Monday, 27 February 2012

Wallace elated

Antrim hurling manager Jerry Wallace
Jerry Wallace was delighted after his first game in charge of the Antrim hurlers yielded an excellent win over Wexford.

And after yesterday's six-point victory, the Cork man claimed the decision not to enter the Walsh Cup was fully vindicated.

"It's onward and upwards now," he enthused.

"We can only look forward to each game individually and the next challenge is the Clare game. It was a gamble not going into the Walsh Cup and I stand over that completely.

"I felt that if I had gone into competition earlier in the year there were aspects of the play, their support play against Wexford, that I might not have been able to get up-and-running, so I am very pleased."

He continued: "I'm very pleased with the second half in that when Wexford were starting to claw back the score, our lads knuckled down again and on the field they found a little bit of resolve and got it going again."

Sunday, 26 February 2012

HL 1A: Cats win All-Ireland repeat 26 February 2012

Kilkenny Power-ed to a 2-17 to 0-15 victory over Tipperary at Nowlan Park.

Richie Power registered 1-12, with captain Eoin Larkin bagging the other major for the winners.

Kilkenny produced an impressive first-half display to lead by 1-10 to 0-8 at half time, with Power hitting the goal as well as a flurry of points.

Tipp made a late change to their starting team with veteran goalkeeper Brendan Cummins in to replace Darren Gleeson. But it was the Cats who pounced first when Power clipped over a free from right of centre in the first minute.

At the other end, UCD student Noel McGrath drilled over an excellent point from about 55 metres out, close to the sideline. Cummins made a vital intervention to foil TJ Reid as Kilkenny threatened the Tipp goal, diverting the ball out for a '65', which Power rolled up onto his hurl and converted: 0-2 to 0-1.

James Stephens clubman Matthew Ruth doubled the gap and Michael Rice made it 0-3 to 0-1 with a lovely finish.

The Cats added two more points and Power then won and converted a twelfth-minute penalty to make it 1-5 to 0-1. Conor O'Mahony landed a brilliant free from distance for the Premier County.

Pa Bourke hit two points either side of a McGrath effort as Tipp gained a foothold in the game with four consecutive points, 1-5 to 0-5. But Colm Fennelly was fouled after being picked out by captain Eoin Larkin and Power popped the free over the bar, his tally rising to 1-3.

Larkin got himself a score and Power landed three more first-half points as the Noresiders remained in control to lead by five at the short whistle.

Noel McGrath - with his third point - registered the first score of the second half and Pa Bourke's sixth pointed free meant there was just the goal between these fierce rivals: 1-10 to 0-10.

Kilkenny's response was both immediate and deadly - a 41st-minute goal from Larkin who just about managed to get the ball across the line.

Power made it 2-12 to 0-10 as daylight appeared between the sides again. But Power and Reid both missed the target as Brian Cody's relentless men continued to boss things.

Brendan Maher became just the fourth Tipp player to score when he pointed off his right side and Declan Ryan threw Eoin Kelly into the action for the last 20 minutes. But Power tapped over a 20-metre free after a foul on Colm Fennelly.

Kelly and fellow substitute Shane Bourke grabbed three-in-a-row for the visitors as they reduced the arrears somewhat but Tommy Walsh rose to repel a couple of high balls in around the Kilkenny defence as the Cats held on effortlessly, 2-15 to 0-14 with six minutes left.

Power floated over another free, which was cancelled out by Shane Bourke - his third point from play - from an acute angle. In the first minute of injury time, Carrickshock clubman Power converted again from 35 metres to complete his impressive afternoon.

HL 1B: Saffrons shock Wexford

Antrim opened their campaign with a welcome 3-18 to 2-15 victory at Casement Park.

Shane McNaughton hit 1-8 for the victors as the Model County were put to the sword on their trip across the border.

Eoin Quigley's goal separated the sides heading into the second quarter, 1-4 to 0-4, but the Saffrons battled back gamely and had three-pointers of their own from Shane McNaughton, debutant Kevin Sheerin and Karl Stewart to claim a commanding 3-9 to 1-7 half-time advantage.

Laim Dunne's charges refused to give up and it was 3-13 to 1-13 with twelve minutes left as Wexford's half-time subs made a major impact.

But McNaughton and Stewart were having an incredible afternoon of point-taking for the hosts...

The climax was thrilling as the gap came down to five, 3-16 to 2-14, after Quigley struck his second goal of the match with three minutes remaining.

But Jerry Wallis' men held on for a famous win.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

McLaughlin to make Saffrons debut 24 February 2012

Sean McLaughlin will make his Antrim debut against Wexford at Casement Park on Sunday.

With the Loughgiel contingent unavailable, the Carey Faughs clubman starts the Division 1B opener at right half forward. Randalstown's Kevin Sheerin - who played in the league three years ago - is selected at full forward and Neil McManus starts at centre back.

Chris O'Connell is between the posts and Michael Herron will captain the Glensmen from the 40.

