O’Toole’s Vs Na Fianna : Hurling Champioship Report

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Na Fianna: 0-12 O’Tooles: 0-11

Na Fianna were able to grind out a victory on Thursday in a match that, barring a goal, had just about everything: red cards, sidelines scored, both keepers scoring ; a championship feel.

There were a lot of switches made before throw in and throughout the match. The most notable of these saw O’Tooles’ Peadar Carton move to midfield, and Na Fianna’s Dublin defender, Shane Barrett, move to centre forward.

The physical standard was set from the throw in when O’Tooles’ Peadar Carton was possibly lucky to only have been booked in an incident that left his opposite number needing attention.

In fact, there was barely a break in play during the opening 10 minutes where there wasn’t some amount of ‘getting to know each other’ as O’Toole’s appeared to test the water to see if this young Na Fianna side would roll over.

Both teams systematically played a sweeper from the outset. Kevin Ryan for O’Toole’s and Tomas Waters  for Na Fianna were to be found covering space in their respective defences.

O’Tooles, playing into a deceptively stiff breeze, constantly dropped midfielders back and crowded their defence, particularly on Na Fianna’s puck outs which were long and looping deliveries. This lead to almost every one of these puck outs being broken down and the greater O’Toole’s numbers generally winning possession.

It was Na Fianna’s ability to run from midfield, and draw frees, that was to be O’Tooles’ undoing in the opening minutes. By the 11th minute Colin Curry had scored 4 frees to go along with Feargal Breathnach’s long range effort to leave them 0-5 to 0-1 up.

For the rest of the half, however, Na Fianna struggled to secure possession in their forward line and O’Tooles began to reel them in.

Brendan McLoughlin’s puck outs were a joy to watch, as he drove them, arrow like, to open players around the middle. The O’Toole’s half backs, Ger O’Meara in particular, pulled wide to leave space for their pacey team mates to get free. Had it not been for the glaring sun coming in from the church end, O’Toole’s would have had an even better platform from which to attack.

As it stood, crisp striking amongst their forwards, leading to two points from Ger Arthur as well as two frees for Niall Arthur, drew them level at five points apiece in the 24th minute. Donal Burke tagged on another Na Fianna point before half time to leave the scoreline at 0-6 to 0-5, but no doubt O’Toole’s would have been the happier of the two sides after playing into the wind.

As the second half started, Shane Barrett moved back to centre back where he would place himself under many of McLoughlin’s booming puck outs.

Ryan and Waters remained as sweepers as the dynamics of the match changed very little during the opening few minutes of the second half.

The only significant difference was that McLoughlin could now hit his half forwards with ease from puck outs, while Treacy in the Na Fianna net, now attempted bullet like pucks, mainly to the towering Sean Ryan at wing forward. Even though he was giving up close to 6 inches in height, O’Meara, with the aid of the sun, did very well in stopping Ryan from gaining much possession from these puck outs.

O’Tooles found themselves two points ahead in the 35th minute when McLoughlin landed a massive free to go with points from Niall Arthur and Mick Carton.

The turning point in the match, however, came when Andrew Jamieson-Murphy was introduced for Na Fianna.

Within three minutes of his introduction, ‘AJ’ had scored a fantastic sideline cut, but more importantly, his pace and movement began to cause problems for the O’Tooles defence.

With Liam Hayes often having his marker as well as one or two Na Fianna sweepers around him close to goal, there were chances for O’Toole’s to keep the scoreboard moving more regularly. However, they were wasteful in their shooting, racking up six wides during the second half.

With the Jamieson-Murphy led forward line now moving well, Na Fianna were more clinical in their shot selection. Had Eoghan McHugh converted what was a glorious goal opportunity in the 42th minute, Na Fianna would really have been in the ascendancy.

As it transpired, Na Fianna would have to play the last 15 minutes with 14 men after Sean Burke was given a red card in an incident which saw Liam Hayes booked.

With the score level at this stage, and with the wind at their backs, O’Toole’s must have felt that they were in a good position. However, they failed to make the extra man count. This, added to their increasing wide tally, meant they only added three Niall Arthur frees during the closing period.

Na Fianna’s forwards (and goalkeeper from a 56th minute free), on the other hand, were able to combine for four hard earned points after the red card to earn a victory that visibly meant a lot to the Mobhi Road side.

O’Toole’s: B McLaughlin (0-1 1f), C Gethings, K Ryan, E Darcy, R Walker, G O’Meara, C Kimmage, G Arthur (0-2), C Mulligan, M Carton (0-1), N Arthur (0-6 6f), C Kenny, C Wilson (0-1), L Hayes, P Carton Subs C Carton (Wilson 48) P Bradshaw (G Arthur 56)

Na Fianna: J Treacy (0-1 1f), C Doran, T Waters, S Burke, D O’Maoleidigh, H Fenlon, S Barrett, P O’Dea, F Breathnach (0-1), G King, E McHugh, S Ryan, C Curry (0-6 6f), C O’Fainin, D Burke (0-1) Subs A Jamieson-Murphy (0-2 1sl) (O’Maoleidigh 35) O O’Maoleidigh (O’Fainin 39) S Murphy (0-1) (E McHugh 53) C McHugh (S Ryan 57)

By Conor Dunne