Luck at one end, and a real lack of it at the other, told some of the tale as Erin’s Own got their senior hurling league campaign off to a winning start.
The Castlecomer men were the benefactors of some good fortune as they put a luckless Mullinavat to the sword at well-appointed Danesfort on Saturday evening.
However, to say that ’Comer were wholly fortuitous over the hour would be misleading. They showed real steel in their play, not least in a young defensive unit that had the measure of the ’Vat.
The reason Castlecomer could smile about things going their way boiled down to goal chances in the first half. Erin’s Own took theirs, albeit with a sprinkling of luck; Mullinavat could not.
The South Kilkenny side looked dangerous in the opening stages, and gave Comer a sign of their attacking intentions when John Walsh opted to go low with a close-range free on 13 minutes. His first shot was beaten back out by netminder Tom Brophy, Walsh pulling his first-time rebound marginally over the bar.
That was close – but not as close as their next effort. Willie O’Dwyer did well to wriggle past his man and bat a 14th minute shot beyond Brophy’s reach, but corner-back Niall McMahon swooped in to swipe the ball off the line. The danger wasn’t over though, as Adam Mansfield followed up to fire the sliotar goalwards, but his shot clipped the frame of the goal and stayed out.
The sides remained in close contention after that, but not for long. Michael Murphy fired Erin’s Own into a solid lead when his 20th minute shot dipped at the death. The sliotar took a wicked deflection off goalkeeper Jim Culleton’s hurley and spun into the net.
’Comer couldn’t believe their luck, but didn’t rest on their laurels. Aidan Moran foraged for a point, before Conor Fogarty followed up with a brace – the first from a free, the second following a neat dash down the right.
In a matter of minutes, Mullinavat had gone from one to seven points down (1-8 to 0-4). They did pull a point back through their main threat John Walsh (free), but ’Comer had time to mine another big strike before the break.
The score owed much to the persistence of Martin Boran, who refused to let the ’Vat backs clear a long Conor Delaney clearance with ease. Boran got his reward, winning possession before unselfishly squaring it to Sean Buggy, who couldn’t miss from close range.
Although Walsh took some of the sting away with two late frees, the real damage was done as Erin’s Own led by double scores at the break (2-8 to 0-7).
Struggled to find rhythm
Mullinavat had struggled to find real rhythm in that first half, with little coming the way of their full-forward line. They needed to make a big start to the second half, and got their wish within seconds of the restart. Ian Duggan forced the throw-in on to team-mate Joey Gahan, who raced through to tuck a low shot under the advancing Brophy.
It was just the start the ’Vat needed, but their efforts to build on that were denied as Erin’s Own kept them at bay. They held firm in defence while they cleared their heads, then kicked on to notch up three points in as many minutes through Michael Murphy and Conor Fogarty (two frees).
That was the kickstart Comer needed to get their second half going, but Mullinavat weren’t about to yield just yet. Tom Aylward got them moving with a mighty free from his own half, before Walsh (65) and Ian Duggan chipped in with more scores to cut the gap to five (2-12 to 1-10) with 10 minutes to play.
At that stage, the game seemed set for an interesting finale, but Erin’s Own weren’t about to let their rivals force their way back in. With the likes of Ciaran and Liam Wallace and Eoin Brennan working overtime to keep their men quiet, plus the tireless work of Conor Fogarty, who provided a solid link between defence and midfield, left the ’Vat feeding off scraps.
Comer kicked on in the closing stages, stringing together points through frees from Martin Boran and Fogarty as they put more daylight between the sides. Mullinavat didn’t quit, bagging a second goal when sub Conor Duggan squeezed his close range shot home in injury-time, but Comer were already assured of the points by then.
SCORERS: Erin’s Own – Michael Murphy (1-3); Martin Boran, Conor Fogarty (0-5, 0-4 frees each); Sean Buggy (1-0); Aidan Moran, Eddie Brennan (0-2 each); Shane Feehan (0-1). Mullinavat – John Walsh (0-8, 0-6 frees, 0-1 65); Joe Gahan, Conor Duggan (1-0 each); Tom Aylward (0-1, free); Mark Mansfield, Ian Duggan (0-1 each).
Erin’s Own – Tom Brophy; Liam Wallace, Conor Delaney, Niall McMahon; Ciaran Wallace, Eoin Brennan, Robert Moran; Conor Fogarty, Shane Feehan; Eddie Brennan, Aidan Moran, Michael Murphy; Sean Buggy, Martin Boran, Stephen Daly. Subs: Ross Connolly for Buggy, 49 mins; John Dowd for L. Wallace, 55 mins; Anthony Owens for Brennan, 60 mins.
Mullinavat – Jim Culleton; Mikey Jones, Tom Aylward, Joe Fennelly; Robbie Malone, Michael Malone, Paudie Gahan; Simon Aylward, Brian Phelan; Joe Gahan, Ian Duggan, Mark Mansfield; John Walsh, Willie O’Dwyer, Adam Mansfield. Subs: Darren Kenneally for Malone, 47 mins; Conor Duggan for A. Mansfield, 47 mins; Ryan Bland for Phelan 56 mins.
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