Lixnaw show credentials with comfortable win over beleaguered Ballyheigue
County SHC Round 1: Lixnaw 1-26 Ballyheigue 1-8
A comfortable and comprehensive victory for Lixnaw in this first round game in the County Senior Hurling Championship played in the Austin Stack Park last Friday evening, and indeed, the eventual outcome was a foregone conclusion from a very early stage in proceedings.
A lot more resourceful in most facets of play Lixnaw played with a lot of pace and purpose, and, their expansive approach created a litany of scoring opportunities from all angles and distances. Nine different players contributed to their spread of scorers, and, but for some superb saves by the Ballyheigue goalkeeper John Mike Pierce the margin of victory could well have been greater.
Certainly a gulf in terms of quality, but credit Ballyheigue whose momentum never wavered, and, while the result was never in doubt from a very early stage there was no shortage of effort on their part, even if, they were battling against the odds having gone five points behind after as many minutes, and with seven different players contributing to the Lixnaw score-sheet they were eleven points adrift at the end of the opening quarter.
It took all of 19 minutes before Ballyheigue registered their first score courtesy of a pointed free from Philip Lucid, and, while he added a similar score shortly afterwards Lixnaw continued to add to their spiralling tally. Alternating positions they repeatedly opened up lanes of attack, and created opportunities for such as Shane Conway whose balance, touch, and finishing was first class throughout. Sixteen points, 0-18 to 0-2, separated the teams at half time with Lixnaw at that particular juncture being, quite simply, in cruise control.
However, Ballyheigue continued to hurl with admirable endeavour effecting some sterling blocks in defence and registering three points inside the opening ten minutes of play. Jason Casey almost produced a goal for them before Philip Lucid capitalised from a free at the end of the third quarter.
It certainly put a better complexion on the scoreboard (0-21 1-5), but with Mike Conway swapping positions with his brother Shane, they complimented each other favourably with Mike's diagonal deliveries creating a series of scoring opportunities for Lixnaw's ace attacker. Afforded time and space he took full advantage and indeed, set up the impressive Jason Wallace for his side's only goal in the 50th minute.
Martin Stackpoole denied Philip Lucid with a diving penalty save shortly afterwards and thereafter the contest drifted to its inevitable conclusion with Shane Conway sealing the issue with three of the last six points scored.
So, a result that was generally predicted and anticipated and one that reinforces the widely held view that Lixnaw are one of the short odds bets to regain a title they last held in 2014. When these two sides met in the Championship in 2015 just two points, 0-19 to 0-17, separated the teams, but since then Lixnaw have been at the business end of the season in terms of under age competitions, and won their fifth Under-21 Championship title last season. Nine of the players who featured in that final, including four 19-year olds, were involved in last weekend's success.
Ballyheigue are just beginning to build their underage structure again, having featured in this season's Feile finals.
Certainly, Lixnaw's squad is one full of youthful exuberance. Maybe in attack they lack a bit of physique and experience, but any limitations in that respect are counter-balanced by an abundance of flair and scoring power. Tougher tasks lie ahead, but they seem at the moment to be well equipped to justify the tag of potential winners of the competition.
Lixnaw: Martin Stackpoole, Darragh Shanahan, Pat Corridan, Jonathon Silles, Conor O'Keeffe (0-1), John Griffin (0-2), Stephen Power, John Buckley, Jeremy McKenna (0-2), Shane Conway (0-9), Ricky Heffernan (0-1), Liam Mullins (0-1) Jason Wallace (1-3), Mike Conway (0-6; 5f, 1 '65'), Colin Sheehy (0-1). Subs: Davin Quilter for J Griffin, Ger Stackpoole for J Silles, Declan Mc Carthy for C O'Keeffe, Cathal Mc Carthy for C Sheehy.
Ballyheigue: John Mike Pierce, Danny Casey, Damien Casey, Mark Dineen, Jason Griffin, Colin Mahony, Chris Mahony, Tommy O'Connor, Diarmuid Walsh (0-1) Adrian Flahive, Philip Lucid (1-7; 1-5f) Conor Galway, Richard O'Mahony, Jason Casey, Francis Flaherty. Subs: Pa Regan for R O'Mahony, Mark Mulvihill for F Flaherty, Padraig Began for J Griffin, Brian Riordan for A Flahive, Cian O'Sullivan for T O'Connor.
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)