This is manager Jerry Wallis' first competitive game at the helm, as they opted not to participate in the Walsh Cup this year. Six of the Ulster team beaten by Connacht in the Interpro semi-final last weekend are included.

And, speaking on Antrim's official website, the new manager issued the following rallying call:

"It is a very interesting league. We only have five games and that means they are all very important, maybe 15% more intensive than games in last year's league. All of our games are against the kind of opposition we want to play, games that will make us more competitive and games we will want to do well in. They are very serious games. Three of our five are at home and I really do hope that supporters and clubs will come out and support the fellas.

"I had a meeting with all clubs at the start of the year and the feedback that night was very positive. Everyone wants to see Antrim doing as well as we can. It was a very progressive meeting and along with my management team we have been very open with the clubs in Antrim and I know from talking to people that there is a county-wide desire to see our hurling team playing as well as we know they can, and on a consistent basis.

"We want the whole package. We are looking for the team to play as well as they can, to play to their strengths and - yes - I want us to win the game. But look, this is a long-term project we are building. If we win, lose or draw or Sunday, the work will go on the next week. But of course we want to win; the players deserve that if only for the work they have put in so far. I hope we have a good day and that the supporters come out and enjoy themselves. This is a new start for Antrim, beginning on Sunday.

"I like the new ad for tourism in the North - it says this is 'our time and our place', I think that's a slogan for Antrim too."

Antrim (NHL V Wexford): C O'Connell; A Graffin, C Donnelly, K McGourty; N McAuley, N McManus, S McCrory; K Stewart, B McFall; S McLaughlin, M Herron, C McFall; S McNaughton, K Sheeran, PJ O'Connell. Subs: S McToal, J Kerr, A Downey, M Gettins, KB McShane, C Rea, P Shiels, D Lynch, D Hamill.

HL 1A: Rebels too hot for Decies 25 February 2012

Conor Lehane impressed as Cork beat Waterford by 3-17 to 0-18 at Pairc Ui Rinn.

The teenager struck seven points from play, giving returning manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy a glimpse of the future of Cork hurling in his first league match back at the helm. A crowd of 7,356 witnessed the exhibition.

Waterford started best with the opening three points but Cork eventually found their rhythm and goals from Paudie O'Sullivan (2) and Cathal Naughton propelled them into a 3-8 to 0-7 interval lead.

After an entertaining rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann, the action got underway and Tallow's Paul O'Brien popped the Decies ahead with a lovely score from play inside the first minute. The Rebels had an immediate opportunity to equalise but Pat Horgan's free went wide.

Centre back Kevin Moran drilled over an excellent point from distance and good defending from Darragh Fives kept Cork at bay as they threatened a third-minute goal. Seamus Prendergast was one of four late additions to the Waterford starting team (with Noel Connors, Aidan Kearney, Shane O'Sullivan and Maurice Shanahan all forced to cry off at the eleventh hour) and he was instrumental in Moran's score and also in the next one from league debutant Martin O'Neill, who duly made it 0-3 to no score after ten minutes.

Horgan hit another wide for the hosts from a free before registering their first point of the night from open play after six minutes. Pa Cronin placed Conor Lehane for the Leesiders' second score and the wing forward was on hand to level the scores with his second minor of the match: 0-3 each after eleven minutes.

Michael Walsh and Shane Walsh both caused consternation in the Rebel rearguard but no score was forthcoming until Ben O'Connor tipped the sliothar over the bar to edge the Cork men in front for the first time on the stroke of 15 minutes.

Iggy O'Regan made a good save to deny Cathal Naughton before the outstanding Lehane benefited from good play by full forward Paudie O'Sullivan to fire over the hosts' fifth successive point. And O'Sullivan - brother of 'The Rock' - claimed the next score himself to make it 0-6 to 0-3 after 19 minutes.

A minute later, the Rebels found the net through O'Sullivan, who was picked out by O'Connor - 1-6 to 0-3 and what a comeback! Paudie Mahony hit points from a free and from play to reduce the arrears but young Darren Sweetman then clipped over his first-ever league point to leave the home team in front by 1-7 to 0-5. Horgan added another instantly for Jimmy Barry-Murphy's rampant side.

It was all Cork and Naughton played a one-two with Lahane before despatching to the net in the 26th minute: 2-8 to 0-5.

On the half hour, it got even worse for Michael Ryan's men: Paudie O'Sullivan had all the time in the world as he placed his second major to the corner of the net to increase the gap to twelve points with five minutes remaining in the first half.

An O'Neill free and a Mahony point from play put some respectability on the scoreboard before the break.

Dungarvan clubman Jamie Nagle closed the margin further with the first score of the second period, 3-8 to 0-8, and Dunhill's Shane Casey moved onto his stronger right-hand side to clip over his first of the night. Waterford were eight adrift but had scored four in a row either side of the short whistle.

A Martin O'Neill free - his third point - kept the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors but former Nottingham Forest triallist Naughton burst through to reply with a facile Cork point in the 42nd minute.

