BY NIALL SHERRY
ALL PIX DANNY LAHART
Hey diddle diddle – Walsh hits a TREBLE!!
AIB Leinster Club Junior Hurling Championship Final
UPMC Nowlan Park
Shamrocks (Offaly) 0-15
Mooncoin were crowned provincial champions last Saturday; following a comprehensive victory over Offaly challengers Shamrocks. The raising of the green flag proved the difference on a bright but wintery day at UPMC Nowlan Park as the Marble County side advanced to an All-Ireland semi-final, where they will face Connaught kingpins, Salthill-Knocnacarra.
Having claimed their Kilkenny title with a superb victory over Tullogher Rosbercon in November, Willie Coogan’s charges entered the provincial series and faced-off against Westmeath champions, St. Oliver Plunkett’s where they ran out 15-point winners. The last eight victory set-up a semi-final encounter with Wexford side, Tara Rocks which they won by 6 points after extra-time.
Goals have been a regular feature for Mooncoin in this year’s championship, and they didn’t disappoint at the home of Kilkenny hurling last Saturday. Star of the show was Pa Walsh, who finished with an impressive tally of 3-06 to his name.
The first scores of the day were via the placed ball, with Mooncoin centre-back Martin O’Neill and Shamrocks Corner-forward, Nigel Dunne swapping frees. Shane O’Toole-Greene registered the opening score from play after five minutes, as both sides looked to settle.
Pa Walsh opened his account from a free, but the visitors hit back straight away with a sumptuous point from near the sideline by wing-forward, Conor Moran. Mooncoin’s first score from play came from No.10 Ciaran Quilty in the 9th minute, before dual player Nigel Dunne fired over another free.
Full-forward Walsh then struck a lovely point from under the stand to reduce the deficit, before striking the first of his three majors. A sideline cut was fired into the danger-zone, and Pa reacted quickly and rifled the ball past Shamrock’s keeper Niall Darcy for the last score before the first water-break. Mooncoin led by 2 points, 1-4 to 0-5.
The wind advantage was with the Kilkenny side, but through the placed balls of Dunne, the underdogs managed to hang onto the coat tails of their opponents. Indeed, it would be Dunne that hit the first score following the hydration stop. Mooncoin then upped the ante, and hit three scores in a row, via that man Walsh, Quilty and a long-range free from Martin O’Neill.
It looked like the favourites had solved the puzzle and would push on from here, but the battling Offaly champions had other ideas, with free-take Dunne hitting another couple from frees, before O’Toole-Greene doubled his tally for the day. Pa Walsh continued his fine form when nice play between himself and centre-forward Mairtin Gannon, resulted in the former taking a nice point to leave Mooncoin one up at the short whistle, 1-8 to 0-10.
Shamrocks will no doubt have been the happier of the sides at the interval, especially having navigated the first half against a strong wind and only trailing by the minimum.
The half-time team talk clearly spurred the Kilkenny junior champions on, as they stepped on the gas when the second half got underway. Corner-forward Adam Croke chose to point in the opening stages, when a goal seemed on, but the second green flag of the day came seconds later.
Pa Walsh this time turned provider. He found his centre-forward Mairtin Gannon with a delightful hand-pass and the on-running No.11 dispatched his effort to the bottom corner of the net, much to the delight of the Mooncoin faithful in attendance, the home side now led 2-9 to 0-10.
Again, Shamrocks refused to lie down. Further defensive indiscipline in the Mooncoin team gave Nigel Dunne more opportunities to tag on points via frees, which reduced his sides deficit to just 3 points. Both sides where then guilty of some uncharacteristic wides as the scoring paused. This passage of the game was broken when Jim Delahunty broke out of defence and surged towards the Shamrocks back line before firing over a tremendous long-range point.
