul Maher, Eoin McGrath, Joe Maher, John Mulhall, John Maher, Robert Shore. Subs - Niall Moran, Thomas Breen, Canice Maher, Brian Byrne.

Graigue-Ballycallan - P.J. Pollard, Adrian Burke, Dermot Hoyne, Darragh Egan, Ciaran Hoyne, Michael Hoyne, James Ryall, Darragh Walton, Jimmy Murphy, Paddy Kennedy, Dermot Ryall, Willie O’Connor, Eddie Brennan, John Hoyne, John Purcell. Subs - Sean O’Dwyer, James Smith, Kevin Cleere.