Knowing when to hold fast and when to step up the pace and really go for the jugular yielded rich dividends for Tullaroan.
A change in tactic proved vital as they picked up their second win of the senior hurling league and local bragging rights by beating the Fenians (Johnstown) in Urlingford on Friday, writes Trevor Spillane.
Dropping a member of their full-forward line out into midfield and swamping the centre paved the way to victory. It also helped that they had real gems in Martin and Padraig Walsh, a duo who linked up well to drive their side home at the vital stage.
Played on an evening where squally showers made underfoot conditions tricky, Tullaroan waited until the last 10 minutes before making their dash for the line.
The change in form was impressive, as they turned a two-point deficit (0-11 to 0-13) into a four-point lead (0-17 to 0-13). Mark and Padraig Walsh had them level before Peter and Mark grabbed scores to give their side a lead they wouldn’t lose. The latter score was most impressive, Mark Walsh surging from midfield and shrugging off two hefty challenges to split the road end posts.
It was a confident ending from Tullaroan, who hadn’t enjoyed such freedom in the opening stages. As for the Fenians, they opened with plenty of intent but could never fully pull away. Even with the wind behind them the full-forward line continually drifted out, allowing several teasing deliveries to run over the end line instead of converting them into scores.
As a result, the game bore a tit-for-tat fashion for most of the first half. The sides were level on six different occasions, proof neither team could stamp their authority on the game, with the Fenians doing most of their scoring in the opening quarter.
With nine minutes on the clock the Johnstown men had fashioned a narrow lead (0-4 to 0-3), a run bookended by Kevin Power frees. Kieran Grehan fired over an impressive point after muscling his way through some tough challenges, but Mark (2) and Padraig Walsh made sure Tullaroan were breathing own the Fenians’ necks.
Inspired by Power and Grehan the Fenians kept driving on. The pair added another score apiece, each coming with a neat finishing touch at the end of some good team-play. Power split the posts from close to half-way for his score, following Cathal Ryan’s telling hand-pass, while Grehan found a sweet strike after a cutting one-two with Conor Tobin down the left flank.
The trouble for the leaders was that those moves were negated by a growing number of wides (they shot seven in the first half). Tullaroan were let off the hook. With Walsh and Jimmy Coogan spurring them on they were level again by the 21st minute, before free-taker Martin Walsh helped his side tip-toe ahead (0-7 to 0-6).
Having endured a barren run midway through the half the Fenians raised their game again in the closing stages. Willie Brennan and Power (free) pushed their side back into the lead, and while Mark Walsh levelled matters parity was shortlived. A final effort from Grehan and a mammoth free from his own 65m line from Power, gave Johnstown the edge at the interval (0-10 to 0-8).
In an already sparse game scoring chances proved harder to come by in the second half. When they did arrive, Tullaroan were more clinical. With Padraig Walsh (0-3) to the fore they brought their tally to 13 points by the 53rd minute, but Conor Tobin (2) and Kevin Power made sure the Fenians were neck and neck going into the final straight.
That Johnstown didn’t overtake their opponents was largely down to Padraig and Martin Walsh, who dropped back to shore up the centre. Both nabbed late braces to push their side five in front by injury-time. The Fenians did narrow the gap, Power getting the last touch on a dropping P.J. Ryan free to divert the sliotar to the net, but it was too little too late.
SCORERS: Tullaroan - Padraig Walsh (0-7); Mark Walsh (0-5, 0-2 frees); Martin Walsh (0-3); Shane Cuddihy, Jimmy Coogan, Eddie Campion, Peter Walsh (0-1 each). Fenians - Kevin Power (1-7, 0-5 frees), Conor Tobin (0-4), Kieran Grehan (0-2), Willie Brennan (0-1).
Tullaroan - R. Holland, P. Campion, T. Walsh, M. Maher, R. Maher, E. Campion, D. Dowling, K. Coogan, J. Moore, J. Coogan, Padraig Walsh, Martin Walsh, Peter Walsh, S. Cuddihy, Mark Walsh.
Fenians - P.J. Ryan, D. Garrett, J. Henderson, E. Phelan, L. Hughes, J.J. Delaney, R. Phelan, K. Grehan, C. Ryan, D. Tobin, C. Tobin, K. Power, W. Brennan, J. Whelan, D. Dermody. Subs: P. Duggan for Dermody, 41 mins; G. Henderson for Hughes, 60 mins.
Referee - S. Cleere (O’Loughlin Gaels).
Before the game a minute’s silence, followed by a warm burst of applause, was observed for the memory of the late Pat Delaney. Described as ‘a true legend’ by the announcer, Delaney won four senior All-Irelands with Kilkenny (he also captained the side in 1973), as well as five senior county championships with the Fenians.