BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
Mossy hits a hat-trick as TJ top scores
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
Corrigan Park, Belfast
All good things come to those who wait, and that certainly was the case in Corrigan Park last weekend as Kilkenny found the opposition net on no less than five occasions. All majors were shared between two trusty lieutenants, TJ Reid with a brace and Mossy Keoghan going one better with three.
The Tullaroan attacker had all 3 majors bagged by the short whistle, and the outcome of the game was decided at this stage also, with the visitors registering 4-16 in the opening period. To their credit, Antrim did lift their intensity after the break and did cause some difficult moments for Derek Lyng’s men in the second half and actually outscored the Cats over the course of the remainder of the game.
With near perfect conditions in Belfast, the game got off to a fast start with TJ converting his first score of the day in the opening seconds, the first of eight successful place balls for the Shamrocks Ballyhale man. From Ryan Elliott’s puck-out, Glenmore’s Alan Murphy took the catch before finding John Donnelly who in turn sent Mossy Keoghan in on goal, and there was only going to be one outcome, GOAL!
Graigue Ballycallan’s Billy Ryan then fired over a point to leave the score 1-2 to no score before one of the Saffron’s danger men, Keelan Molloy got the home side off the mark with a nice point. Eoin Murphy’s restart found TJ Reid who appeared to have the freedom of Corrigan Park, and like Mossy before him, TJ punished the defence and fired the Noresiders second goal. Paul Boyle struck the home side’s second point of the game to try and help settle the Antrim nerves before one of the Dunloy contingent struck for a major.
A long ball into the Kilkenny defence was knocked down by Naomh Eoin’s Conor Johnston into the path of Keelan Molloy. The Dunloy man burst forward and beat Eoin Murphy in the Cats net to bring the Saffron’s back into the game and trail by one score. TJ and Conal Cunning exchanged placed balls before the visitors found their groove and struck the next five points of the game, all of which came from play, courtesy of Alan Murphy, his midfield partner Adrian Mullen, a second of the day for Billy Ryan and one for Mossy. TJ completed the scoring burst to give the Cats a commanding 8-point lead, and one which would be built on before the short whistle.
Dunloy’s Cunning slotted over a free for his side’s fourth point of the game before former captain Adrian Mullen notched his second of the day shortly after. The next four scores were shared by Antrim’s Niall McKenna and Kilkenny’s Alan Murphy, again all from play as the sides battled in the Belfast sun. Not to be outdone by his brother, goalkeeper Eoin Murphy then fired over a long-range free to set his side on another 5 in-a-row scoring run. Points from Richie Reid, Billy Ryan were built on by a brace of goals from Mossy Keoghan in around 60 seconds as the Sash man benefited by cracking assists from captain Eoin Cody and Conahy Shamrocks Tom Phelan as Lyng’s men put the game beyond their hosts before halftime.
Conal Cunning rifled over another free for his sides final score of a very disappointing half for Darren Gleeson’s side and the Tipp native showed his displeasure by making a change before the break with Stephen Rooney replacing Naomh Eoin’s Michael Bradley. There was still time for two further Kilkenny scores, Martin Keoghan from play and another TJ Reid placed ball to leave the score board reading Antrim 1-7, Kilkenny 4-16 as Galway’s Shane Hayes sounded the short whistle.
Antrim manager Gleeson must have dished out the hairdryer treatment during the interval, as his team emerged from the Naomh Eoin dressing room a much-more fired up beast. The home supporters got the perfect boost to the second half when a long delivery from Dunloy’s Ryan McGarry was latched onto by Conor Johnston who made no mistake in firing to the net.
The next two scores came from the visitors, with David Blanchfield and Tom Phelan raising white flags to remind their hosts that they were in the presence of hurling royalty. One thing this Antrim team has is grit and they rolled up their sleeves and gave it a real good lash and they clearly had been instructed to win the second half. Gleeson’s charges hit the next five scores, including a 3rd major as they set about reducing the deficit and putting some respectability on the scoreline.
First up in the Saffron’s scoring burst was Conal Cunning with another placed ball. Then came the home side’s third goal. Again, another long delivery into the Cats defence. Veteran forward Neil McManus took possession and barged past O’Loughlin’s Huw Lawlor before making the net bulge. Derek Lyng responded to the third Antrim goal by sending on Padraig Walsh in place of clubmate Tommy Walsh.
