Glenmore and Dicksboro do battle for league title
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
St. Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling League Final
Dicksboro Vs Glenmore
Saturday, 3pm, UPMC Nowlan Park Referee: Patrick O Reilly
UPMC Nowlan Park will play host to an intriguing battle between unbeaten Dicksboro and Glenmore tomorrow, as both clubs go in search of silverware in the form of the senior league title. As we approach the business end of the Kilkenny club season, momentum is crucial, and these sides will aim to put down a marker as teams jostle to dethrone six-in-a-row seeking Shamrocks Ballyhale.
Managers Michael Walsh and Bob Aylward have been round the block long enough to know that from this point onwards, every game matters. Once the league decider is done and dusted, it’s knockout hurling only and that’s when the real pressure will be on the contenders for the County title.
Group A winners Glenmore arrive in the league final having lost just one game during the group stages. That was a surprising defeat to Graigue Ballycallan in round 4, but the men from the deep south regrouped and put in a decent display to shoot down Bennettsbridge last time out. Bob Aylward’s charges dealt an early season blow to Shamrocks, when they ran out 3-point winners in the All-Ireland club champions own back yard, and this victory laid the foundations for an entertaining campaign.
A narrow win over The Village coupled with a 10-point thrashing of Erins own in horrible conditions has seen Glenmore serve notice that they are a team to be reckoned with. They will arrive in UPMC Nowlan Park tomorrow, knowing that whatever type of game develops, that they are in a good place to come out on the right side of the result.
Backboned by the Murphy clan, Glenmore, like their final opponents, have a lovely blend of youth and experience and this has resulted in their fine performances to date. County netminder Eoin Murphy has looked very comfortable at centre-back, and having the powerful running power of Shane on the wing allows the Pairc na Ratha men to build a great platform in defence for those further forward to do real damage. Alan Murphy covers every blade of grass and is a hardy buck. When the going gets tough, he loves to battle, but don’t let his feistiness overshadow his skill on the ball and ability to strike from distance. Alan is also entrusted with placed ball duty, and he’s normally very reliable in this area.
Ex-County man Ger Aylward provides a real cutting edge at the top end of the pitch. Ger possesses really clever movement, turns on a six-pence and never gives defenders a second’s peace during the game! Glenmore can usually rely on him to lead the attacking unit with great purpose and determination while his knack of pointing from almost impossible angles is a joy to behold. The young trio of Ian Byrne, Cathal Beirne and Dean Croke give their side many outlets to provide and take scores.
Beirne in particular has been mightily impressive this season, possibly the standout player in this Glenmore side. His powerful and purposeful runs from deep cause untold problems for the opposition and he likes to trouble the scoreboard as well. Ian Byrne, a county panelist himself can sometimes be a mercurial type character. Another player that has the ability to glide past defenders with ease, Byrne is a really talented hurler who has plenty to offer his club, and no doubt the black and amber for years to come. Young Dean Croke adds something new to the Glenmore attack. His work rate is excellent, as are his clever runs and he loves little flicks to bring others into the game. Croke is definitely one to watch.
At the back, goalkeeper Mikey Kirwan is solid custodian between the posts but for me, it has been his restarts that have caught the eye. Kirwan seems to know exactly when to go short or send a booming puck out way down the pitch. In front of the netminder, Eoin Aylward and Sean Duggan have been the main protagonists in the Glenmore defensive unit. Along with the Murphy’s, Billy Reid is another player that has put in some cracking displays so far this season. Factor in Richie Hennessy, Ethan Phelan and the returning Robbie Fitzpatrick and you can see that all looks good in Glenmore.
Glenmore’s opponents tomorrow, Dicksboro can lay claim to having the best record in the league this season. Unbeaten after five rounds of action, Michael Walsh’s men were also the highest scorers across both groups and just as importantly, had the tightest defence. Put all this together, and it’s not hard to see why many think Dicksboro could be potential championship winners.
The Palmerstown based side will hope to build on what’s been an impressively consistent season to date by lifting the league title at UPMC Nowlan Park tomorrow afternoon. The men in maroon got their group campaign off to a flyer with victory over Clara in a high scoring affair at Pairc Sheamuis Stiophan back in early August, hitting 5-18 to secure a 13-point win. ‘Boro returned to the same venue the following week to topple O’Loughlin Gaels by once score in a very entertaining encounter. Danesfort were the next team to be overpowered by Michael Walsh’s charges, before Mullinavat made them work much harder in Dunnamaggin, just 4-points separating the sides at the long whistle. Dicksboro completed group matters with a 4-19 to 0-16 win over Tullaroan in Ballyragget to finish top of the table with ten points.
Like Glenmore, Dicksboro appears to have a great blend across all areas of the pitch. Bill Sheehan leads his side well in the attacking third, and it’s around him that this team really shines, literally. Yes, young Harry Shine is an explosive talent of real quality. You can’t take your eyes off him, otherwise he is likely to punish you. Add in the experienced Andy Gaffney and Mark Nolan and this inside line can pose problems for any defence.
Liam Moore has been a regular in this side for a while now and is an intelligent hurler who links the play well in the final third. Aidan Nolan has looked in decent nick this season, while Cillian Hackett usually delivers consistent performances for his club. County men at different end of their careers, Cillian Buckley and Timmy Clifford have been used in multiple positions at club level and are key cogs in Michael Walsh’s ‘Boro machine. Clifford appears to be enjoying his club hurling and has put in some good shifts in recent games and can take a score or two himself also.
At the back, Dicksboro has some quality defenders, Stephen Dermody, Niall Rowe and particularly Padraic Moylan are sticky markers and will relish trying to shackle the likes of Ger Aylward, Ethan Phelan and co. Moylan is an All-Ireland U20 winning captain and possesses great quality and leadership and appears to be flourishing under the guidance of Michael Walsh.
It has all the ingredients to be a cracking league final, and it could go either way, but you can bet that both these sides will have a big say in where the Tom Walsh Cup ends up in a few weeks’ time.