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A crushing defeat for the Rocks

Arklow side suffer badly at the hands of Tara Rocks

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Patrick Fortune of Tara Rocks looks to avoid Darren Reilly of Arklow Rock Parnells.

Patrick Fortune of Tara Rocks looks to avoid Darren Reilly of Arklow Rock Parnells.

Patrick Fortune of Tara Rocks looks to avoid Darren Reilly of Arklow Rock Parnells.

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Tara Rocks 10-35

Arklow Rocks 0-4

ANYONE FAMILIAR with the state of play prior to Saturday’s AIB Leinster Club Junior hurling championship opener in St. Patrick’s Park would have expected a rout, and that’s exactly how it unfolded.

All sorts of scoring records were broken as Tara Rocks absolutely destroyed near neighbours Arklow Rock Parnells by an incredible 61-point margin.

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The victors paraded a team including a trio with Senior inter-county experience in Brendan Hobbs, Niall Breen and Conor Devitt, while they had a solid three weeks to get their eye in once again for hurling after Kilanerin’s exit from the football championship at the quarter-final stage.

In contrast, Arklow Rock Parnells had finished fourth in the group of five that comprised the Wicklow Intermediate championship. Their semi-final defeat to Carnew Emmets by seven points (1-13 to 0-9) occurred on September 4, and they were only nominated to represent the county in this competition because the other three participants at that stage were second strings from Senior clubs and were therefore ineligible.

Even their full team would have struggled to keep the ball pucked out to a Tara Rocks side intent on going places in this championship, but they travelled down to Enniscorthy with a decimated squad.

Work commitments ruled out a number of players and, from those defeated by Carnew almost three months ago, Des and Tyrone Byrne, Cian Doyle, Lee Somers, P.J. and Colin O’Connor and Conor Jameson were all absent on this occasion.

Tara Rocks manager Garry Laffan has plenty of knowledge of Wicklow hurling from his successful stint with Glenealy, and he opted not to start midfielder Niall Hughes for this one as he was suffering from a slight groin strain.

That was just as well from an Arklow Rock Parnells point of view, because they had more than enough big guns to try to cope with without throwing a current county Senior footballer and former Wexford Minor hurler into the mix.

It seems pretty pointless to give a blow-by-blow account of this exercise that was of no benefit to anyone involved. For the record, though, Tara Rocks led by 3-10 to 0-1 at the first water break, and by 5-16 to 0-1 at half-time.

The first act of mercy on the part of Laffan and fellow mentors Jim O’Connor, P.J. Gethings and Johnny ‘Honda’ Doyle arrived in the 27th minute when they withdrew three of their leading lights: Conor Devitt and Niall Breen, two men with extensive experience with the Wexford Seniors, and Páraic Hughes, the current county footballer.

Another couple of leading lights were taken off at half-time: midfielder and captain Dean O’Toole, as well as their third man to have worn the purple and gold at the highest level, full-back Brendan Hobbs.

The trouble was, it didn’t disrupt the general flow in any sense, as some of the substitutes were very eager to impress. That was particularly the case regarding the livewire speed merchant Joe Curtis, with the youngster reeling off eight points – six from play – to alert the selectors to his desire to secure a starting spot for the quarter-final next Saturday.

Whereas Tara Rocks had shot eleven first-half wides, they only added one more after the interval. The score stood at 5-27 to 0-3 at the second water break, and the last puck of the game was their tenth goal to cap the 10-35 to 0-4 win, swept home by Ben O’Connor.

Referee Owen Behan also did his best to show compassion, playing two 28-minute halves by my reckoning – opting to let his stopwatch run through the duration of both water breaks.

On a weekend when a walkover was given in another Leinster championship by a club depleted by injuries, Arklow Rock Parnells probably deserve credit for being plucky enough to at least fulfil this fixture, knowing full well they were on a hiding to nothing.

They were already behind by 3-8 to nil when free-taker Patrick Mellon registered their sole first-half point in the 13th minute, a well-struck effort from the right flank close to midfield.

Mellon added the opening score of the second period after 39 seconds from another placed ball, before the sole Arklow Rock Parnells point from play arrived midway through the third quarter.

Dara Walker made a good interception and fed midfielder Tom Somers who slotted over to make it 5-21 to 0-3, while Mellon’s third free arrived in the 20th minute of the second-half and left the relatively new electronic scoreboard – subjected to its most searching test yet – reading 6-30 to 0-4.

Otherwise, there was precious little for the visitors to recall with pride, although netminder Keith Barnes did seem to enjoy re-enacting a couple of good first quarter saves when he gathered with his team-mates for the initial water break.

He probably didn’t know a lot about Ben O’Connor’s point-blank strike that his upper body stopped at the expense of a ’65 in the tenth minute, although his sharp reflexes were clearly evident when denying Conor Devitt at a later juncture.

Tara Rocks had 1-1 on the board within 52 seconds, as Dean O’Toole pointed before providing a pass for Devitt to finish to the net.

Ben O’Connor added the second goal, from a shot that went in via the hurl of netminder Barnes following a Lee Owley pass.

While the latter didn’t score, he was content to set up chances for others and did exactly that when Patrick Fortune kick-started his fine personal haul of 4-6 from play in the seventh minute.

Indeed, a very unselfish cross by Owley laid the fourth Tara Rocks goal on a plate for Fortune midway through the second quarter, and Devitt added the fifth shortly before his withdrawal.

The runaway leaders focused initially on picking off points after the interval, outscoring Arklow 11-2 before the last water break.

Barnes was given a break between the posts, with Daniel ‘Spud’ O’Reilly moved from attack to man the number one berth, and he was the busiest man on the field before the finish.

Fortune completed his hat-trick (6-29 to 0-3) before substitute Jason Bolger netted to make it 7-30 to 0-4. Another replacement, Conor ‘Scholesie’ Kinsella, goaled 45 seconds later, while Fortune added his fourth after O’Reilly kept out his first attempt.

Ben O’Connor struck goal number ten at the death on a day that must surely lead to a more detailed look at the grading system deployed for this championship. Certainly, on this evidence, the Wexford Intermediate ‘A’ champions shouldn’t be competing at the same level as a representative from the Wicklow Intermediate grade.

Tara Rocks: Tom Hughes; Robert Murphy, Brendan Hobbs, Cathal O’Reilly; Tom Mordaunt, Niall Breen (0-1), Rhys Owley; Dean O’Toole (capt., 0-7, 1 ’65, 1 free), Ben Morris (0-2); Páraic Hughes (0-2), Mark Boland (0-3), Conor Devitt (2-2); Lee Owley, Patrick Fortune (4-6), Ben O’Connor (2-2). Subs. – Joe Curtis (0-8, 1 free, 1 ’65) for Devitt (27), Conor Kinsella (1-2) for P. Hughes (27), Conor Jones for Breen (27), Conor Hughes for O’Toole (HT), Jason Bolger (1-0) for Hobbs (HT).

Arklow Rock Parnells: Keith Barnes; T.J. Copeland, Seán Somers, Seán O’Donovan; Darren Reilly, Shane Mellon (capt.), Martin Gilbert; Tom Somers (0-1), Cathal Byrne; Patrick Mellon (0-3 frees), Dara Walker, Craig Kelly; Seosamh Kelly, Daniel O’Reilly, John Cushe. Subs. – Elliot Young for C. Kelly (15), John Roche for Barnes (45).

Referee: Owen Behan (Kilkenny).


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