Na Fianna Prevail in Senior Hurling League Final Joust
Ballyboden St Endas 0 17 Na Fianna 0 22
Long Fella Reports from Parnell Park
“At least we stayed dry”, a wry throwaway comment from a somewhat underwhelmed Ballyboden supporter perhaps summed up Saturday evening’s performance at a poorly supported Parnell Park. Of course the weather’s behaviour meant zilch to the Fianna support when stood against their side’s showing with Boden, their conquerors in last year’s championship knock-out stage and the previous year’s league final. Purists might have been more judgemental, in that the overall hurling display was way short of what might be expected just days away from the commencement of the championship. Na Fianna can celebrate their league win with some pride, but they should reflect that their opponents fielded a young side and without several experienced first fifteen regulars.
The opening quarter was very much a “getting to know you” session when coupled with some economical use of the whistle. Recent signing Dublin’s Liam Rushe set his stall out with an early charge into the Boden defence, but the final pass failed to produce a score for the Glasnevin men. However, within a minute fellow Dub Donal Burke had opened the scoring with a Na Fianna point. Bodens Niall Ryan went on one of his trademark runs only to see his shot wide of the target. Team-mate Conor Dooley profited from a Shane Durkin pass to level matters. Ryan then became provider with a lay-off to Dooley and the lead for Boden. By the seventh minute Na Fianna were level when Colin Currie bagged the first of his several points for Na Fianna. Na Fianna then raced into a lead of three with points from Burke twice and a fine effort from A J Murphy. Boden responded with Shane Kennedy in for a brace and an absolute smasher of a point from Niall McMorrow. Score at 5 each.
The second quarter was very much Na Fianna’s when they raced into a four-point lead. Martin Quilty, Sean Baxter and Burke provided the points to stretch their tally to twelve. Burke’s second point of this period was perhaps the score of the game, he operating in the tightest of spaces to get his shot away. Boden were more subdued in their showing and only had Kennedy, Simon Lambert and again McMorrow with a superb effort when appearing to lose control of the ball. HT score 0.8 to 0.12.
The third quarter was very broken with a series of injuries as well as some sloppy turnovers. Currie and Burke were Na Fianna’s best performers, with the former scoring three quality points. Comically for some, but unhelpful to Boden’s cause, the umpires (neutral) disagreed on a score, only to have the referee decide in the negative. In the heel of the hunt, Boden only had Dooley (three frees) and Aiden Mellett to thank for scores. The game was now taking on a very defined picture, with Na Fianna sticking to the old Kilkenny style of making the ball do the work. Boden became converts to the modern Cork running game, with mixed results. Three quarters had it at 18 to 12.
Eoin Skelly brilliantly saves Simon Lambert’s penalty
The final chapter was very much Boden’s, with no easy explanation for Na Fianna’s near collapse in the possession stakes. Boden had up to four great chances for goals, including a penalty which, in fairness, was excellently saved by Eoin Skelly. On any other day perhaps one of the chances would have raised the expectations of the Boden following. Luke McDwyer took over on the frees and converted his share as well as pointing from play. He also had one of the goal chances but with the difference at four, his shot went narrowly wide. The following play produced the insurance point for Na Fianna and left Boden ruing the misses. Another Boden man to make his mark was Conor McKeon and his point came off some good pressure in the middle third. Lambert had a late chance for a goal but his blast with the boot went wide. He had earlier converted a fine effort from outfield to cancel a point from the in-form Currie.
All in all this was Na Fianna’s day and they well deserve their silver. Boden will regroup in advance of the championship where Plunketts await, fresh from their earlier victory in the second division final. Manager Malachy Travers will be somewhat buoyed up by the late showing of his young charges as well as the way the side fought back against physically stronger men. Dooley was always involved as well as James Roche in defence, an unusual role for him. McMorrow showed his class for the limited time allocated to him.
Squad; Finn McGarry, Cian Mellett, Luke Corcoran, Rob Leddy, Shane Durkin, Simon Lambert, James Roche, Sean McDonnell, Aiden Mellett, Niall Ryan, Pearse Christie, Conor Dooley, Luke McDwyer, Shane Kennedy, Conor O’Donoghue, Keith McCarron,Conor McKeon, Kevin Desmond, John O’Driscoll, Adam Kelleher, Mark Lambert, John Maguire, Darragh Kenny, Stephen O’Connor.
Thanks to John Kirwan for his photos