They say a good start is half the battle and so it transpired at a damp Castlecomer on Friday when St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) defeated neighbours Conahy Shamrocks in the intermeidate hurling league. After 10 minutes the winners led by 1-7 to no score and Conahy looked to be facing a nightmare.
The team was being over-run all over the pitch with the defence experiencing a torrid time. Paddy Mullan was moved back as an additional defender after 10 minutes and this helped to stem the avalanche of attacks on the losers goal. It was a move that should have been made earlier.
An excellent Shane Brennan goal in the 11th minute finally got Conahy off the mark, but the first half was a chastening experience for them. Kevin Kelly was in devastating form for the winners and the signs were ominous for Conahy when he shot the first score after 15 seconds.
The former county minor star was unstoppable in the opening half, but this was far from a one man show for the winners. Joe Brennan availed of slack marking by Conahy to shoot a sixth minute goal and Kevin Kelly added a second before the interval.
An 11 point interval lead left Conahy with a mountain to climb, but if the final result did not go the team’s way, their second half performance will have given them some consolation.
Signs not good
The signs did not look good for Conahy immediately on the resumption when Joe Brennan edged his side further ahead with a point. It was now a question of rolling-over and capitulating or facing up to the considerable challenge of last year’s junior champions.
Conahy was the dominant side for the final 20 minutes, but their scores were hard-earned. The winners defence stood up manfully to the challenge and played a big role in ensuring the Ballyragget men took the two points.
Shane Brennan shot another goal, this time from a penalty midway through the half, but the crucial score of the half was another Ballyragget goal from Joe Brennan. That score stopped the Conahy momentum, but when Paul Buggy goaled from a 20 metre free the margin was back to six points.
Conahy added another point, but it was too little, too late.
Despite Conahy’s second half fight-back there was no disputing the superiority of the winners. Despite a narrow loss last week to the Emeralds, St Patrick’s is a side brimming with confidence and that showed in their play.
An easy half
The winners defence had an easy first half, but excelled when the pressure came on in the closing twenty minutes. Geoffrey Brennan, Stephen Staunton and Stephen Roberts were outstanding in this sector.
Kevin Kelly continues to hurl with confidence and assurance. He is very close to being involved on a bigger stage. Joe Brennan and Eoin Bergin were other impressive performers in a strong Ballyragget attack.
The Conahy defence had a difficult opening thirty minutes, but after the break David Healy and particularly Denis Kelly were superb. The introduction of Paul Buggy was a factor in Conahy’s second half improvement, while Shane Brennan and Alan Healy made valiant efforts over the sixty minutes.
Scorers: St Patrick’s - Kevin Kelly (1-8, 0-4 frees); Joe Brennan (2-2); Michael Brennan, Seoirse Kenny (0-1 each). Conahy Shamrocks - Shane Brennan (2-4, 1-4 frees); Paul Buggy (1-0, free); Gavin Nolan, Paddy Mullan & John Wallace (0-1 each).
St Patrick’s - Michael Gannon; John Mooney; Stephen Staunton; Robbie Healy; Kieran Delaney; Geoffrey Brennan; Stephen Roberts; Brian Phelan; James Gannon; Michael Brennan; Bill Staunton; Kevin Kelly; Joe Brennan; Seoirse Kenny; Eoghan Bergin. Subs - Paddy McEvoy; Geoff Morrissey; Jody Phelan; Conor Foley.
Conahy Shamrocks - Andy O’Keeffe; Thomas Nolan; Peter Dollard; David Healy; Damien Webster; Denis Kelly; Pádraig Harding; Paddy Mullan; Gary Kavanagh; Alan Healy; John Feehan; Shane Brennan; Gavin Nolan; Declan Buggy; Micheál Lawlor. Subs - Paul Buggy; John Wallace: Barry Murphy; Eoin Carroll.
Referee: Sean Cleere (O’Loughlin Gaels).