Athenry delight as Abbey fail to spark
ATHENRY 1-16 ABBEY-DUNIRY 1-10THE GALWAY hurling championship is renowned for high levels of passion and intensity, but the final of this year's competition at Ballinasloe yesterday never really exploded into life until the last 12 minutes.
Scores had been level on no fewer than six occasions in the first half, and reigning champions Athenry possessed just a two point advantage at half-time, 0-8 to 0-6.
Despite the closeness of the scores, this repeat of last year's final never delivered the fire, quality and flair that the approximate 10,000 attendance anticipated.
With 13 minutes left, the game seemed to have taken a decided turn in Athenry's favour when the holders surged into a three point lead, 0-12 to 0-9.
This was the third time in the second half for Athenry to hold a three point advantage, and they were now playing with far more authority than their opponents.
But out of the blue, Abbey-Duniry, chasing their first senior title, stormed back into contention when inter-county ace Kevin Broderick underlined his class, by racing through the Athenry defence before unleashing a blistering shot which goalkeeper Michael Crimmins parried but could not prevent crossing the line.
That splendid score pulled the challengers back to parity, but Athenry demonstrated their composure by almost immediately taking the game by the scruff of the neck. Within less than a minute, centre-half forward Pat Higgins edged Athenry in front again, following a pass from midfielder Brendan Keogh. And two minutes later Keogh got on the scoresheet with a splendid long range point.
With five minutes left, wing back Paul Hardiman underlined Athenry's dominance when pointing from over 70 metres.
Wing forward P J Kenny provided Abbey-Duniry with a glimmer of hope when he pointed in the 59th minute, but almost immediately the play transferred to the other end of the pitch, where wing-forward Donal Moran crashed the ball to the net at the second attempt, after his first shot had been parried by goalkeeper Kevin Devine.
The crucial difference between the two sides was that Athenry's attack possessed far more scoring power than Abbey-Duniry who were far too reliant on Broderick and full-forward Mattie Kenny.
Kenny shot seven points from frees, while Broderick whose blistering pace and tremendous ball control was a feature of the game contributed 1-2. The only other Abbey-Duniry scorer was Kenny's brother PJ.
In contrast, none of the Athenry forwards were particularly outstanding, but they combined extremely effectively as a unit.
In an attempt to inject addition thrust into the Abbey-Duniry attack, team manager Mattie Murphy, the Galway supremo, moved centre half-back Fergus Flynn up front with ten minutes left. And that move almost proved a success, with county star Flynn blazing a goal attempt narrowly wide five minute from time.
A jubilant Joe Rabbitte, the Athenry captain said: ``this win is extra special because its the first time that Athenry have won two county titles in a row.
``Our backs were against the wall when Kevin Broderick equalised, but we showed our character by regaining the initiative.''
Abbey-Duniry boss Murphy remarked: ``after Kevin Broderick's goal we needed to get the next score, but unfortunately, it was Athenry who went ahead. We struggled a bit in the forward line, but I suppose that was not a surprise as Athenry had four county players in their defence.''
SCORERS Athenry: D Moran 1-2, E Cloonan 0-4 (all f), C Moran 0-3, P Higgins 0-2, P Hardiman, B Keogh, B Hanley, J Rabbitte, D Donoghue 0-1 each. Abbey-Duniry: M Kenny 0-7 (all f), K Broderick 1-2, P J Kenny 0-1.
ATHENRY M Crimmins; E Keogh, G Keane, J Feeney; B Higgins, B Feeney, P Hardiman; B Keogh, B Hanley; D Moran, P Higgins, J Rabbitte; C Moran, E Cloonan, D Donoghue. Subs: D Higgins for Cloonan (53), J Hardiman for Donoghue (55), S Donoghue for Hanley (59).
ABBEY-DUNIRY K Devine; K Finnerty, L Hodgins, V Kavanagh; N Finnerty, F Flynn, J Shiel; G Lynch, D Donnelly; P J Kenny, D Power (Red), T Kavanagh; K Broderick, M Kenny, M Shiel. Sub: N Shiel for Lynch (56).
REF J J Corcoran (Castlegar)