Naomh Éanna 3-20 Cloughbawn 0-21
Not for the first time in his illustrious career, a brace of expertly finished goals from Conor McDonald helped propel Naomh Éanna to a comfortable 3-20 to 0-21 victory over battling Cloughbawn in the opening round of the Pettitt's Senior hurling championship in front of a decent crowd in Monamolin on Tuesday.
The Gorey town side looked a bit off the boil for long passages of the opening half, swatting five wides as Cloughbawn built some momentum to deservedly lead by 0-10 to 0-7 after 21 minutes.
Crying out for inspiration, Rolls Royce centre-back Jack Cullen took up the mantle as he drove through the heart of the Cloughbawn defence before parting to McDonald, who unleashed an absolute rocket into the roof of the country-end net after 24 minutes.
Cian Molloy almost immediately fed Pádraig Doyle to make it 1-9 to 0-10 in the blink of an eye.
And when Cian Browne's effort looked to be tailing wide, McDonald did well to keep the ball in play along the endline, before brushing off his immediate marker and producing a similarly emphatic finish to his first goal.
And while Cloughbawn picked off the last two points of the half to close to within 2-9 to 0-12, and in spite of recent county star Harry Kehoe firing over inside twelve seconds of the restart, Gorey really upped the gears to eventually win by eight points.
McDonald was initially posted at right wing-forward, but an early positional change saw him swap with Molloy back into his more familiar full-forward spot, with Cian Browne moving to centre-forward, and Pádraig Doyle dropping deeper.
Before that adjustment, the hooking and blocking of Cloughbawn really frustrated Naomh Éanna, while sharpshooter Bob Whitty provided seven of their scores (five frees) as they developed that early daylight.
Whitty really caught the eye throughout, striking over twelve points from 14 shots in all, with his two wides coming in garbage time with the game already beyond his side.
Páidí Cullen was also prominent in the opening half, scoring two fine points from play as the Enniscorthy District lads looked like a side capable of causing a stir.
Even amid their early struggles, Gorey still created a glorious point, as a short handpassing move the length of the pitch featuring Charlie McGuckin and Eoin Conroy in the build-up was finished off by Jack Doran.
His midfield partner, Aodhán Doyle, also found the range shortly before a three-point salvo from Cloughbawn that was eventually wiped out by that first McDonald green flag.
Gorey really began to purr after that Kehoe point reduced the gap to 2-9 to 0-13, firing over six points from play on the trot, including some particularly excellent efforts from J.J. Twamley, Molloy and Pádraig Doyle.
Whitty's tenth point of the night made it 2-16 to 0-14 after 43 minutes, only for McGuckin to respond with perhaps the score of the game tight to the sideline.
Cloughbawn can take encouragement from the fact that they outscored the victors by 0-7 to 1-3 in the final quarter, and they will look for a more sustained performance across the remainder of their Group A assignments, starting against St. Anne’s at the same venue on Saturday (6 p.m.).
Paddy Whitty fired over three nice points during this juncture for the losers, with Connal Flood supplying two trademark long-rangers as well, while Cian Browne became the sixth starting Naomh Éanna forward to score when he fired home their third goal three minutes from time after a skirmish for the ball around the square.
Naomh Éanna: Jack Cushe; Eoin Conroy (0-1), Eoin Molloy, Tom Stafford; Cathal Stokes, Jack Cullen, Seán Doyle; Jack Doran (0-2), Aodhán Doyle (0-2); Conor McDonald (capt., 2-1), Pádraig Doyle (0-9, 5 frees), Charlie McGuckin (0-1); J.J. Twamley (0-2), Cian Molloy (0-2), Cian Browne (1-0). Subs. - David O'Brien for Twamley (46), Darragh Hughes for McDonald (58), Twamley for Doran, inj. (60+2).
Cloughbawn: Seán Keating; Gary Kennedy, Barry Carton, Corey Bolger; Barry Kehoe (joint-capt.), Colm Kehoe, Connal Flood (0-2); Páidí Cullen (0-2), Darragh Kehoe; Alan Carton, Harry Kehoe (joint-capt., 0-2), Jack Fleming; Paddy Whitty (0-3), Bob Whitty (0-12, 8 frees), Liam Flood. Subs. - Shane Kehoe for L. Flood (41), Johnny Cullen for Bolger (50), Darragh Redmond for Carton (51).
Referee: Eamonn Furlong (Rapparees).