Tuesday 26 March 2019

Munna Abbáin’s replay glory

Greenstar U20HC Division 3 final replay: Munna Abbain Gaels 3-11 Tara Rocks 4-6

Liam Stafford, Munna Abbáin’s captain, with Andrew Egan of Greenstar (sponsors) and Micheál Martin (County Board Vice-Chairman)
Liam Stafford, Munna Abbáin’s captain, with Andrew Egan of Greenstar (sponsors) and Micheál Martin (County Board Vice-Chairman)
The Munna Abbáin Gaels combination with the spoils of success
The beaten finalists from Tara Rocks prior to Saturday’s replayed encounter in Enniscorthy

Jason Goodison

It's been well over two months since two injury time goals gave Munna Abbáin Gaels an unlikely second bite at the cherry in the Greenstar Under-20 hurling Division 3 championship final.

And now, they will be especially grateful for Cathal Doyle and Darren Hayden's heroics on that September day after overcoming Tara Rocks in a thrilling replay in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Saturday.

Rarely, if ever, are two teams so evenly matched that, even after two sets of 60 minutes, one puck of the ball can still decide the outcome.

And to each side's credit, with so much on the line and in such a tight affair, their encounter made for extremely entertaining viewing, worthy of any TV screen.

The game pulsated, particularly in the second-half, and the lead changed hands on numerous occasions.

But, the winning team on occasion like this is often the one responsible for bagging the game's final goal, and this was once again the case as captain Liam Stafford's rather fortunate 51st-minute major swung the balance towards the Adamstown/Taghmon-Camross combination.

Similar to the initial encounter between the sides, Tara Rocks got off the mark quickest, with Seán Bardon opening the scoring in the first minute.

Ben O'Connor and Cathal Doyle traded placed balls before the game's opening goal gave the Rocks a commanding early lead (1-2 to 0-1).

O'Connor's under-hit shot was collected by Caleb Murphy who rounded the Gaels goalkeeper and placed into an open net.

However, this really should have been the Gorey District side's second major of the opening quarter as, five minutes prior to Murphy raising the flag, O'Connor unintentionally created another goal chance.

His effort cannoned off the upright and left Donnacha McDonald in acres of space, only for him to panic and pull on the bouncing ball with Páraic Wickham reacting well to make the save.

When Munna Abbáin did eventually get out of first gear, it seemed like they went straight into fifth. Stafford got his men firing when his long ball appeared to fly straight into the net as Alex Gondard contested it with 'keeper Seán Geoghegan.

No more than 30 seconds later, Cathal Doyle found the net again, smashing his shot across goal after his run down the right side created a shooting opportunity.

Doyle and Seánie O'Neill fired over two quick minors, and within three minutes Munna Abbáin went from being four behind to four up (2-3 to 1-2).

Paudie Hughes did eventually stop the rot with a well-taken point, but they still took some time to fully recover from the Gaels onslaught.

They managed to level it up at 2-4 apiece just before the half-time whistle, as Bardon pointed prior to Patrick O'Connor's first real involvement when he buried the ball past Wickham after the goalkeeper had batted a high ball in the direction of the Rocks forward.

If one was told at the start of the second-half that Tara Rocks would only score another 2-2, one would have presumed that a Munna Abbáin win was extremely probable. But, despite their low-scoring tally, the Rocks were always within touching distance of their opponents in a truly dramatic second period.

The north Wexford side re-opened scoring with their third, and Patrick O'Connor's second, major when he blasted past Wickham from close range.

While the Rocks had racked up almost a double figures worth of wides in the first-half, roles switched after the interval and the south county side became far more wasteful.

But, despite the number of wides, they continued to create chances and by the 46th minute it was all tied up again. A Cathal Doyle brace, with singles from Gondard and Colum Feeney, were only answered by one Ben O'Connor point.

Cathal Doyle scored again before Patrick O'Connor completed his hat-trick when he beat Wickham on his near post, leaving the goalkeeper thinking that he probably should have done better.

Doyle added another to Munna Abbáin's rapidly increasing points tally before Gondard tied the game up on the 51-minute mark (4-5 to 2-11).

There was plenty of time for that one last crucial goal, and another long-range effort by Stafford was uncharacteristically dropped into the net by Geoghegan.

Ben O'Connor added a late point, but Tara Rocks could not find the fifth goal they needed as Munna Abbáin - minus the suspended Luke Sinnott - triumphed.

Munna Abbáin Gaels: Páraic Wickham; Tom Banville, Stephen O'Keeffe, J.P. Delaney; Darragh Winters, Shane Doyle, Michael Dunleavy; Shane Lacey, Seánie O'Neill (0-2); Colum Feeney (0-1 '65), Liam Stafford (capt., 2-0), Anthony Roche; Cathal Doyle (1-6, 0-2 frees), Alex Gondard (0-2), Adam Sinnott. Subs. - Adrian Doyle for Roche (31), John Banville for A. Doyle (54), also Jack Murphy, Barry Og McGrath, Dillon Colfer.

Tara Rocks: Seán Geoghegan; Ben Morris, Cathal O'Reilly (capt.), Robert Murphy; Tom Mordaunt, Seán Forde, Conor Hughes; Paudie Hughes (0-1), Colm Noctor; Patrick O'Connor (3-0), Seán Bardon (0-2), Andrew Murphy; Caleb Murphy (1-0), Ben O'Connor (0-3, 2 frees), Donnacha McDonald. Subs. - Stephen Mordaunt for McDonald (46), Liam McCarthy for C. Murphy (53), also Maurice Cousins, Luke Devitt.

Referee: Niall McDonald (Crossabeg-Ballymurn).

Gorey Guardian