THE long famine that lasted 33 years at junior level, and just one year less for an adult title in any grade, was ended at Nowlan Park when sometimes easy moving St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) swept to a fine win in the Kilkenny junior hurling final.
St Pat’s, leaders from trap to line, made lift difficult enough for themselves when they failed to convert a couple of goal chances created early on that could have taken a bit of the sting out of the opposition. However, in the end all worked out well as the Northerners registered what was only their second championship success in the grade, the last one having been posted in 1978.
Against that, Piltown could argue that it was a black Sunday for them because they blew a great chance to add to their three previous victories by throwing away scoring opportunities. They ran up 12 wides in all, six in each half.
The worst misses during the opening half came early and then nearing the break. Then in the closing moiety they squandered at least two relatively easy frees from close range and different sides of the pitch at the country end.
This is one visit to Nowlan Park that will have left Piltown with thoughts that they should, and could, have done better. The opposition failed to secure themselves against defeat until midfielder Brian ‘Brooky’ Phelan shot the last point in the 61st minute.
They were there to be caught up to that.
Zippy and mobile
St Patrick’s have a zippy and mobile front line, and during the opening quarter or so they were on fire. They repeatedly breached the Piltown defences, but goalie, James Norris, defied Michael Brennan and Joe Brennan on three different occasions.
If Norris was right on top of his game for the Southerners, the same couldn’t be said for the attack, which malfunctioned badly. They had a single score posted, admittedly it was a goal, during the opening 23 minutes.
Teams shouldn’t get away with such things in a county final, but still, for all their trials and tribulations, Piltown were but one big score off forcing a draw.
While this was a long way from being a good performance from St Pat’s, you could still see through their fast, stylish and inventive hurling that they have more to offer. Indeed, it was nice to see how at each both sets of players were when on the ball, which reflects well on preparatory work.
St Pat’s, a team with an average age of 22.5 years, can only get better.
The stars of the show were selfless centre-forward, Seoirse Kenny, who is a real playmaker, Kieran Delaney, assured full-back Jeff Morrissey who created the late, clinching point with a well aimed delivery, and Geoff Brennan, who got through an ocean of good hurling.
The fast, mobile inside line in attack of Michael Brennan, Bill Staunton and Joe Brennan all played well, and had they not come up against goalie Norris in inspired form they would have bagged a load of goals.
It was Norris who kept score shy Piltown in the match during the opening quarter. The breeze assisted opposition opened with points from Kevin Kelly, Jody Phelan, with an assist from Joe Brennan, and James Gannon, a lovely effort from 65 metres, during the opening eight minutes.
They wasted nothing. During the same time Piltown, although being out-hurled, registered three wides.
Two minutes later the ’keeper defied Joe Brennan by turning a well hit shot from the left out for a 65 with a spectacular dive to his left. A point (65) was conceded to Kieran Delaney when the damage could have been a lot worse (0-4 to no score).
In the 13th minute Piltown opened their account. A Richie McCarthy free from 20-metres on the right was blocked by the defensive wall, but the ball ran free to Kevin Brophy, who hammered it into the net from 10 metres (0-4 to 1-0).
Eleven minutes were to pass before Piltown added to their total through Andrew McCarthy (65). In between St Patrick’s ran up points per Kevin Kelly, a 65 won when Bill Staunton tested the goalie to the full with a whistling drive, Kelly a second time and then Joe Brennan, with an assist from Michael Brennan.
All this scoring action added up to the biggest divide of the half – 0-7 to 1-0.
The Andrew McCarthy point mentioned above was added to by Nicky Kenny before a reply was posted by Kevin Kelly, via a free after he had been tripped.
Nicky Kenny brought the scoring in the half to an end into ‘lost time’ when he landed a good point.
Half-time score: St Patrick’s 0-8; Piltown 1-3.
The main talking points during the rest centred on the importance of the saves by Norris, and Piltown’s poor finishing.
During the seven minutes after the turn the winners extended their lead to 0-11 to 1-4 when, ironically, Piltown were hurling better. The losers won a penalty in the 42nd minute when Richie McCarthy was tumbled to the ground. Peter McCarthy’s fiercely struck shot was blocked out for a 65 by St Pat’s guardian, Michael Gannon. The free shot was sent wide.
St Pat’s hit back for a point from a free by Kevin Kelly. Richard McCarthy replied at the double for Piltown as the match entered the closing 10 minutes (0-12 to 1-6).
Piltown missed a relatively easy chance from a free on the right at this stage, and after an exchange between Neil Kelly and Kevin Kelly, a very good pressure free from midfield, they missed another one from the opposite side.
With 59 minutes showing on the clock Martin Power was fouled on the 20-metre line just to the right after being put into space by Richie McCarthy. Kevin Walsh converted the free.
St Patrick’s were under pressure, heavy pressure. In the 61st minute Jeff Morrissey charged out of the defence on the left and his directed clearance to Brian ‘Brooky’ Phelan ended with the latter shooting the point that sealed victory for the Northerners.
Piltown’s finest were James Norris in goal, Michael Burchill, Andrew McCarthy, Shane Kinsella, Kevin Walsh, Peter McCarthy and Daniel Norris.
Scorers: St Patrick’s – Kevin Kelly (0-8, six frees, one 65); Joe Brennan (0-2); Jody Phelan, James Gannon, Brian ‘Brooky’ Phelan (0-1 each); Kieran Delaney (0-1, 65). Piltown – Kevin Brophy (1-0); Nicky Kenny (0-2); Kevin Walsh (0-2, frees); Richard McCarthy (0-2, frees); Andrew McCarthy (0-1, 65); Neil Kelly (0-1).
St Patrick’s – Michael Gannon, John Mooney, Jeff Morrissey, Steve Staunton, Kieran Delaney (capt), Geoff Brennan, Stephen Roberts, Brian ‘Brooky’ Phelan, James Gannon, Jody Phelan, Seoirse Kenny, Kevin Kelly, Michael Brennan, Bill Staunton, Joe Brennan. Subs – Conor Delaney for Jody Phelan 44th min; Paddy Cahill for Steve Staunton 48th min; Eoin Bergin for B. Staunton 51st min; Brian ‘Tom’ Phelan for M. Brennan (inj) 53rd min.
Piltown – James Norris, Brendan Norris, Pa Connolly, Michael Burchill, John Brophy, Andrew McCarthy (capt), Shane Kinsella, Philip Kenny, Kevin Walsh, Nicky Kenny, Peter McCarthy, Kevin Brophy, Richie McCarthy, Mark Culleton, Robbie Culleton. Subs – Daniel Norris for P. Kenny 36th min; Neil Kelly for P. Connolly 45th min; Seamus Norris for J. Brophy 47th min; Paul Kirby for R. Culleton 61st min.
Referee – Paddy Neary (James Stephens).