Mooncoin were slow enough to play their way into the game, but when they eventually did they performed well and turned a one time five point deficit into a three point win in this lively South under-21 Roinn A hurling championship semi-final in Mooncoin on Saturday.
Like the day itself, the game warmed up and brightened up slowly, and after a tepid enough opening half the hurling afterwards was tougher and the fare more engaging for that. In the end the home side were good value for the win, which earned them a place in the final against Mullinavat this weekend.
The early exchanges were ordinary enough, even if the exchanges were close and the teams went point for point over the opening four. Thomastown hit the front in lively fashion in the eight minute when Adrian Burked pulled on a ground ball on the right edge of the square and planted it in the net after a right wing cross from John Fitzgerald was poorly dealt with by the home defence (1-2 to 0-2).
During the following minutes the losers produced their best play of the match, and added a pair of points through the elegant Michael Donnelly, one a free, the other with an assist via a beautifully weighted hand-pass from Gary Lehane (1-4 to 0-2).
Indeed, the ’Town should have galloped well clear. Their next raid featured a driving 30-metre run through the heart of the home defence by Barry Whelan, and when he off-loaded the ball to John Fitzgerald on the right the latter’s first time ‘pull’ pressed ’keeper, Eoin Farrell into making a top class save. The ball was turned out for a 65, which was missed.
Badly needed point
Mooncoin hit back for a badly need point from the very lively and always troublesome, J.P. Purcell, who turned a profit on what started as a long odds chance. Things began to turn for Mooncoin from there on.
With deadly free taker Ethan Ryan doing very well, and Purcell and Eric Wall also joining in the scoring, they hit half-time 0-10 to 1-6 in front. Six of those scorers came from Ryan, who was the one who dragged the team back into the game, in a scoring sense at least.
Mooncoin were awarded a penalty in the 28th minute when Purcell was pulled back when breaking for a ball lost by a defender, but Niall O’Hanlon failed to hit the ball on the button and his shot sailed over the bar.
Still, after a slow and edgy enough start, the leaders had reason to be fairly happy.
The ’Town opened the new half with an early point from a free by Michael Donnelly following a foul on Barry Whelan. Mooncoin regained the advantage in the 36th minute when Ryan converted a free following a foul on hard driving centre-forward, Aidan Walsh, who had grown into the game along with a few colleagues, especially Niall Madden, Shane Walsh and David Kearns (0-11 to 1-7).
The losers should have regained the lead within a minute, but Lady Lucky was against them. In the one raid Gary Lehane and the impressive Adrian Burke saw quick fire shots come back into play off the cross-bar, and they got a third chance to finish the ball to the net, but they just couldn’t.
By now the fare had warmed up, and a couple of bouts of fighting broke out before the finish, nothing too serious, thankfully. Thomastown eventually got back level in the 40th minute when Donnelly landed a free from 40 metres (1-8 to 0-11).
Growing more powerful
Alas, that was to be their last score. Mooncoin were growing more powerful all the time, especially at the back where the motto appeared to be ‘give not an inch’. The defence grew more defiant as the contest wore on, and even if Mooncoin did finish under heavy pressure, there was no element of luck about the outcome.
In the end points during the closing 14 minutes from Ethan Ryan (2) and the ever improving Seamus Kearns upended the ’Town.
Along with those already mentioned, others who turned in a good tour of duty for the winners were Seamus Kearns, Eric Wall and Ian Walsh.
Good for Thomastown were Michael Donnelly, Robert O’Hanrahan, who was terrific during the opening half, Adrian Burke, James Hoyne and Barry Whelan.
Scorers: Mooncoin – Ethan Ryan (0-9, six frees, one 65); J.P. Purcell (0-2); Niall O’Hanlon (0-1, penalty); Seamus Kearns, Eric Wall (0-1 each). Thomastown – Michael Donnelly (0-5, three frees); Adrian Burke (1-1); Darren Burke, Tom O’Hanrahan (0-1 each).
Mooncoin – Eoin Farrell, Niall Blanchfield, Niall Madden, Cormac O’Shea, David Kearns, Shane Walsh, Ian Walsh, Seamus Kearns, Ethan Ryan, Eric Wall, Aidan Walsh, Padraig Walsh, J.P. Purcell, Niall O’Hanlon, Cormac Fleming. Subs – S. Walsh.
Thomastown – Dylan Walsh, Kieran Treacy, Brain Murphy, Cian O’Meara, Luke Blanchfield, James Hoyne, Robert O’Hanrahan, Barry Whelan, Andy Walsh, Gary Lehane, Michael Donnelly, Darren Burke, John Fitzgerald, Tom O’Hanrahan, Adrian Burke. Subs – J. Burke, P. Moore, E. Corway.
Referee – M. O’Sullivan.