John ‘Tweak’ Griffin started for Lixnaw, as Shane Nolan and Declan O’Donoghue score heavy for Crotta
GARVEY’S COUNTY SHC GROUP 3 ROUND 2
Crotta O’Neills 1-20
In a derby that never rose above the disappointingly mundane, a strong first half finish by Crotta O’Neills, against the breeze, set them up for a safe passage to the knock-out stages of the County SHC at Austin Stack Park this afternoon.
With the cobwebs out of the system after their opening weekend victory over Ballyheigue, Crotta were always fancied to get the upper hand over an unsurprisingly rusty Lixnaw, who started without star man Shane Conway, in this Group 3 Round 2 encounter.
For most of the first half, however, there was nothing at all between the protagonists as Lixnaw dug in valiantly in their maiden outing in this year’s competition, and with the contest at parity entering the closing stages of the half (0-6 each), they were firmly engrossed in the mix.
The 27th minute was undoubtedly the game’s turning point. Good approach play from the hard-working Ricky Heffernan created a decent goal opportunity for Mikey Kelliher, but he was foiled at point-blank range by Crotta goalkeeper Adam Sullivan. That was a blow to Lixnaw, but what happened next was the real sucker punch.
Moving the ball swiftly from their own goalmouth, Crotta eventually found full-forward Declan O’Donoghue in their attacking inside right wing area, and with a quick turn of pace, he burnt off the attentions of his Lixnaw marker, and his superb left-sided drive arrowed its way into the top corner of the net. It was a truly outstanding finish from the number 14.
With Cillian Trant and Tomas O’Connor immediately slotting over further points for the Kilflynn men, Lixnaw found themselves four points, 1-8 to 0-7, adrift at the interval, and all their promising work, especially from veteran John Griffin (whose early two-point impact necessitated the switching of Sean Weir onto him), had been negated in one Crotta purple patch.
To be fair to Lixnaw, talisman Conway’s introduction on the resumption (he has been recently hampered by a heel injury), indicated that they still felt that they could turn the situation around, even facing into the elements. They most certainly strained every sinew to recover, but once Crotta notched the first four points on the resumption, they were always fighting a losing battle at 1-12 to 0-7.
Goalscorer O’Donoghue, whose haul of 2-1 was instrumental to the previous win over Ballyheigue, continued his ebullient form, and with Shane Nolan a predictably inspirational presence, showcasing his sublime accuracy from frees and open play, Crotta were never put under any sustained pressure.
By the conclusion of the third quarter, the winners held a comfortable seven-point advantage, 1-14 to 0-10, and while Lixnaw succeeded in reducing the deficit to five points on a couple of occasions before the finish, their chances of pulling off a comeback were always extremely remote. Especially as they never looked likely to raise a green flag.
Conway showed flashes of his undoubted talent with two classically executed points from play, but with O’Donoghue and Nolan keeping the scoreboard ticking over regularly at the other end, and the likes of Sean McGrath and Rory Mahony defending resolutely, Crotta cruised past the finishing post.
Two victories on the spin is certainly not to be sneezed at, even though the winners haven’t set the world alight at the same time. Barry Mahony remains a serious loss, but with the likes of Weir and Cillian Trant motoring strongly, along with the afore-mentioned key influences, they are entitled to be satisfied at their progress.
Tougher tests will certainly lie ahead, and they will be anxious to rejuvenate Jordan Conway, who hasn’t been able to recapture his inter-county magnificence over the past two weekends. You would expect the corner-forward to be much sharper next time out, especially as an over-dependence on dynamic duo Nolan and O’Donoghue could be potentially costly down the line.
Lixnaw, who also lined out without Kerry defender Conor O’Keeffe, will be glad that Conway appeared to come through the second half without any adverse reaction. There was no shortage of defiance in their play, but while they will be fancied in several quarters to get the better of Ballyheigue next week, and advance to the quarter-finals, that is no foregone conclusion on Sunday’s evidence.
CROTTA O’NEILLS: Adam Sullivan; Ryan McElligott, Bill Keane, Sean McGrath; Rory Mahony, Sean Weir 0-1, Tadhg McKenna; Tomas O’Connor 0-1, Shane Nolan 0-12 (7f, 1 ’65); Cillian Trant 0-1, Darragh O’Donoghue, Sean O’Donoghue; James Sheehan, Declan O’Donoghue 1-4, Jordan Conway. Subs: Denis Nolan for S O’Donoghue (30+2), Darragh Kennelly 0-1 for Darragh O’Donoghue (42), Paudie Quill for Sheehan (57), Cormac White for Conway (63), Denis Quill for O’Connor (63).
LIXNAW: Martin Stackpoole; Darragh McElligott, Gerard Stackpoole, Raymond Galvin; John Buckley 0-1, Brendan Brosnan 0-3 (3f), Jeremy McKenna; Colin Sheehy, Aodhan Shanahan; Jack Brosnan, Michael Conway, Tom Foley; John Griffin 0-3, Ricky Heffernan 0-4 (3f), Mikey Kelliher. Subs: Shane Conway 0-3 (1f) for M Conway (half-time), Darragh Shanahan for A Shanahan (43), Declan McCarthy for Foley (45), James Flaherty 0-1 for J Brosnan (52), Keltyn Molloy for Griffin (60).
REFEREE: Cormac Dineen (Cork)