Future looks bright
St Mary's 4-9 Tinahely 4-5
The St Mary's and Tinahely under-13 footballers served up an absolute cracker of a football match on Monday evening last in Coolkenno. If this opening game is anything to go by in terms of standard and excitement, then the season ahead promises great excitement and potential.
This was a battle that had everything. High skill levels, tenacity, sweeping attacking football, dogged defending, great scores and not a bad word said from start to finish.
At the end it seemed almost cruel that there had to be a winner, such was the effort and honesty of both sets of players. Alas, sport can be an unkind creature and so it is that St Mary's were left rejoicing after a scintillating second half, while Tinahely can certainly hold their heads high after their first half excellence and their coming so close to sealing the deal thanks to some really excellent play, only for missed chances to haunt them on the final whistle.
St Mary's can rightly slap every single player on the back after their performances. Each warrior gave his all on the field, but it was perhaps the performances of Conor Byrne and Eddie Cullen, especially in the second half, that delivered the victory for the Shillelagh/Coolkenno combination.
We single out Byrne for two reasons. In Thomas Kelly, Tinahely have an excellent attacker. He bagged 1-3 (three frees) and was the go to man for the hour up front. However, Byrne's defending against Kelly in the second half was superb and it helped to slightly curtail the talented forward. The second reason we highlight Conor Byrne is that when his side needed someone to break the line and drive hard at the Tinahely goal, there he was, bursting from deep and his late 1-1 was incredibly vital for the St Mary's cause; the point gave them the lead after 55 minutes, the goal put them out of sight at the death.
But this win was so much more than a one-man show for St Mary's. All over the field they had fine young footballers. Ciaran Lambert stood tall in goal when required. Ryan Hilliard, Patrick O'Byrne, Rua Defaoite and Samuel Driver defended admirably, with Driver showing all the signs of a tight-marking tenacious corner-back.
Ryan Purcell, Eddie Cullen, Conor Mernagh/Bowes, Harry Knight, Dylan Doyle, Jamie Schoeb, Shane O'Connor Keogh, Jamie Purcell, Alex Meehan and Lorcan Fitzsimons were all dedicated to the cause. Eddie Cullen was a huge figure for St Mary's. His tally of 1-4 (one free) was incredibly vital, but 1-3 of it came at the perfect time and lifted St Mary's from trailing by four points to leading by two in the space of three minutes early in the second half.
The first half was owned by Tinahely, at one end thanks to the determined Daniel Tighe, the excellent Barry Kealy and the formidable Maurice Hedderman. Jake Kenny in goals was massive to the Tinahely cause, as was Pearse O'Byrne.
Around the middle of the field, Tinahely had quality in the form of James McDonald, Ross Byrne, Lucas Cronin and Callum Keenaghan while Cillian Murphy, Aleskey O'Shea and Shane McLoughlin all worked their socks off over the course of the entertaining 60 minutes.
It was Thomas Kelly and Bryan Tallon that dominated in the scoring charts for Tinahely. Tallon looks to be a goal-poaching machine and Kelly is a proper attacker who can win his own ball and score or create as he sees fit. Seems to have that bit of space when he's on the ball.
Tallon opened the scoring with a well-taken goal that got in past Ciaran Lambert. St Mary's responded well and pointed through Eddie Cullen only for Thomas Kelly to swing over a free to make it 1-1 to 0-1 after nine.
Conor Mernagh/Bowes bagged a fine score three minutes later and St Mary's could have leveled but for two wides.
Tinahely responded well. A point from Cillian Murphy was followed by a lovely goal from Thomas Kelly and the St Mary's net was rattled moments later when Bryan Tallon fired home with 22 on the clock to give the visitors a 3-2 to 0-2 lead.
Thomas Kelly added a point from a free before Conor Byrne stirred the St Mary's challenge with a late 1-1 to send the home side in within reach of the visitors at 3-3 to 1-3.
St Mary's needed a good start and Jamie Purcell gave them exactly that with a ripper of a goal. Tinahely hit back through a superb Daniel Tighe point and then Eddie Cullen took control of things and had 1-3 on the board in three minutes, the goal nothing short of a missile that gave Jake Kenny no chance of stopping it.
Tinahely fought back bravely but recorded some wides before lovely play up the field through Barry Kealy, James McDonald and Thomas Kelly resulted in a shot blazing across the St Mary's goalmouth to the back post where goal magnet Bryan Tallon was on hand to flick home to the back of the net with 16 gone.
Back came Tinahely but the hand of Conor Byrne saved the day when he intercepted brilliantly, and Jake Kenny was on hand to save at the other end from Jamie Purcell as the game swept up and down the field.
Samuel Driver won a dirty ball in his own backline and was awarded a free out with 20 on the clock. This allowed his team to launch an attack down the wing where the excellent Jamie Schoeb played a big role in what would become a point for Shane O'Connor Keogh to level the game after 21 minutes.
Both sides missed chances over the next few minutes but the marauding Conor Byrne fired over a screamer with the help of the crossbar to give St Mary's the lead after 25 minutes of the second half.
St Mary's were in the ascendency now, but Cillian Murphy caught a high ball superbly and Jake Kenny found a man with his kick-out despite huge pressure on the restart from St Mary's.
Tinahely attacked for all they were worth, but they just couldn't finish their chances. At the other end, St Mary's had scorers and line breakers and Callum Keenaghan raised a white flag thanks to excellent work out the field by Jamie Schoeb and Shane O'Connor Keogh.
Tinahely struck back through a free from Thomas Kelly, but the last say of the game went to Conor Byrne who had galloped up the field from deep and was on hand when Eddie Cullen's strike was saved by Jake Kenny and the St Mary's man walloped home the rebound to the back of the Tinahely net to put the game to bed once and for all.
This was an excellent game of football packed with entertainment and excitement and plenty of skill and bravery. Fair play to both teams.
Scorers - St Mary's: Eddie Cullen 1-4 (1f), Conor Byrne 2-2, Jamie Purcell 1-0, Conor Mernagh/Bowes 0-2, Shane O'Connor Keogh 0-1.
Tinahely: Bryan Tallon 3-0, Thomas Kelly 1-3 (3f), Cillian Murphy 0-1, Daniel Tighe 0-1.
St Mary's: Ciaran Lambert, Ryan Hilliard, Patrick O'Byrne, Rua Defaoite, Conor Byrne, Samuel Driver, Ryan Purcell, Eddie Cullen, Conor Mernagh/Bowes, Harry Knight, Dylan Doyle, Jamie Schoeb, Shane O'Connor Keogh, Jamie Purcell, Alex Meehan, Lorcan Fitzsimons.
Tinahely: Jake Kenny, Pearse O'Byrne, Maurice Hedderman, Daniel Tighe, Barry Kealy, Ross Byrne, James McDonald, Callum Keenaghan, Lucas Cronin, Cillian Murphy, Bryan Tallon, Aleskey O'Shea, Thomas Kelly, Shane McLoughlin.
Referee: Eamonn Doyle (Kiltegan)