Beaten championship finalists of last season, Kilmacow were expected to make easy work of this task, and they did.
The Southerners were comfortable trap to line winners in this junior hurling league clash at pleasant Kilmacow on Sunday.
Cloneen, a small club with big heart, played with commendable honesty and a fair bit of pride, but they had no hope of bridging the gulf in class.
Their goalie Sean O’Neill brought off two good saves with his foot, one in each half, that would have made his opposite number, Richie O’Neill, the former Kilkenny player, proud. So hats off to the former.
If he did well, he was left in the shade by wing-back, Padraig Delaney, who is a real neat performer with a ‘stick’. One liked what we saw here, because here is a lad with real talent.
Others like Paul Kelly, Brian Cahill and Kieran Whelan impressed too, especially for the wholehearted way they stuck with a difficult task throughout.
The delightful Kilmacow venue was a hive of activity, with a soccer game in progress in one corner and people either walking or jogging around the grounds.
On the pitch the locals were all business too, with the championship just around the corner. They were determined to make this ‘easy thing’ into a decent work-out at least.
They were urged by their mentors “to keep it simple and direct”, and by and large they did that.
They were put on their scoring way by Richie McNamara in the second minutes when he slipped over a lovely point on the turn.
Luke Hearney added a nice long range point, the first of many from the team, as the predictable run of play was largely in one direction.
When centre-forward, Willie O’Toole split the Cloneen defence with a lovely pass to Richie McNamara in the ninth minute, the latter had the easy task of crashing a shot to the net.
The losers were already 0-1 to 1-4 down, but that didn’t appear to matter. They were here to play hurling to the best of their ability, and they got on with, painful though the score against them might be.
Goalie O’Neill (Sean, that is) had his first big moment in the 13th minute when saved a bullet from the flying Johnny Hayes.
The same Hayes was flying about, racing up and down the wing and well able to take points at full pace. He was the most prominent attacker at Kilmacow went in for the rest with a handsome lead of 1-16 to 0-4.
They weren’t taking things easy. They used possession well, as a mere three stray shots at the target would suggest.
The second half opened with Luke Hearney and Alan Hosey swopping points.
The losers then put back-to-back points together through Brian Cahill, but Johnny Hayes posted a nice pair at the double at the other end to resume normal service.
On Kilmacow flowed from there to the finish, with their serious work-rate impressing, along with the hurling of Diarmuid O’Dwyer, Luke Hearney, Shane Gaule, Paddy O’Keeffe and especially Johnny Hayes.
They will be without Andy Kearns (cruciate injury) and James Connolly (ankle ligaments) when they open in the championship. Some of the troops may be injured, but their spirit is good.
SCORERS: Kilmacow - Johnny Hayes (0-10, four frees); Richie McNamara (1-2); Luke Hearney (0-4); Shane Gaule, Paddy O’Keeffe (0-3 each); Emmett Blanchfield (0-2). Cloneen - Brian Cahill (1-5, frees); Ronan Walsh (0-4); Alan Hosey (0-1).
Kilmacow - Richie O’Neill; Conor Dowling, Ray Hennessy, Ryan McKenna; Sean Flynn, Diarmuid O’Dwyer, Dean Power; Luke Hearney, Paul Kelly; Shane Gaule, Willie O’Toole, Johnny Hayes; Richie McNamara, Paddy O’Keeffe, Emmet Blancfield. Subs: Alan Murphy, Maurice Costello, Gerry Hearkeny, Richie Kearns, Johnny Barron.
Cloneen - Sean O’Neill; Aidan Barry, Noel Roche, Conor Delaney; Dean Shortall, Paul Kelly, Padraig Delaney; Brian Cahill, Kieran Whelan; Eoin Regan, Ronan Walsh, Breanáin Buggy; Cathal Barry, Alan Hosey, Padraig Cooney. Subs: Shane Kierans, Ciaran Cooney, Gearoid O’Neill.
Referee - Raymond Byrne (Glenmore)