Determined St Martin’s put indifference behind them to detrail James Stephens heretofore powerful drive in the senior hurling league.
By defeating the city side, the battling Ballyfoyle/Coon/Muckalee men didn’t only throw themselves right back into contention, they prevented ’Stephens from qualifying for the league final and they also threw Group A wide open with a round of matches remaining on the weekend after next.
A brace of well taken goals in the second half by corner-forward Robert Shore were crucial to the outcome. His second one in the 49th minute opened up the biggest gap of the contest and left ’Stephens staring at a potentially crushing 0-17 to 3-15 deficit.
The Village, who won their previous three games, put the hurt of those concessions behind them, and while they out-scored the opposition by 0-4 to 0-1 subsequently it wasn’t enough to save them. Martin’s goalie, Colin McGrath had to produce a touch of brilliance during this time, blocking a well struck shot by sub, Luke Scanlon, with a diving save when a goal looked the most likely outcome.
“That was a good workmanlike performance,” was the after match summary from pleased St Martin’s manager, Charlie Carter. “We probably needed the points more than ’Stephens did. The result could have gone either way. The players ground out the result in the end. It is nice to see them win a tight battle.
Raised the bar
“The goals from Robert Shore were crucial. He can be handful in around the square. Those scores helped us over the line, but it was the work-rate throughout the field this evening that got us there, and I emphasise this evening. The players raised the bar for themselves now. We were disappointed to lose to Graigue-Ballycalla when we conceded three poor goals.
“Every time we were making a comeback we conceded and that finished us in the end. We didn’t work hard enough that night. We tried to address that issue approaching this game. The county titles are there for any club, any of the 12 of them. In the next game we will be chasing two more points. We are not looking beyond that.”
’Stephens, who were without injured defender, Donnacha Cody, opened smartly and jumped 0-3 to 0-1 ahead after only five minutes thanks to scores from Tomas Kehoe, a regular defender who started at midfield, Eoin Larkin and David Walton. The Canon Kearns Park pitch in Castlecomer was in beautiful condition, and two totally committed teams proceeded to produce a game of serious quality, particularly some of the finishing.
Martin’s soon found their way into the match. In the fifth minute they pieced together a lovely move which ended with them shooting a goal through Eoin McGrath. Patrick Nolan, listed at full-back but playing at No. 6, powered his way up the left wing and he moved the ball to John Maher, who supplied to the scorer.
Martin’s were in front, 1-1 to 0-3. They doubled the advantage when a chop down on John Maher was turned into a point from a free by Joe Maher. At the other end Eoin Larkin was deadly on the frees. He helped get his team back level, a situation that pertained three times during the following minutes as two evenly matched teams simply slugged it out.
Gaining upper hand
Anthony Lawlor regained the lead for The Village (0-8 to 1-4) in the 17th minute, and when their good hurling produced additional points quickly through David Walton and Larkin (free) they appeared to be gaining the upper hand.
Back came St Martin’s. They regained equality at 0-10 to 1-7, but then they conceded to Larkin (free) and David Walton as the break approached. The winners bounced back again, and into lost time John Maher landed the leveller after the towering and trouble causing Brian Mulhall had scored to leave the minimum between them.
Half-time score: St Martin’s 1-9; James Stephens 0-12.
The opening exchanges to the new half produced a flurry of scores, five in six minutes, with a Conor McQuillan effort edging James Stephens 0-15 to 1-11 in front.
The winners hit back for a pair of points before young Shore, the hero of the honour, made a grand entrance, sweeping the ball into the net at the town end with a one handed strike after fielding magnificently (2-13 to 0-15). Larkin and John Maher traded points before a foul on Jackie Tyrrell earned his county colleague another minor from a set piece play (0-17 to 2-14).
Thomas Breen rose the white before Matt Ruth sent a screaming low shot just wide at the other end. In the 49th minute Shore was in the right spot at the right time again, this time sweeping a right wing cross by John Maher to the net from the right edge of the square (3-15 to 0-17).
That was a hard knock for ’Stephens to take, but they didn’t buckle. Urged on by Tyrrell and Kehoe, now restored to the defence, Comerford, Walton and Larkin they piled forward. Walton pointed a close in free he had hoped might produce a goal before Larkin landed another difficult like effort.
Young Scanlon’s smashing drive and McGrath’s equally good save followed. The disappointment didn’t halt ’Stephens drive, but this time they had to give best to the power of Nolan, Mulhall, Maher, Dowling, Breen, Shore and company, who had a great appetite for the battle.
Scorers: St Martin’s - Robert Shore (2-1); John Maher (0-7, four frees, one 65); Thomas Breen, Brian Mulhall (0-3 each); Eoin McGrath (1-0); Joe Maher (0-1, free); Canice Maher (0-1). James Stephens - Eoin Larkin (0-12, 11 frees); David Walton (0-4, one free); Anthony Lawlor (0-2); Tomas Kehoe, Matt Ruth, Conor McQuillan (0-1 each).
St Martin’s - Colin McGrath, Niall Moran, Ollie Walsh, Shane Cadigan, James Maher, Patrick Nolan, Bryan Byrne, James Dowling, Canice Maher, Tomas Breen, Brian Mulhall, Joe Maher, Eoin McGrath, John Maher, Robert Shore. Sub - Paul Maher for E. McGrath.
James Stephens - Derrick Brennan, Paddy Duggan, Jackie Tyrrell, Luke Hickey, John Comerford, Eamon Sheehy, Niall Tyrrell, Tomas Kehoe, Conor McQuillan, Richie Hayes, David Walton, Matthew Ruth, Jack McGrath, Eoin Larkin, Anthony Lawlor. Subs - Luke Scanlon for McGrath; Niall McQuillan for P. Duggan; Niall Mullins for E. Sheehy.
Referee - Denis O’Sullivan (John Lockes).