Three further points followed from Keelan Molloy, Neil McManus and O’Donovan Rossa’s Gerard Walsh. The Kilkenny lead was now back to ten points, Antrim were causing the Cats defence problems, particularly from long direct ball in and around the house. TJ settled the visitors down again by firing over another long range placed ball before Dicksboro’s Cillian Buckley replaced Alan Murphy. Conal Cunning then sent over a ‘65 before Lyng’s men hit four on the spin with TJ (2f) Eoin Cody and the recently introduced Walter Walsh making the umpires work.
Darren Gleeson’s side were dealt a blow when Ruairi Og’s Neil McManus was forced to leave the field injured, Naomh Eoin’s Domhnall Nugent replaced the veteran attacker, but this appeared to blunt the Saffron’s challenge and disrupt their attacking strategy. Captain Eoin Cody popped over another point from play while Cunning replied with a free and another Billy Ryan point came along next.
Richie Hogan entered the fray in place of Adrian Mullen, a good sign that we were able to get minutes into the Danesfort’s man’s legs in the group stages of the provincial championship. The next four scores were shared with Walter Walsh and TJ registering for the Cats while Niall McKenna and Conal Cunning did likewise for the home side. TJ was clearly enjoying his trip north and split the posts with another free before he struck for his sides fifth major with 31 minutes placed in the second half. It was a Shamrocks Ballyhale creation, with Eoin Cody supplying TJ who smashed the sliotar beyond Ryan Elliott to the Antrim net.
There would be eight further scores before the long whistle, Antrim won this mini tussle 5-3, but when the referee brought proceedings to a close at a sunny Corrigan Park, the score board read Antrim 3-20, Kilkenny 5-31.
Antrim scorers: Conal Cunning 0-8 (6 frees, 1 65), Keelan Molloy 1-2, Niall McKenna 0-4, Neil McManus 1-1, Conor Johnston 1-0, Paul Boyle 0-2, James McNaughton 0-2, Gerard Walsh 0-1
Kilkenny scorers: TJ Reid 2-10 (0-6 frees, 0-2 65s), Martin Keoghan 3-3, Billy Ryan 0-4, Adrian Mullen 0-2, Alan Murphy 0-3, Eoin Cody 0-2, Walter Walsh 0-2, Richie Reid 0-1, David Blanchfield 0-1, Tom Phelan 0-1, Cillain Buckley 0-1, Eoin Murphy 0-1 (free).
ANTRIM: R Elliott; P Burke, R McGarry, N O’Connor; G Walsh, M Bradley, C Bohill; P Boyle, J McNaughton; K Molloy, C Cunning, N McKenna; C Johnston, N McManus, R McMullan.
Subs: S Rooney for M Bradley (34), E O’Neill for R McMullan (53), D Nugent for N McManus (53), C McKernan for G Walsh (58), S McAuley for K Molloy (64).
KILKENNY: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, T Walsh; D Blanchfield, R Reid, D Corcoran; A Mullen, A Murphy; T Phelan, J Donnelly, B Ryan; M Keoghan, TJ Reid, E Cody.
Subs: P Walsh for T Walsh (42), C Buckley for A Murphy (48), W Walsh for T Phelan (54), R Hogan for A Mullen (60), N Brennan for M Keoghan (64).
Referee: Shane Hayes (Galway)
>> SHERRY SAYS…
The sun shone brightly in Belfast last Sunday as Derek Lyng’s charges produced a very professional job in securing maximum points against Darren Gleeson’s Antrim. Corrigan Park in West Belfast was treated to a huge scoring fest as the Cats ran up a big total to defeat the Saffron’s who themselves produced a scoring total that would win many games.
Mossy was in goal mode and bagged himself a hat-trick, while TJ top scored with 2-10. There were important contributions from Graigue Ballycallan’s Billy Ryan, Glenmore’s Alan Murphy and another Shamrocks duo of captain Eoin Cody and Adrian Mullen.
The half back trio of Richie Reid, David Blanchfield and Darragh Corcoran set the tempo and controlled matters. Antrim’s most dangerous weapon was a long direct ball into the Kilkenny defence and this proved dividends on 3 occasions.
No doubt Derek Lyng and his backroom team will be using the team between the Antrim win and the next fixture against the Dubs next week to work on protecting the house a little more from this type of threat.
So that’s 3 rounds of the Leinster Championship done and dusted. Just two more remain, home to Dublin next week and then away to Darragh Eagan’s Wexford a week later. Derek Lyng’s charges have positioned themselves well for a possible provincial showdown with Henry’s men in Croker on June 12th.