Another example of hard work and a team playing for each other helped Tullaroan earn some North Kilkenny bragging rights and move clear at the top of their intermediate hurling league group.
Scoring bursts at just the right time paid off as they beat an out-of-sorts Fenians (Johnstown) at a windy Urlingford on Friday evening.
It may not have had the cut and thrust of championship hurling but, for one second half spell, the game took on a life of its own. The sliotar whizzed this way and that as both teams raised their game several levels in a bid to gain the upper hand.
The game wasn’t delicately poised (Tullaroan had a six-point lead up their sleeve at that stage) but they needed to look sharp as Fenians finally got their game into gear and threatened to shake off their below-par first half performance.
Led by two quick Mark Webster frees the Johnstown men looked to have turned the corner. They pressed and pressed, but Tullaroan wouldn’t wilt. As a collective they worked hard to lift the siege, with Jack Keoghan and Tommy Walsh (V) leading the way.
After containing the Fenians attack, Tullaroan got their own into gear. John Walton got them moving with a point, then two in lightning-quick time from the impressive Martin Keoghan saw them zoom nine clear of their rivals (1-10 to 0-4).
Even with 20 minutes left, the game looked to be out of Fenians’ reach.
The Johnstown side can look back on a sluggish first half performance as the key reason for their defeat. A tricky crossfield breeze made shooting difficult for both sides, but Tullaroan managed to get to grips with the elements a little quicker.
They took their time to get off the mark – the scoreboard operators weren’t troubled until Tommy Walsh hit the first point in the eighth minute – but they managed to find their range with more regularity.
It took the Fenians 17 minutes to find their first score, Conor Tobin breaking their barren run with a good point. By the time they got their second through Mark Webster on 28 minutes, they were in danger of slipping out of the game.
With Tommy Walsh (V) and Walton picking off fine solo scores Tullaroan showed they had real pace in their ranks. That speed came to the fore in the 26th minute, when Martin Keoghan gathered possession in midfield and set off. Working the sliotar to Shane Walsh Keoghan continued his run, picking off the return pass before slipping it under ’keeper James Dermody.
The Fenians tried to raise their game in the closing stages, but luck wasn’t on their side. A sweeping move saw Conor Tobin pick up the sliotar out on the right and lay it off to Darragh Tobin. Despite the tight angle he tried to swat the ball beyond Richie Butler, but his shot crashed into the side netting (half-time: Tullaroan 1-7, Fenians 0-2).
The pace picked up in the second half but Tullaroan never let their efforts drop, even after Conor Tobin grabbed a 42nd minute goal for Fenians. Within minutes the leaders erased the damage caused by that big strike, Shane Walsh slotting over three frees in succession.
Tullaroan’s confidence was soaring now; Martin Keoghan showed as much, delivering an outrageous reverse hand-pass that ended with Peter Walsh picking off a fine 51st minute point. They kept driving on until the end, moving further in front courtesy of steady points from Mark Walsh and sub Josh Moore. Fenians did finish the scoring, Sean Tobin spinning free of his man to flash the sliotar to the net in the 60th minute, but by then it was too little too late.
SCORERS: Tullaroan – Martin Keoghan (1-4); Shane Walsh (0-6, 0-5 frees, 0-1 65); John Walton (0-2); Tommy Walsh (V), Tommy Walsh (M), Mark Walsh, Peter Walsh, Josh Moore (0-1 each). Fenians – Conor Tobin (1-1), Mark Webster (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 65), Sean Tobin (1-0).
Tullaroan – Richie Butler; Diarmuid Doheny, Eddie Campion, Stephen Dowling; Stephen Maher, Martin Walsh, Tommy Walsh (V); Tommy Walsh (M), Jack Keoghan; John Walton, Mark Walsh, Martin Keoghan; Peter Walsh, Ken Coogan, Shane Walsh. Subs: Josh Moore for Coogan, 33 mins; Dylan Simpson for Walton, 57 mins; Bill Gaffney for Mark Walsh, 57 mins; Shane Cuddihy for P. Walsh, 57 mins.
Fenians – James Dermody; Cormac Ryan, J.J. Delaney, Eoin Phelan; Declan Brennan, John Henderson, Rory Phelan; Michael Carroll, Niall Carroll; Willie Brennan, Conor Tobin, Darragh Tobin; Mark Webster, Pa Duggan, Sean Tobin. Subs: Shane Curran for Duggan, 31 mins; Killian Fitzpatrick for D. Tobin, 50 mins; Donal Wilson for Henderson, 53 mins.
Referee – Paddy Bowden (Lisdowney).