In a season when Mullinavat caught many a late bus to victory, they did the same when blasting to a terrific win in a high class intermediate hurling final on Sunday.
Points from young tigers Joe Gahan, John Walsh and Mark Mansfield during a sizzling closing six minute blast snatched the prize from gutsy St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) just as they appeared set to drive on to victory. The score was 0-17 to 0-14.
The previous four scores were all picked off by strong motoring St Pat’s as they got on top in what was an up and down battle. Those four scores brought them back level at 0-14 each, and momentum was firmly with them.
However, Mullinavat, who have made a habit of surviving in tight battles this season, came up with another late party trick and three lovely scores to complete a magnificent league/championship double at Nowlan Park, plus earn promotion back to the senior division.
The nail biting finish was in keeping with the general trend of a match that overflowed with classy deeds and moments of individual brilliance. Some of the point scoring from top scorers, John Walsh and Kevin Kelly was of the highest order; Mark Mansfield played like a man inspired, as did Michael Brennan for the opposition.
But a head above the rest was St Patrick’s stylish wing-back, Bill Staunton, whose touch, daring and eye for a smart delivery sent a tingle up the spine every time he gained possession. His single minded hurling, hurling, hurling attitude epitomised the spirit of a contest in which the contestants seemed intent on decorating further an already enchanting season.
The winners opened backed by the fresh breeze, but as the game exploded into an open, skilful and fast flowing affair, there was nothing between the teams during the half. They were level five times during the half, the last time at 0-7 each in the 26th minute when Kevin Kelly flashed over a free for St Patrick’s.
A great 29th minute point, and nothing short of that description, from midfield by Mark Mansfield edged Mullinavat 0-8 to 0-7 ahead at the rest.
Within 50 seconds of the restart it was all square again, thanks to a Joe Brennan dash up the left wing and William Tell like shot at the target.
Mullinavat didn’t even blink. They bounced back to claim the next three scores through John Walsh, a gift for Ger Malone after a puck-out was wrongly posted, and Mark Mansfield after a lovely catch by Willie O’Dwyer, who placed Joe Gahan to provide the scorer with possession (0-11 to 0-8).
Kevin Kelly sneaked a score to keep Pat’s chasing strongly at close quarters. Ger Malone upped the divide in the 41st minute before John Walsh (free) stretched it further, 0-13 to 0-9.
Kelly and Ian Duggan traded scores before St Patrick’s hit full pace between the 47th and 53rd minutes when scores from Kelly (2), following fouls on Joe Brennan and Michael Brennan; Bill Staunton, a magnificent effort after a charge up the field, and Michael Brennan brought them back level at 0-14 each.
It was sink or swim time for Mullinavat. Just as they did against Young Irelands (Gowran) and neighbours Tullogher Rosbercon in the semi-final, the Rod Iron men showed nerves of steel. They plundered three lovely scorers to win; cap off a wonderful season and open a path into the Leinster club championship.
Pauric Gahan, long serving skipper Willie O’Dwyer, Ger Malone and others have reason to look back with pride on this huge achievement.
Likewise with St Pat’s James Gannon, Michael Brennan and Brian ‘Brook’ Phelan, who helped transform a cold and dreary November afternoon into a delightful occasion befitting a county final day.
SCORERS: Mullinavat - John Walsh (0-9, six frees, one penalty); Ger Malone, Mark Mansfield (0-3 each); Joe Gahan, Ian Duggan (0-1 each). St Patrick’s - Kevin Kelly (0-9, six frees); Michael Brennan (0-2); Bill Staunton, Joe Brennan, Seoirse Kenny (0-1 each).
Mullinavat - James Culleton, Joe Fennelly, Thomas Aylward, Seamus Farrell, Robert Malone, Pauric Gahan, Simon Aylward, Dinny Butler, Mark Mansfield, Joe Gahan, Ger Malone, Ian Duggan, Jamie Fennelly, Willie O’Dwyer, John Walsh. Subs - Liam Fennelly, Brian Phelan, Paddy Raftice.
St Patrick’s - Michael Gannon, John Mooney, James Gannon, Paddy McEvoy, Bill Staunton, Kieran Delaney, Geoff Brennan, Michael Brennan, Brian ‘Brook’ Phelan, Jody Phelan, Seoirse Kenny, Joe Brennan, Conor Delaney, Kevin Kelly, Eoin Bergin. Subs - Barry Staunton, Sean Mooney, Mark Staunton, Robert Healy.
Referee - Sean Cleere (O’Loughlin Gaels).
IHC Roll of Honour
Conahy Shamrocks (4) - 1930, 1932, 1977, 1986.
Clara (4) - 1982, 1998, 2007, 2012.
Mullinavat (4) - 1989, 2001, 2009, 2014.
John Lockes (3) - 1935, 1993, 1999.
Graignamanagh (3) - 1976, 1980, 1985.
Dicksboro (3) - 1991, 2006, 2010.
Danesfort (2) - 1931, 2011.
Ballyhale Shamrocks (2) - 1974, 1997.
O’Loughlin Gaels (2) - 1978, 1996.
St Lachtain’s (2) - 1984, 2009.
Mooncoin (2) - 1990, 1994.
Erin’s Own (2) - 2003, 2008.
Dunnamaggin (2) - 1995, 2000.
One each - Urlingford (1929), St Fiacre’s (1934), Slieverue (1936), Éire Óg (1937), Coon (1973), Muckalee-Ballyfoyle Rangers (1975), St Patrick’s (1979), Glenmore (1981), Thomastown (1983), Graigue-Ballycallan (1981), Tullaroan (1988), Young Irelands (1991), St Martin’s (2002), Carrickshock (2004), Rower-Inistioge (2013).