Jimmies weather storm
St. James' 1-15 Ballygarrett 0-15
The weather may have been glorious in Bellefield on Sunday, but St. James' still had to weather a third quarter storm before steering through calmer waters and on to victory in this Group A opener against Ballygarrett in The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship.
The Ramsgrange side led by 1-10 to 0-6 at the break on their first-ever outing in the second tier, but their north county rivals were all over them in the first ten minutes on the re-start.
The points sailed over for Ballygarrett with the breeze at their backs courtesy of Eoin Corcoran, Jack Hobbs (four frees), Evan Dunbar and an otherwise subdued Cathal Dunbar, with just one response from Mark Myler which left the saints clinging to a 1-11 to 0-13 advantage.
A small bit of composure let the Gorey District side down badly though, having done most of the hard work by eating into that considerable deficit.
They ended the second-half with eleven wides to make an overall total of 15, and also conceded one particularly needless free after two chances to clear the ball were wasted at a key juncture early in the last quarter.
St. James' have won two county titles in recent years and lost another by a small margin in between, and that experience stood to them as they didn't panic in the face of adversity.
Instead, they regained a foothold between the 44th and 50th minutes when points from Kevin O'Grady, Shane Murphy (play and free) stretched their advantage back out to 1-14 to 0-13.
Jack Hobbs left three between them with an effort from long range, but the misses were more plentiful than points in the last ten minutes including added time as an exchange between Kevin O'Grady (free) and Jimmy Murphy left St. James' with that goal to spare.
They will look back with pleasure on a fruitful ending to the first-half, while Ballygarrett will endure nightmares about that same spell in equal measure.
The sides had been level twice, with never more than two points between them, before St. James' hit 1-3 without reply from the 29th minute up to the break.
It came after a switch that brought Alan Walsh to centre-forward and Kevin O'Grady to full-forward paid immediate dividends, as the former fed the county footballer who put his pace to good use before finding the net via Shane Quinn's stick.
Matthew O'Hanlon had caught a Ballygarrett line ball and returned it over the bar with interest 40 seconds earlier, and Ballygarrett were still reeling as Shane Murphy (free) and Alan Walsh widened the gap to a scarcely-believable seven by half-time.
St. James' needed each and every one of those scores as a cushion to ward off the Paul Carley-coached Ballygarrett who will no doubt learn from bitter experience, after fighting back before tailing off again when they lost their way.
St. James': Luke Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Jason Barron, Brian Molloy (0-1); Liam Murphy (capt.), Matthew O'Hanlon (0-2), Paul Barron; David Doyle (0-1), Robbie Barron; Darragh Lyons (0-1), Kevin O'Grady (1-2, 0-1 free), Donal Barron; Mark Myler (0-1), Shane Murphy (0-5, 3 frees, 1 '65), Alan Walsh (0-2). Subs. - Greg Doyle for S. Murphy (59), Daniel Keating for Walsh, inj. (60+3).
Ballygarrett: Shane Quinn; Eddie Redmond, John Doyle, Aidan Murphy; Tom Sinnott, Evan Dunbar (0-1), Darren Morris; Pat Naughter, Stephen Redmond; Kevin Jordan (0-1), Eoin Corcoran (0-1), Jimmy Murphy (0-2); Cathal Dunbar (capt., 0-1), Cormac Moore, Jack Hobbs (0-9, 7 frees). Sub. - Harry Byrne for E. Dunbar, inj. (56).
Referee: John O'Loughlin (Monageer-Boolavogue).