CELBRIDGE claimed a second successive minor hurling league and championship double in Hawkfield last Sunday afternoon, when a late charge from the defending champions saw them past the challenge of old rivals Naas, writes John Ryan.
Minor A Hurling Championship Final
Donal Moloney’s charges appeared to be up against it when Naas plundered a goal seven minutes from time to move 1-8 to 0-10 in front. But after Eoin O’Hehir failed to double that advantage from a pointable free moments later, Celbridge punished their opponents’ inaccuracy to maximum effect, reeling off five unanswered points over the course of the remaining 14 minutes, seven of which were added on for stoppages at the end of the allotted hour.
Central to Celbridge’s victory was the trio of Gerry Keegan, Kevin Murphy and Shane O’Flynn, who all turned in huge performances, particularly coming down the home straight when all shoulders were to the wheel.
Both O’Flynn and Murphy were inspiring forces at centre-back and midfield respectively, driving on their side with much purpose and plenty of desire. Indeed, Murphy restored parity when he powered forward to point his fourth of the game after 56 minutes, before Keegan – double marked by Naas duo Conor Grogan and Darragh Kelleher – fired over four on the spin prior to the long whistle.
On the balance of proceedings it was a deserving win for Celbridge in a game that was high on effort, if not low on quality.
The opening exchanges suggested that this was going to be yet another ding-dong affair between the two sides, with O’Hehir pointing Naas in front with a second minute free. However, two points from Keegan (one free) and a point from play from Paul Kelly sandwiched in between, had Celbridge 0-3 to 0-1 to the good after just six minutes.
Parity – the second of four occasions that the sides were level in the first half – was restored two minutes later following points from O’Hehir (free) and John Hill.
Indeed, while Keegan’s frustrations were increasing and Celbridge’s woes in the final third continued without the influence of their talisman, the pace of O’Hehir – as well as that of Dean McHolmes – was causing Celbridge’s defence a number of concerns, with the latter on hand to point his side level again in the 15th minute after Murphy had briefly given his side the advantage with his first.
Thereafter, the affair descended into a competitive yet largely scrappy affair, with O’Hehir (free) and McHolmes pointing Naas 0-6 to 0-4 in front after 24 minutes, only for Niall Kenny and Kenny to hit back before the break.
Upon the restart Celbridg powered 0-9 to 0-6 in front by the 38th minute following points from Murphy (2) and Keegan, a three point cushion which remained after 42 minutes after O’Hehir and Keegan traded frees.
Naas narrowed those arrears when O’Hehir (free) pointed after 49 minutes, before Kieran Maher squeezed home to the net a fortuitous 30 metre effort four minutes later.
That concession though only inspired Celbridge on to bigger and better things, and led by O’Flynn, Murphy and the brilliant Keegan, they eventually won the war with that aforementioned flourish.
Celbridge, Gerry Keegan 0-9 (3f), Kevin Murphy 0-4, Niall Kenny 0-1, Paul Kelly 0-1.
Naas, Eoin O’Hehir 0-6 (5f, 1 ’65), Kieran Maher 1-0, Dean McHolmes 0-1, John Hill 0-1.
Eoghan Doddy; Cillian Byrne, Sean Clancy, Mikey Gallagher; Niall Carney, Shane O’Flynn, Emmet Conaty; Kevin Murphy, Tomas Doolin; Gerry Keegan, Niall Kenny, Jason Doran; Craig Carroll, Paul Kelly, Steven Noctor. Subs: Sean O’Regan for Carroll (37 mins); Senna Howley for Byrne (58 mins).
Jack Sheridan; Peter Hughes, Robert Byrne, Jack Power; Kieran Maher, Odhran Loughran, Conor Grogan; Sean Nolan, Rory McDermott; Brian Byrne, Dean McHolmes, Eoin O’Hehir; Darragh Kelleher, Peter Moran, John Hill. Subs: Conor Dowling for Power (28 mins); John Joyce for Hughes (52 mins).