A strong wind can be an advantage in any team’s quest for success - but only if you really know how to use it.
St Peter’s showed that a little bit of knowledge of the elements can yield a big result as they ended the Leinster interests of Castlecomer in this schools senior hurling quarter-final at a bitingly cold Fenagh.
The Wexford school were clever in the way they adapted their game to suit the wild wind that pegged them back in the first half. In the second half, they used it to leave their Kilkenny rivals trailing in their wake.
The home of Carlow’s Centre of Excellence offers plenty of great pitches, but little shelter from the weather. It was no surprise to see Castlecomer opt to play with the wind in the first half on Saturday, but although they made a bright start they couldn’t make it count for much more.
Quick to get going, Comer opened the scoring when James Bergin split the posts with a long range free inside 60 seconds. Proof of the strength of the elements followed soon after, when Conor Delaney landed a mammoth free from inside his own half.
Castlecomer seemed to get to grips with the slick pitch a little quicker than their rivals. When midfielder Stephen Walsh added his name to the scoresheet, popping over a point following a quickly-taken line ball, it seemed as if the Kilkenny school would race to victory - but Peter’s were about to apply the handbrake.
They started with a defensive switch, bringing a fourth player into their half-back line to cope with the booming puck-outs Conor O’Dwyer was landing deep in their territory.
That led to more possession for Peter’s, who then opted to work the ball out with short and snappy passes. It took some time to yield more scores after Joe O’Connor’s 12th minute opener - Matt Joyce could have got them going when he pulled on a John Lee Myler delivery, but sent the ball flashing wide - but once they truly found their range there was no stopping St Peter’s.
The Wexford side controlled the scoring for the remainder of the half, much of that thanks to strong play from the likes of wing-back Glen Malone, midfielder Jake Firman and corner-forward Billy Dunne. It was Dunne who got the ball rolling with a free, Jack Petitt following up with a 23rd minute shot Conor O’Dwyer had to tip over the bar.
Force ball forward
With the sides now level ’Comer pushed their corner-back John Dowd upfield in an effort to force more ball forward. The tactic worked to a degree, but yielded wides instead of scores (they had eight in the first half alone).
The remainder of the half saw Dunne take over. A point from play, followed by two frees, saw Peter’s go in three clear at the break (0-6 to 0-3).
Buoyed by their performance against the wind, Peter’s were a different prospect when it was at their backs. Joe O’Connor proved as much, winning possession from the throw-in and soloing on before splitting the posts from distance.
The new half started poorly for Castlecomer, who struggled to make any gains. By the time Conor Delaney opened their second half account with a 47th minute free they had slipped to seven points behind (0-11 to 0-4), as Dunne (free), Firman and Jack Petitt all hit the target.
Delaney was a bright spot at that stage, cutting some more points off the deficit through frees, but Peter’s now had a lead they wouldn’t let slip too easily. Dunne tacked on two like scores from placed balls, then saw a long range free drop into the ’Comer net to all but seal the game with five to play. One more point, coming from the hard-working Petitt, was enough to seal a semi-final against Borris VS - and send ’Comer through the exit door.
SCORERS: St Peter’s - Billy Dunne (1-6, 1-5 frees), Jack Petitt (0-3), Joe O’Connor (0-2), Matt Joyce (0-2, 0-1 free), Jake Firman (0-1). Castlecomer CS - Conor Delaney (0-4, frees), James Bergin (0-1, free), Stephen Walsh (0-1).
Castlecomer CS - Conor O’Dwyer, John Dowd, Steven Dowd, Eoin Murphy, Conor Dowling, Conor Delaney, Robert Reid, Donal Cass, Stephen Walsh, Oliver Feehan, Niall Grogan, Sean Buggy, Conor Delaney, Shane Feehan, James Bergin. Subs: Bill Murphy, Adam Dempsey.
St Peter’s - Oisin Foley, David Clarke, Darren Byrne, Jody Donoghue, Ciaran Murphy, Aaron Maddock, Glen Malone, Conor Hearne, Jake Firman, Jack Petitt, Joe O’Connor, Ronan White, John Lee Myler, Matt Joyce, Billy Dunne. Subs: Quinn Saunders, Rory O’Connor.
Referee: Brochan O’Reilly (Laois).