THEIR 2013 campaign started with the right result, but St Martin’s had to work to get the win in the opening round of the senior hurling league (0-15 to 1-10), writes Trevor Spillane.
Reigning Shield champions, Martin’s (Muckalee) showed great resolve in both halves to get the better of a game Tullaroan at John’s Park on Friday evening.
Having worked hard to open up a three point lead by three-quarter stage (0-13 to 0-10) Martin’s were left reeling when Paul Buggy levelled matters, somehow finding enough room to squeeze a close-range free past six Muckalee men stationed on the goal line.
That could have been curtains for the Saints, but they dug deep and withstood the swell of pressure that came their way from a revived Tullaroan. The presence of John Maher certainly helped; his coolness over placed balls was vital as Martin’s edged their way with a 65 eight minutes from time.
Although Tullaroan drew first blood with a Ken Coogan point inside 20 seconds and a Mark Walsh free, a double from the accurate Maher tipped Martin’s in front by the seventh minute (0-3 to 0-2).
They couldn’t sustain that early charge, however - although they weren’t helped by a low-hanging eye-watering sun behind the Nowlan Park end posts. That made shooting difficult - Martin’s shot eight wides in the opening half alone.
Tullaroan took that hesitancy from the opposition and turned it to their advantage. With Tommy Walsh keeping the shackles on Martin’s tall forward Brian Mulhall they took control in attack, Mark Walsh (2), Paul Buggy and Padraig Walsh shooting them in front by the 21st minute (0-6 to 0-4).
Tullaroan could have extended that advantage, going close when Ken Coogan’s delivery from midfield was picked off by Shane Cuddihy but his 23rd minute shot was stopped by Colin McGrath. They had a second bite at the cherry when John Maher latched on to the rebound, but again McGrath stayed big to make the save.
The lead was back to three when Padraig Walsh found time and space to gallop on to a Mark Walsh free and casually split the posts, but Martin’s were determined not to let their rivals slip too far in front.
Brian Mulhall, now re-sited in the corner, used his height to win a dropping ball and wriggled away from Michael Maher to hit a point. Two John Maher frees made it a level game, which is how it stayed until half-time after Martin Walsh and Maher traded further points (0-8 to 0-8).
The stalemate continued into the second half as neither side could edge their way in front. Martin’s had the best of the early chances, but were slow to commit men forward - Tomas Breen could have picked out the unmarked Brian Mulhall when a goal chance beckoned on 36 minutes but he opted to shoot for a point.
Failed to go for jugular
That was deflected for a 65, but even then Martin’s failed to go for the jugular, Richie Holland batting the sliotar out from under his bar before safely clearing his lines.
The Saints did raise their game after that, stringing three points together to move into the ascendancy. John Maher did all the damage, two from frees, but they were helped by another Colin McGrath save, the netminder doing well to bat out a Mark Walsh free on 43 minutes.
McGrath had no such luck when Walsh did rattle the net from another close range free on 48 minutes, leaving the sides level for the seventh time in the evening. However, that proved to be Tullaroan’s last score - Maher’s 52nd minute 65, followed by a Colin McGrath free from half-way, saw Martin’s home. However, they will have to hone their shooting ahead of round two - 13 wides is an alarming stat which, on another night, could have left them empty-handed.
SCORERS: St Martin’s - John Maher (0-10, 0-8 frees, 0-1 65); John Mulhall (0-2); Colin McGrath (0-1, free); Robert Shore, Brian Mulhall (0-1 each). Tullaroan - Paul Buggy (1-2, 1-0 free); Mark Walsh (0-4, frees); Padraig Walsh (0-2); Ken Coogan, Martin Walsh (0-1 each).
St Martin’s - Colin McGrath, James Maher, Patrick Nolan, Shane Cadigan, Niall Moran, Ollie Walsh, Bryan Byrne, Joe Maher, Canice Maher, John Mulhall, Paul Maher, Tomas Breen, John Maher, Brian Mulhall, Robert Shore. Subs: Eoin McGrath for P. Maher, 46 mins; Shane Kinsella for B. Mulhall, 53 mins.
Tullaroan - Richard Holland, Paddy Campion, Michael Maher, Mark Simpson, Tommy Walsh, Stephen Maher, Richard Maher, David Dowling, Ken Coogan, Paul Buggy, John Maher, Padraig Walsh, Mark Walsh, Shane Cuddihy, Martin Walsh. Sub: Richie Butler for J. Maher, 46 mins.
Referee - Denis O’Sullivan (John Lockes).