Monday 19 February 2018

Eire Og bettered by Offaly champs

THE Eire Og Greystones hurlers bowed out of the Leinster Junior Club Hurling championship at the semi-final stages in Ballinamere, C Offaly.

Despite a wonderful start for the visitors on a really awful day for hurling, a couple of dreadful defensive errors allowed the home side to get going and when that happened there was only ever going to be one result in this game.

The conditions have to be included in any assessment of this game. A heavy drizzle that, at times, increased to a soaking rain, fell on the Offaly venue for some time ahead of throw-in and all through the game and made the task that bit more difficult for the Eire Og men on what was an extremely compact pitch.

Added to this the accuracy of the Ballinamere free taker Paddy Murphy at half forward who scored an impressive eight points, seven from placed balls, the periodic bursts from former Offaly county man Stephen Weir at full forward that yielded the home side 2-03, and a very poor defensive performance from the visitors and you have, in essence, the story of this game.

Talk in the tiny shed-like stand where a lot of the supporters sought shelter during the game was of the fact that the Offaly Senior hurling management team were in attendance in a scouting capacity and there were a handful of Ballinamere players who should have impressed them to some degree, most notably the two men already mentioned above.

Had they the pick of the Eire Og team then their sights would be firmly set on Eire Og midfielder Stephen Kelly and perhaps the honest and hard working Billy Cuddihy.

The Eire Og start was the stuff of dreams and it gave the travelling supporters something to cheer about on the desperately grey afternoon in the midlands.

Stephen Kelly fired in a superb ball to the full forward line and Phelim Byrne moved on to the ball that dropped in front of him and he pulled beautifully and sent the ball to the back of Kieran McLouighlin's goal.

Aidan Ivers came to the crowds' attention then when he blocked Stephen Weir's attempt in front of goal. The ball made its way to Peter Keane who was fouled and Stephen Kelly fired over from distance with only two minutes gone on the clock.

The Greystones men were performing very well at this early stage, Full forward Phelim Byrne had a wide recorded after five minutes as the Ballinamere men, who saw off the challenge of Kilcormac-Killoughy in the Offaly Intermediate hurling final to rise to Senior ranks in the Faithful County, were finding it difficult to come to terms with the pace of the young Wicklow side.

Leon Browne won a free on eight minutes and James Cranley fired the ball between the posts to give the visitors a five-point lead.

But then Ballinamere were woken up by a tremendous score from the sideline by midfielder Jamie McKeogh. Either side of a Paddy Murphy point from a free, which saw James Kelly pick up an early yellow card, Eire Og's Stephen Kelly sent in two long balls that trickled harmlessly wide. And then the Ballinamere pressure picked up considerably.

Murphy added his second, this one from play after 13 minutes and then a moment later some horrendous defending allowed Nicholas Minnock to pounce for Ballinamere's first goal of the game.

A few minutes later and full forward Weir was on hand to tap in his side's second goal after a shot from Minnock had been saved and Paddy Murphy added other free seconds later to leave the score at 2-04 to 1-02 after 19 minutes.

The visitors would rally however and pop over two points, one from Anto Byrne and the second from a Cranley free to leave just a score between the sides but the home side would enjoy whatever breeze was drifting down the field for the second half and they looked like they would be the team who were going to pull away.

And so it transpired. Led by the impressive Paddy Murphy and Martin Og Buggy and helped in no small part by a strong midfield they tapped on the next four points. Eire Og fired over two more points to bring an end to their scoring but Ballinamere pushed on and Weir's last minute goal brought an end to a difficult day in the midlands for the Greystones men who were simply outclassed by a strong, clever, and very handy hurling team who now face Kilkenny's Lisdowney in the Leinster final after the Kilkenny champions enjoyed an easy victory over Carlow Town in the second semi-final.

Scorers - Ballinamere: Paddy Murphy 0-08 (1f); Stephen Weir 2-03; Jamie McKeogh 0-01; Nicholas Minnock 1-00; Martin Og Buggy 0-01; Michael Murphy 0-01.

Eire Og Greystones James Cranley 0-02 (2f); Stephen Kelly 0-01; Phelim Byrne 1-00; Anto Byrne 0-01; Mattie Barden 0-02.

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