Newmarket return to Duhallow hurling summit after 40 years in wilderness
It's fair to say Newmarket's steely resolve proved instrumental to bridging a 40-year gap to regaining a hold of the Duhallow Junior A Hurling Championship. In doing so, Newmarket had returned to their second consecutive decider, having been defeated by history makers Dromtariffe in 2018.
Truth be told on that occasion, Newmarket had little complaints as their overall performance levels were well down on what supporters had expected. But returning to the Duhallow showpiece, Newmarket climbed off the canvas to erase four decades of disappointment since their outright triumph of 1979.
First time out, Newmarket shrugged off a determined challenge from Banteer in a closely contested tussle. Neither side was found wanting in terms of application and the verdict remained in doubt right up to the full time whistle only for Newmarket to respond better to dominate the closing stages and deliver the all important scores to sway the outcome.
That set up a semi final and a meeting against familiar rivals Dromtariffe, on this occasion, Newmarket looked by far the better side, showing more composure and crucially much better scoring options. Indeed Newmarket possessed a hunger and desire to overturn the previous season's debacle; they did so to record a four point triumph and advancement to the decider.
On the opposite side of the draw, Kilbrin were attempting to return to familiar days from the recent past on dominating this championship for the greater part of the last decade. It was remarkable that since Newmarket last won a divisional title in the latter 1970's, Kilbrin have been champions on 10 occasions.
Their initial title had arrived in 1978 and from the old decade, Kilbrin have been seriously competitive and consistent with five titles to their credit. From the 2019 campaign, Kilbrin's opening round victory over Millstreet surfaced after staging a surperb comeback to erase a ten point deficit. A four month wait and a depleted side motored well against Banteer in a semi final.
Kilbrin's direct play and quick reactions created concern within the Banteer defence, economic shooting paved the way too for a worthy win.
It set up an appealing clash in the decider in Tullylease where for a special clash between two great exponents of the game, Newmarket ended a 40-year wait to regain the E Tarrant & Sons Skoda Dealer JAHC accolades.
The victors were men on a definite mission from start to finish, the haunting memory of the previous season's defeat by Dromtariffe provided Newmarket with a motivation that wasn't going to be denied.
From a competent all round team performance, Newmarket's movement was positive, their link play impressive and the workrate helped dominate the key sectors. A perfect start, a long delivery from Paddy Browne found man of the match Conor O'Keeffe to billow the Kilbrin net.
For a spell, an understrength Kilbrin snapped out of their lethargy yet Newmarket's game carried a greater threat, five points without reply helped secure a 1-11 to 0-7 advantage at the break. Though falling further adrift, Kilbrin refused to wilt, goals in quick succession from substitute Daniel O'Sullivan and Niall Field helped trim the deficit to five points.
Newmarket weathered the storm on run in with main marksmanship Donal Hannon on target from play and placed balls allowing team captain Alan Ryan lift the John Joe Brosnan Memorial Cup.
With silverware secured, Newmarket head into a new decade in an optimistic mindset. Decent outings in the county championships allowed Newmarket compete and provide stern tests for ultimate county and provincial winners Cloughduv and Russell Rovers.
The challenge in 2020 is for Newmarket to defend their title against creditable opponents before the chance of creating further inroads in the county.