The Nowlan Park scoreboard operator continued to have a quieter second period until Pa Walsh notched his second major of the day, albeit a little controversially. To some in the ground, it appeared that Shamrocks full-back Conor Condron was fouled, but Westmeath whistler Caymon Flynn gestured to play on and Pa Walsh punished the hesitancy in the opposition defence to strike home his second goal.
The second water break the arrived, Mooncoin 3-10 to 0-12 ahead and just 15 minutes from provincial glory. Any remaining hopes of a Shamrocks comeback were completely extinguished on 52 minutes when a scintillating run by Pa Walsh saw him fire the ball to the top corner of the net and in doing so, complete a memorable hat-trick in the provincial decider.
Shamrocks boss Jimmy Conway will have been pleased that his side continued to make the best of things, and they hit three further points from Nigel Dunne, Stephen Malone and David Molloy to bring their total to 0-15. Mooncoin tagged on three points following Walsh’s third major, two more from the man-of-the-match himself and one from substitute Lee Treacy.
Referee Flynn then brought proceedings to a close. Mooncoin had done it. Leinster Junior Hurling Champions on a score line of 4-13 to 0-15.
Scorers – Mooncoin- Patrick Walsh (3-6, 0-2f), Mairtin Gannon (1-0), Ciaran Quilty (0-2), Martin O’Neill (0-2, 0-1f, 0-1 65), Jim Delahunty, Lee Treacy and Adam Croke (0-1 each)
Scorers – Shamrocks- Nigel Dunne (0-10, 0-10f), Shane O’Toole-Greene (0-2), Stephen Malone, Conor Moran and David Molloy (0-1 each)
Mooncoin- Eoin Purcell; Aidan Doyle, Shane Walsh, Mark Kearns; Jim Delahunty, Martin O’Neill, Cormac Daly; Conor Brophy, Sean Gannon; Ciaran Quilty, Mairtin Gannon, John Fitzgerald; Adam Croke, Patrick Walsh, Killian Hogan.
Subs: Sean O’Dwyer for S. Walsh 27 mins, Kevin Crowley for Brophy 42 mins, Oisin Henebery for Croke 56 mins, Lee Treacy for P. Walsh 59 mins.
Shamrocks- Niall Darcy; Jack Molloy, Conor Condron, Sean Cantwell; Stephen Malone, Cal Ahearne, Padraig Cantwell; Dan Heffernan, Alan Foster, Conor Moran, Daragh Minnock, Shane Heffernan; David Molloy, Shane O’Toole-Greene, Nigel Dunne.
Subs: Adrian Minnock for Heffernan 10 mins, Darren Meacle for D.Minnock 45 mins.
Referee- Caymon Flynn (Westmeath)
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
Flow on lovely river, flow gently along
by your water’s so sweet sounds the lark’s merry song
on your green banks I’ll wander where first I did join
with you lovely Molly, the Rose of Mooncoin.
I would imagine that the Mooncoin anthem was ringing out along the banks of the Suir on Saturday night last!
The Leinster Club Junior Hurling title is a Kilkenny thing – 15 out of the last 18 provincial champions have been from the Marble County.
Mooncoin are seen by some as a bit of an enigma. They seem to bounce between junior and intermediate grades at regular intervals, but the one constant, is their faithful supporters. Winning the Kilkenny junior title will see them challenge at intermediate level next season. There will be some great games had then.
Goals are something that this side seems to have in their locker – and they hit another FOUR in their provincial final victory. Once again, captained from wing-back by Cormac Daly, Pa Walsh stole the show with a stunning total of 3-6. Ably supported by Ciaran Quilty, Martin Gannon and Martin O’Neill, there’s quality all over the pitch.
The Offaly champions, Shamrocks, simply had no answer to Pa & Co. County and province sorted.
Galway side Salthill-Knocnacarra await in the All-Ireland semi-final. That’s a matter for another day.
Then here’s to the Suir with its valleys so fair
as of times we wandered in the cool morning air
where the roses are blooming and the lilies entwine
on the banks of the Suir that flows down by Mooncoin.