Glittering Gaels leave Saints seeing stars

Trevor Spillane

Reporter:

Trevor Spillane

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tspillane@kilkennypeople.ie

Glittering Gaels leave Saints seeing stars

James Maher (St. Martin's) loses his hurley in this tussle with Robbie Buckley (O'Loughlin Gaels)

As far as opening days go, O’Loughlin Gaels couldn’t have planned theirs any better!

The reigning county champions sent out a clear warning of their intentions for the 2017 season with ruthless efficiency as they put St Martin’s to the sword in Sunday’s senior hurling league opener.

The city side were mean in defence, controlling in midfield and dangerous in attack as they blitzed the Muckalee side with a first half performance that left the Saints seeing stars.

O’Loughlin’s had several star performers, with Paddy Deegan leading the way. A run with the inter-county side has brought his game on, a point he proved as he dashed here and there across midfield and tied Martins’ up in knots.

Deegan was one cog in the Gaels machine which worked well overall, picking out players in space with telling passes that led to good scores.

They gave a real sign of what they could do when they first went for goal after 11 minutes, Robbie Buckley and David Burke bringing a great double save from Martin’s netminder Colin McGrath.

There was little the keeper could do, however, when the Gaels raised their first green flag two minutes later. In a sweeping move that started with wing-back Jay Leahy, play was moved on by Gary Kelly to Buckley. Again, his shot was stopped by McGrath, but this time Burke made no mistake when he swatted the rebound home.

The goal marked the start of a blistering spell in the game, where both sides attacked with pace. Martin’s were hurt by that big score but responded in perfect style, Thomas Breen pouncing to sweep the sliotar into the right side of the net after McGrath’s booming 15th minute free broke loose at his feet.

At that stage, it seemed that the spectators were set for a gigantic battle between two free-scoring teams, not least as there was just a point between the sides after 20 minutes, but O’Loughlin’s were only getting warmed up.

With seven minutes left in the half, the city side started the devastating run which would lead them to victory. Deegan got them going, making an excellent catch from a Martin’s puck-out before handing possession off to Mark Kelly.

Burst Through

When an avenue opened in front of him, Kelly didn’t hesitate. He burst through, pausing only to drill an unstoppable shot that rocketed into the top left corner of the net.

O’Loughlin’s weren’t content to let up, and pressed on for more. Deegan led the way with a point, then watched as his team-mates began to stretch Muckalee with short and snappy passes. John Mulhall did respond with a minor score for Martin’s, but five without reply from the Gaels in the last five minutes saw them pull well clear.

With men running into space all the time, the city side had plenty of options when it came to shooting. They used many of them, Mark Kelly (2), Robbie Buckley, Mark Bergin (free) and Deegan all picking off well-worked scores to leave their side comfortably ahead at the break (2-9 to 1-3).

The second half didn’t live up to the same levels as the opening 30 minutes, but O’Loughlin’s remained composed throughout. They continued to pick off points when chances arose, while a tight defence put the shackles on Martin’s.

And, when the Saints did march on, they found Stephen Murphy a hard barrier to breach. The goalkeeper made a superb save, diving to his right to turn Jason Shore’s 42nd minute strike around the post.

The game had tipped along in the third quarter, O’Loughlin’s constantly refreshing things with a few substitutions, before they ramped up the pace to race even further away in the last 13 minutes.

Some of the replacements played their part in the barrage of scores, Sean Bolger teaming up with Robbie Buckley for a fine point. Jack Nolan was another to impress during that spell, teeing up several scores for Bolger and Paddy Deegan. Mark Bergin and another sub, Danny Lenehan, also got in on the act as the Gaels cantered to the finish line after an impressive hour’s hurling.

SCORERS: O’Loughlin Gaels – Mark Kelly (1-3); Mark Bergin (0-5, 0-3 frees); Paddy Deegan (0-5); David Burke (1-0); Sean Bolger (0-3); Robbie Buckley (0-2); Jack Nolan, Danny Lenehan (0-1 each). St Martin’s – John Maher (0-5, 0-4 frees); Thomas Breen (1-1); John Mulhall, Bryan Byrne (0-1 each).

O’Loughlin Gaels – Stephen Murphy; Anthony Forristal, Brian Hogan, Eddie Kearns; Huw Lawlor, Andy Kearns, Jay Leahy; Paddy Deegan, Shane Mahoney; Sammy Johnston, Mark Kelly, Mark Bergin; Robbie Buckley, David Burke, Gary Kelly. Subs: Sean Bolger for Burke, 31 mins; Jack Nolan for Mahoney, 38 mins; Gary Bryan for Forristal, 41 mins; John Doyle for Johnston, 44 mins; Danny Lenehan for G. Kelly, 52 mins.

St Martin’s – Colin McGrath; Robert Reid, Patrick Nolan, Shane Cadigan; James Maher, Ollie Walsh, Bryan Byrne; Shane Kinsella, Brian Coady; John Mulhall, Thomas Breen, Jason Shore; Donal Shore, John Maher, Brian Mulhall. Sub: Noel Darcy for D. Shore, 51 mins.

Referee - Peter Burke (Emeralds)