Naas outpoint St. Mary's
Naas C.B.S. emerged victorious over Enniscorthy C.B.S. in a dour and scrappy Top Oil Leinster Junior hurling 'B' championship final in Freshford, Co. Kilkenny, on Thursday.
Naas C.B.S. 0-12 St. Mary's C.B.S. 0-8
The match was notable largely for its absence of any semblance of fast, open hurling, with negative, defensive and scrappy hurling being the order of the day. The winners were hungrier, more willing to graft and struggle to get the desire result.
To any neutral spectator present, the game presented a poor reflection of what should have been a display of speed, skill and courage at this level.
It was played in cold, dry conditions, with the frosty ground presenting problems to both sides in keeping their feet, but Naas coped better. This was typified by their quick burst into the lead within the first two minutes with a pointed free from Al Bergin, the first of his seven in all, with five coming from frees.
Two pointed frees from Oran Carty put St. Mary's into the lead by the tenth minute, but that was the only time they led, with that situation lasting only a few minutes before the tall, rangy Bergin equalised and then his side went two points in front with three well-taken frees.
A pointed free from Enniscorthy's Oran Carty left one between the sides in this very low-scoring match at the interval, with Naas ahead by 0-4 to 0-3.
An early point from Ian Blackbyrne widened the gap, but a good point, after a mazy run through the Kildare defence, by Páuric Walsh, in addition to a pointed free from Oran Carty, levelled the scores at 0-5 each.
Play was dour and scrappy, with the emphasis being on defence and preventing the other side bringing their scoring skills into play. A notable feature, especially in the second-half, was the number of 'throw balls' the referee had to use to resume play.
This was an indication of the dourness and scrappy nature of the hurling, where a player in possession was immediately surrounded and crowded out by the opposition.
An exchange of two points each did nothing to break the stalemate by the 13th minute, nor did a later swop of points between Ferran O'Sullivan for Naas and Oran Carty for St. Mary's, bringing the score to 0-8 each by the 50th minute.
However, the closing eight to ten minutes belonged to the Kildare side, as they proved hungrier in taking their scores, while their defence very effectively stifled any hope the Slaneysiders had of responding.
Their four points in those closing minutes was the margin of their victory, with the final score standing at 0-12 to 0-8.
St. Mary's, in their previous three outings, scored an average of 2-13 per match, but were limited in this to 0-8, six of those from frees. If the same defensive ethos which was so evident in this game, and which has recently ruled football, becomes the norm in hurling, the game as a spectacle will be severely damaged and will become far less exciting and entertaining. Let's hope not, for the sake of hurling.
St. Mary's: Darragh Hayes (Oulart-The Ballagh), Noel Rowsome (Monageer-Boolavogue), Niall Parker (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Michael Delaney (Rapparees), Aaron Miller (Monageer-Boolavogue), Oran Carty (Rapparees, 0-6 frees), Jack Roche (Oulart-The Ballagh), Paudie Casey (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Jack Mythen (Rapparees), Liam Flood (Cloughbawn), Páuric Walsh (Monageer-Boolavogue, 0-1), Craig Foley (Rapparees), Philip O'Brien (Shamrocks), Eanna Doyle (Cloughbawn, 0-1), Ronan O'Leary (Monageer-Boolavogue), Gary Kehoe (Cloughbawn), Chris Lawless (Oulart-The Ballagh), Kyle Murphy (Cloughbawn), Mark Byrne (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Gavin Murphy (Rapparees), Cian Cowman (Shamrocks), Evan Murphy (Rapparees), Eddie Kelly (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy), James Flood (Cloughbawn), Michael Doyle (Oulart-The Ballagh), Aaron Cummins (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Kalem Dobbs (Rapparees), Cathal Byrne (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Rory Scallan (Ferns St. Aidan's), Lee O'Connor (Oulart-The Ballagh).
Naas C.B.S.: Drew Costello, Dermott Hanifin, Kevin Kelleher, Conan Boran, Eoghan Prizeman, Harry Carroll, Murray O'Byrne, Al Bergin (0-7, 5 frees), Liam Broderick, Eoin Conneff (0-2), Seán O Domhnaill, Brian Tobin, Ian Blackbyrne (0-2), Cian Duffy, Ferran O'Sullivan (0-1), Niall Mullally, Eoghan Duffy, Liam Walsh, Paddy Kelly, Kevin Sweeney, Rory Reilly, Sam Morrissey, Colm Foley, Jack Cleary, John Lawlor, Jack Higgins, Jack Rowe.
Referee: Ronan Devaney (Laois).