Senior footballers in championship

November 7, 2018

IOMÁINT The name Kilkenny has, nowadays, in hurling circles an awesome ring about it and instils fear in the hearts of hurlers countrywide. This places the opposition in games against Kilkenny teams at all levels, at a few points disadvantage.

It would not be surprising then if a degree of trepidation was to be found among the Éire Óg hurlers as they set out to play Cloneen of that county in Crettyard, Co. Laois in the semi-final of the Leinster Hurling League on Wednesday evening last.

Our hurling fraternity had cried foul at their having to undertake such an arduous journey mid-week but no one was listening. From mid-February when the date of the game had been set, their minds had been tuned to playing the game on Saturday afternoon last but the fixing of the 1st round of the Renault County Football Championship for the same afternoon put paid to that. The frustration of the travelling party was further exacerbated by the huge inconvenience of being caught up in the M7/Naas rush-hour traffic. Nevertheless they succeeded in arriving in Crettyard in good time for the throw-in but not in time to thaw out limbs frozen to stiffness by the journey. Hardly a wonder then that they found themselves 5 points in arrears early on. It may have been the realisation that they were on their way to a drubbing that bestirred them but shortly after that the Greystones lads found their feet and outscored Cloneen 5 points to 2 over the remainder of the 30 minutes.

Stephen Kelly, Shane Nolan, Leon Browne and James Cranley (from a '65') were responsible for the Éire Óg scores. The half-time score, 0-7 to 0-5, which bore more resemblance to a baseball outcome was truly reflective of a less than inspiring 1st period.

Things did not greatly improve in a 2nd half which had the seaside support seething with exasperation as they watched a Kilkenny team ( is binn béal ina thost on this point lest one earn the wrath of the Kilkenny adulators) use every device to prevent the Éire Óg play develop any degree of momentum.

Thanks to points by Michael Walsh and James Cranley the score stood at 0-8 to 0-7( É Óg) with 15 minutes to go. A valley period in which Éire Óg were able to register only 1 point ('Pooch') against 4 for Cloneen followed. 4 points down, 5 minutes left. Another point for Cloneen. End of story? Not at all. A Danny Nolan goal has the tide turning strongly our way. Too late. A very fractured half had raised expectations of a prolonged period of injury time and the hope of a reprieve. Vain. The referee blew the whistle almost exactly on the 60 minute mark.

PEIL The recall of Saturday evening's 1st round of the Renault Football Championship match against Newtown has a handkerchiefed hand sweeping across the brow to wipe away the cold sweat of panic. The game was another of those edge-of-the-knife affairs in which this team seems to indulge. For much of the hour Éire Óg played second fiddle on the scoreboard but thankfully were ahead by that vital one point at the final whistle.

Did it have to be so? There were those among the Greystones support who felt that our lads had made unnecessarily hard work of carving out this victory, citing in particular the number of 'handy' scoring opportunities missed, especially in the 1st half, by erratic kicking.

Two factors which had a huge bearing on the pattern of play in the game were the sweeper system and the strategies employed to deal with the traditional long kick-out. With respect to the latter Greystones fought very much a losing battle largely due to too many players committing to the jump and thus leaving Newtown to lord it over the breaking ball.

The sweeper system, for the most part, worked more to the benefit of the opposition than to that of Éire Óg. Thus their goalie was nearly always able to find the loose man in their back line with a short kick-out and he then set up a movement which had our backs immediately under pressure. We failed to make any such use of our sweeper.

In such a tightly scored game it takes only one error to turn the contest one team's way and ironically this came by way of Newtown's trump card, the aforementioned short kick-out. At a critical juncture in the 2nd half an egregious weakly delivered kick-out was pounced on by an alert Sam Thompson who transferred to Karl Manahan and Karl unerringly found the back of the net and so saved his team's bacon.

The consensus was that Stephen 'Chester' Kelly gave a MOTM performance at full-back and that he was very effective in containing the threat of Dean Odlum. Darren Hayden, at centre-back, was his usual excellent and athletic self and he was invariably involved in Éire Óg's attacking movements. “Karl Manahan in the forwards?” was the followers' reaction to the team selection. Heretofore Karl has had a defensive role but in the event he proved himself a very capable forward. Justin O'Brien worked tirelessly and productively in the half-back line and young Pierce Kelly, playing his 1st senior championship game, had an impressive presence in the centre of the field.Congratulations to both teams for having served up such a closely fought, entertaining and sporting game of football. Naturally it had its shortcomings but they were more than compensated for by the very many intelligently contrived and beautifully executed movements, the excellent scores and the exciting goal-mouth incidents.

PEIL NA gCAILÍNÍ During the week the girls played the opening games of their season. On Tuesday the u-12s defeated Feargal Óg and the u-14s, after being a point ahead at the break, lost to a very strong Bray Emmets team, 8-6 to 4-5. On Tuesday our u-16s are at home to St. Pats at 7pm.