Michael Walsh supplied Waterford's fifth wide off his left-hand side as they continued to battle gallantly. Willie Egan was having an excellent game in the Cork defence but his foul culminated in a 20-metre free, which O'Neill tapped over to close the margin to seven, 3-9 to 0-11.

When Cronin drilled over an exquisite point it meant that all six of Cork's starting forwards had scored from play; Prendergast replied instantly for the away team. Waterford came with two more points to move within five but Lehane proved that he's one for the future with his fourth point from play, 3-11 to 0-14.

And a huge roar went up when - 16 years after making his intercounty debut - Sean Og O Halpin knocked over a 55th-minute point. Waterford needed a goal but they never looked like fashioning one and another Horgan free extended the Rebels' lead to eight again.

Twenty-eleven minor Gavin O'Brien signalled his introduction from the bench with a great Waterford point twelve minutes from the end and Fives made another telling intervention in the Decies defence to repel Horgan as the mist started to descend across the Cork city venue.

But UCC Fresher Lehane capped a fine individual display with his fifth point and substitute Eoin McGrath replied with a Waterford point in the 28th minute before - amazingly - Midleton teenager Lehane popped over his sixth point from near the sideline.

Another teenager, Waterford sub O'Brien, grabbed his second point three minutes from time and again it was Lehane who answered, floating over his seventh point of the match. What a sensational performance from the No.10, who rightly got a rousing reception when he was called ashore before the end!

Horgan stretched the gap to nine on the stroke of full time, 3-17 to 0-17. Tallow clubman Ryan responded with an injury-time score for the valiant losers.

HL 1B: Banner take derby spoils 25 February 2012

Clare looked fresh as they defeated Limerick by 2-24 to 1-13 at the Gaelic Grounds.

The Banner men wrested control of the second quarter to storm into a 1-12 to 1-8 half-time lead, having trailed by 1-6 to 0-4. With 5,390 looking on, Conor McGrath helped himself to 1-10 for the victors.

Clare took an early lead when the unerring McGrath slotted a 30-metre free but Limerick's response was instant and effective - a goal from Niall Moran, who took full advantage of the free space through the heart of the visitors' defence.

James Ryan and Fergal Lynch traded the next two points as the Treaty County led by double scores, 1-1 to 0-2, seven minutes in. Clare stayed within two points thanks to another McGrath free but Shane Dowling's excellent point left the goal between them, 1-4 to 0-4, coming up to the end of the opening quarter.

Limerick added two more points but Davy Fitzgerald's men kept going and notched an unanswered 1-5 inside the next 15 minutes to lead by three, 1-9 to 1-6.

Newmarket's Colin McGrath fired Clare's first major in the 22nd minute, latching onto a super pass from Lynch.

Two frees from Conor McGrath (bringing his tally to 0-5), either side of a Nicky O'Connell score pushed the visitors ahead after they had tied things up at 1-6 apiece.

It was all Clare now and the run of consecutive scores rose to 1-8 as they marched further ahead, 1-12 to 1-6. But a couple of late Shane Dowling points (bringing his first-half tally to 0-5) had John Allen's men still in the equation at half time, 1-12 to 1-8.

Conor McGrath landed another excellent point as the Banner moved six ahead again within three minutes of the restart. Clare were looking fresh and fit and they led by eight points when Sean Collins provided their fourth successive score since the resumption.

There were nine points between the teams when wing back Conor Allis finally supplied Limerick's first second-half score at the three-quarters stage.

Conor McGrath bagged a second Clare goal in the 57th minute and pointed soon after to bring his personal tally to 1-9. The excellent John Conlon added a late point as the Banner cantered to a 14-point victory.

Cunningham eager to make league impact 24 February 2012

Selector Ger Cunningham says Cork are determined to make an impact in the Allianz Hurling League.

After a couple of disappointing seasons, supporters are hoping Jimmy Barry-Murphy's return to the managerial hotseat will herald a new and exciting era for Cork hurling.

"It would be a big boost if we can do well in the league because there is nothing like winning matches to give you a bit of momentum and self-belief," Cunningham told the Corkman ahead of tomorrow night's league opener against Waterford at Pairc Ui Rinn.

"Our pre-season preparations couldn't have gone much better, we played two games in the Waterford Crystal Cup, and a number of challenge games and I thought they went off fine.

"It gave us a chance to look at a few new players, although it was a bit of a drawback that we couldn't get a full panel together because of Fitzgibbon Cup commitments. But we have trained very hard, and Jimmy has already brought everything together very well.

"There has been a great reaction to his appointment and, all in all, the attitude of the players has been very positive since we came in."

The former star goalkeeper is expecting nothing easy against a Waterford side that is also under new management.

"They have a good record against Cork over the last number of years, but you'd be hoping that home advantage might swing it for us, even though Pairc Ui Rinn is a venue that most of our lads wouldn't have played too many league matches in," he added.

"I expect it to be a close game, but if we get good support and the crowd gets behind the team, it might make the difference."