The South Roinn A under-21 hurling championship reached a conclusion at last after a hectic battle in Mooncoin on Saturday, with Mullinavat the victors.
There was so much to admire in the performances of both sides in this replay. The final score does not reflect the true story. Both enjoyed periods of supremacy.
While Mullinavat, on balance, quarried most from their rich vein of form, Glenmore could never get the couple of goals that were needed to get them to the finishing line ahead. Mullinavat were more adept at grabbing goals.
Last week Adam Murphy belted a terrific 0-16 between the Mullinavat posts. He managed a fine seven frees this time, and he added a goal as well. The ’Vat were well aware of Murphy’s clinical finishing and they didn’t present him with too many chances.
The full-back line of Micky Jones, Thomas Aylward and Conor Duggan led the way. They conceded a mere three frees. Such discipline was replicated right through the entire Mullinavat effort, and a rich dividend was the end result.
Pre-match talk suggested that the team netting goals would win. So it proved. Mullinavat had a far more potent attack. In Ger Malone they had a good captain and leader. He bagged 3-2, a marvellous take. He had the big centre forward, Pat Mulhearn, who put in a superbly brave and passionate shift alongside him, and the flashing Johnny Walsh as lethal as the sword of Zorro.
Full forward Liam Fennelly won a goodly amount of hard ball on the edge of the Glenmore square, but this lad really should show more self-confidence and convert some of the possession he works so hard to capture.
Mullinavat, last year’s losing county finalists, were never headed. They enjoyed a glorious start when a delivery by Mark Mansfield deflected off the hand of Ger Malone, ending up in the Glenmore net. Less than 50 seconds had elapsed. By the seventh minute, Glenmore, thanks to points by Alan Murphy (two frees) and a smart point from a vastly improved Ger Aylward - particularly in the first half - were level.
Mid-way through the half the teams were still level. A super goal in the 21st minute by Ger Malone fired Mullinavat ahead. At half-time they led by 2-6 to 0-9. It was still anyone’s game.
The winners started well in the second half. On 41 minutes they were ahead by four points. Thanks to some passionate work by Liam Fennelly on the left side of the Glenmore defence, the ball was spooned out to John Walsh, whose speedy run led to him rocketing the ball home for the third Mullinavat goal.
A minute later the game was all but settled. Man of the match Ger Malone shot his third and fourth for the winners. Glenmore didn’t surrender. They threw what they had into the fray. Alan Murphy slammed home a opportunist goal in the 46th minute.
It brought the sides closer. Mark Aylward grabbed another goal in the 61st minute, but it served a cosmetic agenda only.
Mullinavat have a superb defence. If there are two better central defenders than the Aylward brothers, I haven’t seen them at under-21 level. Micky Jones played a blinder. Mark Mansfield played well, but not as well as in the drawn game. We have spoken of the attackers, a sextet not to be trifled with.
For Glenmore, Sean Duggan was a severe loss through injury. Philip Roche and Patrick Foran tried hard to stifle the threat of the Glenmore attack. Shane Doherty worked his socks off, as did Mark Aylward, Ger Aylward, and Liam Hennessy.
SCORERS: Mullinavat - Ger Malone (3-2); Mark Mansfield (0-7, five frees, one 65); John Walsh (1-1); Darren Watters (0-1). Glenmore - Alan Murphy (1-7, five frees, two 65s’); Ger Aylward (0-4); Mark Aylward (1-0); Shane Doherty, Colm Doherty (0-1 each).
Mullinavat - Conor Frisby, Micky Jones, Thomas Aylward, Conor Duggan, Brian Phelan, Simon Aylward, Robbie Malone, Darren Kenneally, Mark Mansfield, Ger Malone, Pat Mulhearne, Darren Watters, Mossy Jones, Liam Fennelly, John Walsh. Subs - Adam Mansfield, Nathan Malone.
Glenmore - Shane Murphy, Adrian Doherty, Colm Foran, Michael O’Connor, Sean Duggan, Philip Roche, Patrick Foran, Shane Doherty, Colm Doherty, Alan Murphy, Liam Hennessy, Ger Aylward, Eoin Aylward, Mark Aylward, Dean Croke. Subs - John Gahan, David Flynn.