They may have enjoyed a bit of luck at the finish, but this was a well and hard earned victory, 1-12 to 0-13, for James Stephens in the senior hurling league that could turn out to be significant in the end.
New manager, Mark Tyrrell and his selectors got their reign off to a promising start, with a tightly bound team showed huge spirit and drive. ’Stephens may have stumbled into the game, falling 0-1 to 0-4 behind early on, and then stumbled of it when they saved a last gasp Carrickshock penalty, but in between there was little wrong with their attitude or play.
Carrickshock had regrets, of course they had, leaving cold, hail lashed Ballyhale. Apart from gaining nothing from the late penalty, they also saw a good blast from a 21 metre free in front of goal in the 55th minute turned over the bar. Oh yes, Michael Rice was absent with a groin injury.
So in terms of chances, yes, they had them but they didn’t, or in two crucial situations, weren’t let take them.
A heavy hail shower before the start left the pitch glistening like a field on a winter’s morning with the sun burning off the frost. For all it was hard to hold the feet; to turn; to lift or strike a heavy ball.
The hurling was compromised by the conditions; the effort all round was raw, hard but full on. Richie Power (free) and the ever probing, the ever driving Matthew Ruth swopped early points.
Three in-a-row for ’Shock from Richie Power, John Tennyson and Richie Power again left them 0-4 to 0-1 clear by the 22nd minute, their best position of the match.
The ’Stephens recovery was sparked by a score from David McCormack after Donnacha Cody picked up a poorly directed clearance and put the scorer in the clear before shooting. Eoin Larkin, ‘Mr Reliable, Mr Cool’ then followed with a hat trick to give the winners an interval lead of 0-5 to 0-4.
The winners drove on smartly, and with the addition of a well taken 34th minute goal by Ben Lahart – he got a chance to run at goal, and he did exactly that – they jumped 1-6 to 0-5 clear.
Carrickshock sinking? No way! The game was only warming up. With John and Richie Power producing some great individual touches and scores, the Southerners mounted a rally. Twice they got within a point of ’Stephens before they eventually caught up in the 50th minute, doing so with a free from J.P. after a foul on R.P.
James Stephens never flinched, and that man Ruth, who shipped some fair knocks but never stopped driving forward, popped over the lead score within seconds. Then a foul on Ruth gave Eoin Larkin the chance to double the difference from a free, which he did.
Another minor from Larkin left Carrickshock looking up from the wrong end of a 1-12 to 0-12 score with six minutes remaining.
The remaining attacking play was dominated by Carrickshock. Richie Power was grounded in front of goal after fielding a high ball. John Power blasted low. The ball was turned over the bar.
Fine shot, fine save
During the following minutes the same player missed the target twice from long range, once from a free. Then right on the hour sub Andrew Power was fouled in front of goal. Penalty! A fine shot by John Power was equalled by a fine save. ’Stephens escaped to victory.
Heroes for the winners were Larkin and Ruth, Jackie Tyrrell, who chased Richie Power everywhere, Donnacha Cody, Tomas Kehoe and Eamon Sheehy. The two Powers, John and Richie, were top class for the losers, while John Dalton and Pat Tennyson got through a fair amount of good hurling too.
Scorers: James Stephens – Eoin Larkin (0-9, six frees, one 65); Ben Lahart (1-0); Matthew Ruth (0-2); David McCormack (0-1). Carrickshock – John Power (0-5, two frees); Richie Power (0-5, three frees); John Tennyson, Jamie Power, Brian Donovan (0-1 each).
James Stephens – Derek Brennan, Niall McQuillan, Tomas Keogh, Luke Hickey, John Comerford, Jackie Tyrrell, Donnacha Cody, Eamon Sheehy, Ray Coady, Anthony Lawlor, Matthew Ruth, David McCormack, David Walton, Eoin Larkin, Ben Lahart. Subs – Richie Hayes, Alan Tyrrell, Ger Flood.
Carrickshock – Patrick Farrell, Paddy Mulcahy, Pat Tennyson, David Franks, John Murphy, John Dalton, John Cahill, John Tennyson, Brian Donovan, Mark O’Dwyer, John Power, Shane Power, Kevin Farrell, Richie Power, ???? Subs – James Grace, Andrew Power.
Referee – Peter Burke (Emeralds).