BY NIALL SHERRY
ALL PIX DANNY LAHART
Cork’s Ballygiblin lie in wait
AIB All-Ireland club JHC Semi-Final
LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, Sunday January 23rd 2022
The famous ballad would no doubt have been reverberating around the River Suir following Mooncoin’s comprehensive 21-point semi-final victory over Salthill-Knocknacarra last weekend.
Willie Coogan’s side maintained the county’s proud record in the junior grade, and will now have the opportunity to become the tenth Marble County side to hold the much-coveted title if they defeat Ballygiblin of Cork in February’s final.
Coogan will be hoping that this year’s team can go one better than that of 2017, when Mooncoin lost out to Mayfield of Cork by the bare minimum.
Coming into the semi-final, much talk surrounded the form of Salthill’s Donal O’Shea. Having recently made his senior inter-county bow for Henry Shefflin’s side, hopes were high in the west, that O’Shea could propel his club to All-Ireland glory this year.
The rising star did top score for his side, but the more seasoned Mooncoin machine simply had too much in all departments for their Connacht counterparts. Yes, Salthill-Knocknacarra were missing the captain, Michael O’Donnell who had picked up a knee injury during the week, but it would have taken 10 O’Donnell’s to alter this result.
The Galway champions did in fact open the scoring at the Gaelic Grounds through corner-forward O’Flaherty, but Mooncoin responded in kind, with interest and reeled off the next five scores with Ciaran Quilty the notching the first score for Coogan’s crew. Pa Walsh from a free, nice points from play from Martin O’Neill, Kevin Crowley & John Fitzpatrick left the Kilkenny side 4 points up, but they then shot a few wides before O’Shea and Shane Kelly replied for Diarmuid Ó hAodha’s side to keep them in touch, before Fitzgerald knocked over his second point of the day. At the water break the Marble County side led 0-6 to 0-3, but should have been much further ahead.
The hydration stoppage allowed the Mooncoin manager to address the wides, and his charges radar was more precise during the 2nd quarter. Adam Croke got the next score as his side’s movement and strong running was causing many problems for Diarmuid Ó hAodha’s team. Donal O’Shea got one back for the westerners, before Pa Walsh fired over a free and Martin O’Neill added one from distance.
Things were about to get worse for Salthill-Knocknacarra. An Adam Croke interception helped set-up the on-running Kevin Crowley, who expertly fired beyond Brian Hyland in the opposition goal to raise the first green flag of the day to push Mooncoin 8-points up. Indeed, Croke almost had a major himself shortly afterwards, but his effort was helped over the bar.
Midfielder Seanie Gannon was next to trouble the score board when he fired over a well taken point. Pa Walsh added a couple more, while there were also points for Killian Hogan and a stunning one from distance by James Delahunty, which brought the first half proceedings to a close with Mooncoin leading on a score line of 1-15 to 0-6.
Salthill-Knocknacarra’s afternoon got even worse just 3 minutes into the second period, when John Fitzgerald took a lovely catch from Mairtin Gannon’s superb long pass, before striking the ball past the helpless Hyland in goals.
The next few minutes became the ‘Pa Walsh show’ as the deadly No.14 rifled over 4 points, including a nice one from play. The Connacht champions were caught between trying to engineer goals and taking points, and they did neither. The one green flag opportunity they mustered was brilliantly saved by Eoin Purcell in the Mooncoin goal. John Fitzgerald then added to his personal tally when he struck over another good point before the second water break. Diarmuid Ó hAodha’s side had failed to raise a flag of any colour during that 3rd quarter as the score board read Mooncoin 2-20, Salthill-Knocknacarra 0-6.
The final quarter saw Donal O’Shea hit 3 further consolation scores, as Willie Coogan made a raft of changes. Killian Hogan, the impressive Martin O’Neill (2), John Fitzgerald’s 5th and an injury-time James Aylward point completed the rout for the Noresiders as they systematically dismantled their opponents to reach the All-Ireland Junior hurling final next month. Final score, Mooncoin 2-26, Salthill-Knocknacarra 0-11.
Mooncoin Scorers: Pa Walsh (0-8, 0-6 frees), John Fitzgerald (1-5), Kevin Crowley (1-1), Martin O’Neill (0-4), Killian Hogan (0-3), Adam Croke (0-2), Jim Delahunty, James Aylward, Sean Gannon (0-1 each).
Mooncoin: Eoin Purcell, Aidan Doyle, Cormac Daly, Mark Kearns, Martin O’Neill, Paul Henebery, Jim Delahunty, Máirtin Gannon, Sean Gannon, Kevin Crowley, John Fitzgerald, Ciarán Quilty, Adam Croke, Patrick Walsh, Killian Hogan.
Subs: Sean O’Dwyer, for Henebery (45), L. Tracey, for Crowley (45), J. Aylward, for M. Gannon (47) mins, J. Delahunty for Walsh (53), C. Brophy, for Delahunty (53).
Salthill-Knocknacarra Scorers: Donal O’Shea (0-6, 0-2 frees), Sean Burke, Daniel O’Flaherty, Shane Kelly, Canice Crosby, Neil Hyland (0-1 each).
Salthill-Knocknacarra: Brian Hyland, John Cullinane Quinn, Rory McDonnell, Patrick Rowesome, Stephen Piggott, Gary Waldron, Brendan Moran, Seanie Joyce, Sean Burke, Shane Kelly, Brian Griffin, Donal O’Shea, Daniel O’Flaherty, Fergus Hanney, Canice Crosby.
Subs: Keith Gleeson for Waldron (h-t), Ross Gorey for Griffin (37), E. Gavin for Cullinane-Quinn (43), Neil Hyland for Hanney (43), Rian McNeill for McDonnell (54).
Referee: Nathan Wall (Cork)
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
Mooncoin are back in the All-Ireland JHC Final. There is no doubting that Willie Coogan’s outfit possess the talent to go one step further than 2017. More importantly than the talent, they seem to have the mental strength to capture the national title.
Hopefully the injury sustained by the influential Mairtin Gannon won’t sideline him from the showpiece event early next month at headquarters.
The Connacht champions had Donal O’Shea, but Pa Walsh, Ciaran Quilty, John Fitz, Martin O’Neill, Adam Croke, Killian Hogan trump that.
Diarmuid Ó hAodha’s side even dropped an extra man back to try and contain the Mooncoin threat, namely Pa Walsh, but The Leinster Champions have many more aces in their pack.
2 out of 3 All-Ireland Club Hurling Finals will have Marble County representation. Let’s hope the silverware comes to Noreside.