Na Gaeil lay down early marker

County PJFC Group 1 Round 1: Na Gaeil 1-17 Firies 0-6

Na Gaeil’s Jack Barry in action against Firies’ Pádraig O’Connor during their clash in the County Premier Junior Championship – Group 1 Round 1 – in Austin Stack Park on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Domnick Walsh/EyeFocus
Na Gaeil’s Jack Barry in action against Firies’ Pádraig O’Connor during their clash in the County Premier Junior Championship – Group 1 Round 1 – in Austin Stack Park on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Domnick Walsh/EyeFocus

Damian Stack

In a way it was the perfect place to get back on the horse. Back in Stack Park. Back in the Premier Junior Championship. Back against a side many - ourselves included - took to be a serious threat to Na Gaeil's ambitions.

The way the Tralee outfit started the match suggested they knew that too. They started like a side determined to put difficult memories behind them as soon as possible, giving no chance for any doubts to catch hold.

Inside the opening five minutes of the match, Na Gaeil had opened out a six point lead and really and truly never looked under any real danger from Firies after that. An early point from Ian McCarthy (assist an impressive Diarmuid O'Connor) was quickly followed by a Dara Devine goal (assist Jamie Lowham).

Right away Firies were rocked back on their heels by a physically powerful Na Gaeil side. Bossed around the middle - a recurring theme for the afternoon - and turned over all too often into contact.

When Diarmuid Herlihy (impressive throughout) and Eoin O'Neill added further points to fire them 1-3 to 0-0 clear, Firies really did have a mountain to climb. The East Kerry side went eighteen minutes - albeit that there was quite a bit of injury time early on - without a shot of any description and their first effort sailed wide.

Firies finally got on the scoreboard twenty minutes in and, to give them their dues, briefly looked a threat to Na Gaeil as they fired three points in as many minutes to halve Na Gaeil's advantage on the scoreboard - a William Courtney free, a Donnchadh O'Sullivan effort from play and a fisted effort by Mike Daly.

That, however, was pretty much as good as it got for Firies in the game. Na Gaeil after a lengthy period without a score - fifteen minutes, again with the caveat that there was a substantial break in play leading to seven minutes of time added on at the end of the half - before Jamie Lowham pointed a real beauty.

Na Gaeil restored their six point advantage with further points from Mike Griffin and Diarmuid O'Connor. Firies did get one back before the break through a Donnchadh O'Sullivan free to make it 1-6 to 0-4 at the break.

Five points in and of itself isn't or shouldn't be insurmountable, but even then it seemed unlikely that Na Gaeil would be bested. Not with the dominance they held over the middle third of the pitch.

In the first half Na Gaeil claimed the vast majority of their own kick-outs and a comfortable majority of Firies and up against an inter-county quality pairing in Diarmuid O'Connor and Jack Barry it was unlikely Firies would be able to turn that around.

One does wonder whether Firies might have been better off playing Jack Sherwood elsewhere as his influence on the game was largely negated out around the middle of the park.

That's for another day. On Sunday, Na Gaeil's dominance in the first half continued and on the scoreboard and around the middle became even more pronounced. Na Gaeil won Firies' first five kick-outs of the second half as they stretched their lead ever more.

Firies did have a few early chances for goals - William Courtney forced an early save from the excellent Timmy Culloty on thirty three minutes - and had one of them gone in it might have been a different story, but they didn't and it wasn't.

Firies' last score of the half came twenty one minutes from the end. Na Gaeil powered on and finished up fourteen point winners. In no way flattering them. They've broken cover early and without ever having to hit top gear.

Na Gaeil: Timmy Culloty, Damien Bourke, Kieran Dineen, Eoghain Sheehy, Kieran O'Donovan, Andrew Barry, Eoin Walsh, Diarmuid O'Connor (0-3), Jack Barry (0-1), Ian McCarthy (0-1), Eoin O'Nell (0-1), Mike Griffin (0-3), Dara Devine (0-4), Jamie Lowham (0-1), Diarmuid Herlihy (0-4) Subs: Eoin Doody for E Walsh (inj), 2, Dan Goggin for J Lowham, 43, Ryan O'Neill for E O'Neill, 46, Dan O'Connor for I McCarthy, 48, Jordan Murphy for M Griffin (inj), 50

Firies: Colm O'Shea, Diarmuid Brosnan, Dan O'Shea, Josh Flynn, Stephen Foley, Niall Donohue, Pádraig O'Connor, Jack Sherwood, Jake Flynn, William Courtney (0-2, 1f, 1 '45), Pádraig De Brun, Liam Bronan, Donnchadh O'Sullivan (0-3, 2f), Pat Daly, Mike Daly (0-1) Subs: Diarmuid O'Mahony for P Daly, 33, Darragh Donohue for L Brosnan, 34, Con O'Mahony for M Daly, 40, Cian O'Callaghan for N Donohue, 52, Eoin Cosgrave for W Courtney, 54

Referee: Mike Hennessy (Ballyduff)