Fenians (Johnstown) experienced the sort of awful day in the opening round that few in the club could ever have imagined, and while it would be an over statement to suggest they bounced back by fashioning a victory here, the win at least scattered the dark, dark clouds, for a while, writes John Knox.
This second round clash in the senior hurling league at a well turned out and well marshalled Urlingford on Friday didn’t produce sparkling fare. It was a battle between two teams who reckoned it offered a chance of a win that could have a serious bearing on things at the lower end of the table come the end of the league.
Consequently the action was frenetic, sometimes shapeless and aimless, and most definitely uncompromising. In other words, no one stood on ceremony, no one stood back from anything; relegation class of hurling in an early season setting.
Tullaroan had use of the strong wind blowing down the field towards the road end goal, and two simple enough errors that cost them two goals during this time probably cost them the game too.
Early on Martin Walsh (T) and Kevin Power (F) swopped points. By the fifth minute Tullaroan had added like scores through Padraig Walsh (2) to nose 0-3 to 0-1 in front and the match looked set to follow a trend largely dictated by the influencing elements.
Even when Enda Purcell (F) and Paul Buggy traded scores, things appeared to be going to plan as Tullaroan did most of the pressing. Then on 10 minutes Fenians enjoyed a nice break. A rash clearance from in front of the Tullaroan goal literally put the ball into the hand of a grateful Kieran Grehan about 30 metres out.
The said Grehan charged forward, and turned a lucky break into a fine goal, shooting high into the net from 12 metres on the left. Already Fenians had matched the number of scores (3) they had registered in the first round, so they were heading for bonus territory.
The losers hit back for an equaliser through Martin Walsh, after a lovely lay-off by Eamon Brennan in front of goal, but then they conceded big again to Kieran Grehan in the 16th minute. This time Eoin Shield broke a dropping ball, but an anxious defender put the sliotar in the way of Grehan who hung it up in the net (2-2 to 0-6).
Those two fine strikes by the wing-forward were the difference between the sides during the half, at the end of which Fenians led by 2-5 to 0-10. Two lovely late points from difficult frees by Paul Buggy gave the losers hope, but it was definitely advantage Fenians, who had made the best of things, as the posting of one wide might suggest.
Tullaroan resumed with a quick point from the defiant Chris Maher – he was back after a near two year absence – but they lost their footing shortly afterwards. After Enda Purcell had drilled a low shot wide from in front of goal, the Fenians man won back the lead with a nice point from 35 metres.
Both sides dug in after that and for 10 minutes or so they pounded each other without either defence conceding. This was earn your keep time, and none did it better than J.J. Delaney (as you would expect) but especially the wonderful John Henderson in the winners defence, along with Conor Tobin, Cathal Ryan, Paul Quinlan and Kevin Power.
For Tullaroan, Tommy Walsh hit a ferocious amount of ball as he tried to inspire a winning effort, while Stephen and Chris Maher, Martin and Padraig Walsh – he was asked to try and win too much ball in the air, which he is not yet physically equipped to do – also hit the high achievement mark.
Early in the third quarter minors from Power, Willie Brennan and Power again from a free on midfield sneaked Fenians 2-9 to 0-11 clear. During that run Tullaroan missed two chances from convertible frees, so it appeared their luck was out.
Back in game
Not so! With two minutes of normal time remaining the losers were back in the game, scores from Mark Walsh, Paul Buggy (2) and Padraig Walsh, against one reply from Paul Quinlan, cutting the divide to the minimum. And that minimum would have been erased had another effort from Martin Walsh not come back into play off an upright.
Anyway, Fenians gathered themselves for one final push, and reward in the shape of points from Kevin Power and Willie Brennan, a lovely score, earned them a cherished victory which will surely lift spirits in the parish.
Scorers: Fenians – Kieran Grehan (2-0); Kevin Power (0-6, five frees); Willie Brennan, Paul Quinlan, Enda Purcell (0-2 each). Tullaroan – Paul Buggy (0-5, four frees, one 65); Padraig Walsh, Martin Walsh (0-4 each); Mark Walsh, Chris Maher (0-1 each).
Fenians – P.J. Ryan, Cathal Ryan, J.P. Grehan, Eoin Phelan, John Henderson, J.J. Delaney, Ciaran Behan, Conor Tobin, Declan Garrett, Eoin Shiel, Paul Quinlan, Kieran Grehan, Willie Brennan, Kevin Power, Enda Purcell. Subs – Kevin Reid for D. Garrett; P.J. Delaney for C. Behan; Darragh Tobin for P.J. Delaney (inj).
Tullaroan – Richie Holland, Paddy Campion, Michael Maher, Sam Holmes, Tommy Walsh, Stephen Maher, Paul Glennon, David Dowling, Ken Coogan, Martin Walsh, Chris Maher, Padraig Walsh, Mark Walsh, Eamon Brennan, Paul Buggy. Sub – Richard Maher for S Holmes (inj).
Referee – Peter Burke (Emeralds).
PS – This was the first viewing of referee, Peter Burke in charge of a match. He did well enough. He is a young talent who needs time and experience to mature. Let him have it!