Junior Hurling Relegation Final
Graignamanagh 0-16, Fenians 0-13
This battle for survival in the Junior proper grade of hurling was fought to the wire as both sides never relented in their pursuit of maintaining their interest in the Junior grade for at least another twelve months. In a sense, it would have been disastrous if the Graignamanagh lads had succumbed to the drop, as they have laboured long and hard to keep the game going down in their neck of the woods against opposition not of their own making. Maybe we are being somewhat hard on the gallant Johnstown lads who fought the good fight, but they are in the upper elevation of Kilkenny hurling for a very long time, having earned the respect and admiration of many in the process. On balance the Graignamanagh lads just about deserved to get home in front but it was a worrying, nervous experience for them.
Contests between the two clubs would have been rare events, so there was a consequent wariness between them from the start. Playing with the assistance of the slight breeze in the first half, the Graig men settled better, and quicker. Thirteen of the opening seventeen scores came from frees, in a game where there were an unprecedented number of frees- 36 in total, and in a game where there was not the semblance of a questionable stroke.
Eddie Walsh fired all but one of his side’s first half take through the Fenian’s posts, with Eddie Dowling grabbing the twelfth point on the stroke of half time. The shopping list of Walshe’s take was made up of two 65s, two points from play, and the rest frees.
Johnstown’s Mark Webster was unerring from placed balls too, but he was obviously not presented with a similar number of opportunities as Walsh. He shot four frees, and wing forward, Rory Phelan scored a point from play in the 13th minute.
The Graig defenders were stubborn, and unrelenting in the first half. Making life difficult for the Fenians forwards, they pumped hard-won ball as quickly as possible, and with match-winning regularity down on top of the hard-pressed Fenians defenders. James Cahill had a superb game at fullback all through, and never met his match. Jim O’Donnell, and Kieran O’Brien were excellent corner men, and this trio gave tremendous protection to competent goalkeeper, Ronan Dowling. Paul Hamilton was great on the half back line as were James Meaney, and Diarmuid O’Neill.
But the winners were not the only team with fine defenders. The Fenians had Ger Henderson in excellent form at number 6, Sean Warren at fullback, Cormac Ryan, and Luke Hughes were not too far behind Henderson.
At half time, Graignamanagh were comfortably in front by 0-12 to 0-5.
One wondered if it was going to see them get home in front at the finish?
Up to the end of the third quarter it seemed that it would as the winners led by seven points. Damien Delaney in the Fenians goal had made two marvellous saves to keep his side in the game, hence our appraisal.
But the Johnstown men, forever the battlers came with a thundering late rally that saw them pear the Graig lead down to a wobbling three points by the 56th minute.
Johnstown nearly tied it all up in a heart-stopping moment as the game popped into added time, but it was not to be.
Lar Ryan, Jonathan Ryan, Sean Brennan, Patrick Duggan were very conspicuous. They gave their all. It was not going to be enough.
Graig had Eddie Dowling, Brendan Foley, Pauric Whelan, Cathal Roche punching in great shifts too, which contributed to a very entertaining, nerve-wracking encounter.
Graignamanagh: Eddie Walsh, (0-13, nine frees, two ’65); Eddie Dowling (0-2), Pauric Whelan (0-1).
Fenians: (0-10, nine frees, one ’65); Lar Ryan, Sean Brennan (0-1 each).
Graignamanagh :Ronan Dowling, Jim O’Donnell, James Cahill, Kieran O’Brien, Paul Hamilton, James Meaney, Diarmuid O’Neill, James Doyle, Brendan Foley, Eddie Dowling, Eddie Walsh, Cathal Roche, Jamie McGrath, Cathal Dunne, Pauric Whelan.
Subs (used): Lee Kinsella.
Fenians: Damien Delaney, Eddie Hughes, Sean Warren, Cormac Ryan, Donal Wilson, Ger Henderson, Luke Hughes, Patrick Duggan, Sean Brennan, Rory Phelan, Jonathan Ryan, Enda Purcell, Lar Ryan, Joe Delaney, Mark Webster. Sub (used): Eoin Wilson.
Ref; M. Flynn (Mooncoin)