Duffry Rovers 0-19 Ballynastragh Gaels 0-12
A SWEEPING transformation was completed in style in St. Patrick’s Park on Thursday when Duffry Rovers overturned the outcome from just a fortnight earlier with a commanding win over Ballynastragh Gaels in the Panda Under-19 hurling Division 2 championship final.
The visitors had prevailed by ten points when the sides met in a group game in Coolree on July 20, but that didn’t tell the full story because the hosts kept five of their best players in reserve during that first-half.
They were all on board from the off this time and made major contributions, most notably Jason Sheridan who reeled off a very impressive five points from right corner-forward.
And although the Duffry were minus holidaying defenders Liam Redmond and Lee Sludds, they had a couple of additional reserves to call upon who also played big parts in a merited victory.
Robbie Chapman – a county Minor this year and last year – bolstered their defence upon his introduction approaching half-time, while the lively David Nolan contributed two points off the bench.
Neither had featured in their side’s two previous games, but they were key additions here for the Noel Fitzhenry-managed outfit, assisted by Declan Doyle and Derek Sludds.
Ballynastragh weren’t helped by securing their final spot via a walkover from Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, as it meant they hadn’t played since that earlier win over the Duffry.
The injured Cian Hughes was unavailable along with Ben Mordaunt, and the loss of the former – who made his county Senior football debut in the Tailteann Cup against Offaly – was an extremely tough blow to endure.
His scorching runs from centre-forward were certainly missed, although the Duffry could rightly claim that they were without a key man too in Sludds – his direct opponent in Coolree.
Ballynastragh also introduced a quartet off the bench for their first involvement in this new grade, with Darragh Gethings in particular looking lively up front.
However, they lacked the overall balance of a Duffry side powered by Tiernan and Danny Fitzhenry and Jason Sheridan in particular, while county Minor Dylan Purcell also stormed into proceedings in the second-half.
Micheál McGonigle had posed him problems in the first period and continued to try hard for the losers, but they looked to be in trouble from an early stage in the third quarter.
Given that it was a county final, the game was strangely devoid of any real life. Indeed, there was precious little crowd engagement too in a poor opening period, with just a point apiece registered in the first quarter.
Tiernan Fitzhenry got the Duffry off the mark in the fourth minute, with Seán Hughes opening Ballynastragh’s account from a free a full eight minutes later.
Otherwise it was a tale of eight wides (five for Ballynastragh) and another three scoring efforts (two from the Duffry) that dropped short, but the action lacked the bite one would normally associate with a final.
The eventual winners did begin to motor at the start of the second quarter, regaining the lead with four points on the trot between the 16th and 19th minutes.
Tiernan Fitzhenry (play and free) started that purple patch before two carbon copy scores in the space of just 50 seconds – with Danny Fitzhenry hitting passes into the right corner for Jason Sheridan who manoeuvred on to his favoured left side before splitting the posts (0-5 to 0-1).
Ballynastragh produced a strong response, as free-taker Seán Hughes pointed twice while Micheál McGonigle and Oisín Byrne registered from play in between to restore parity by the 24th minute.
Tiernan Fitzhenry and Hughes (free) went on exchange points, before the Duffry gained the impetus for a much-improved second-half showing with the last three scores from Tiernan Fitzhenry, Gavin Roban (moved to wing-forward) and the on-form Jason Sheridan (0-9 to 0-6).
Sheridan only needed 14 seconds after the restart to add his fourth point, from a Danny Fitzhenry pass, and they started to show their true capabilities after Hughes responded from another free.
Dylan Purcell scored from distance before Danny Fitzhenry and substitute David Nolan added to their lead (0-13 to 0-7), and it was clear by that stage that Ballynastragh needed a goal to keep their hopes alive.
That was the objective of mentors Pat Jones and Lorcan Browne when they moved the towering Seán Hughes to full-forward, but he was generally well marshalled by Cathal O’Gorman although he did pick off a couple of points from play.
It was 0-15 to 0-8 for the Duffry at the three-quarters mark, but they might have grown a little restless when substitute Cathal Murphy, Hughes and Darragh Gethings (free) reduced the gap to four with ten minutes remaining.
However, two pointed Tiernan Fitzhenry frees steadied the ship while, in a game with precious few goalscoring chances, there was one sharp save in between when a Cathal Murphy shot was kept out at the expense of a fruitless ’65 by the sure-footed Michael Murphy, the county Minor reserve ’keeper whose general handling was excellent throughout.
An earlier Dylan Purcell drive at the other end was stopped by Naoise Byrne and called back for a free that Tiernan Fitzhenry knocked over, with no advantage accruing.
Rival substitutes David Nolan and Darragh Gethings added late points before a fitting conclusion in additional time, with Jason Sheridan crowning his sparkling individual performance with a fifth score from play.
Duffry Rovers: Michael Murphy; Callum Boyce, Cathal O’Gorman, James Aylward; Pádraig Waters, Dylan Purcell (0-1), Gavin Roban (0-1); Dawit Bakale, Ian Blake (capt.); James Lawless, Tiernan Fitzhenry (0-8, 4 frees), Danny Fitzhenry (0-2); Jason Sheridan (0-5), Ciarán Doyle, Jacques Neville. Subs. – Robbie Chapman for Blake (26), David Nolan (0-2) for Neville (HT), Evan O’Connor for Doyle (53), Noel Cowman for Roban (59), also Seán Kelly, Conor Sinnott, Liam Redmond, Lee Sludds.
Ballynastragh Gaels: Naoise Byrne; Vincent Higgins, Cillian Byrne (joint-capt.), Fergal Noctor; Pádraig Jones, Conor Jones (joint-capt.), Daniel Bolger; Seán Hughes (0-7, 5 frees), Andrew Smyth; Oisín Byrne (0-1), Micheál McGonigle (0-1), Adam Fadian; Josh Whyte, J.J. Hartnett, Brendan Bolger. Subs. – Morgan Timmons for Whyte (20), Cathal Murphy (0-1) for Fadian (HT), Darragh Gethings (0-2, 1 free) for Hartnett (36), Mikey Hughes for Smyth (45), also Ben Rothwell, George Tutty, Paddy Higgins, Max Buggy, Charlie Fleming, Oliver Shannon, Cian Hughes, Ben Mordaunt.
Referee: Jamie Farrell (HWH-Bunclody).