Laois Shopping Centre Senior hurling championship Group A Rd 1
Ballyfin Gaels 0-14
By Pat Delaney
IN the end it was comfortable for the favourites Borris/Kilcotton, but for a long time last year’s Senior ‘A’ champions made them battle all the way.
Played on Sunday evening in perfect conditions Borris/Kilcotton, the raging hot favourites, raced into a two point lead inside two minutes but Gareth Dunphy drew the side’s level and Eanna Lyons edged the Gaels in front in the seventh minute.
PJ Scully and Neil Foyle restored order and Eoin Fleming converted a long range free in the tenth minute.
Gareth Dunphy added his second and only a point blank save by Eoin Fleming denied Ballyfin a goal at the end of the quarter. The Dunphys, Gareth and Aaron, traded points before Eanna Lyons levelled matters again after 18 minutes.
Pat Whelan, returning to the colours, edged Borris/Kilcotton back in front but Donnacha Hartnett landed the equaliser. Gary Hoffmeister ten got his name on the score sheet with a perfect point from play.
Borris/Kilcotton hit back and pulled away with three unanswered points while Ballyfin squandered a couple of good opportunities.
On the stroke of half time the Ballyfin defence were caught out. A good Borris/Kilcotton move saw Stephen Dunphy send a perfect ball towards Neil Foyle and his ground shot beat the keeper all ends up. PJ Scully then posted a point leaving Borris/Kilcotton leading 1-12 to 0-8 at the interval.
Ballyfin would have been happy with their opening 27 minutes but in the remainder of the half they conceded a goal and three points.
They did come back very determined. After Stephen Dunphy extended the Borris/Kilcotton advantage, the Gaels responded in perfect fashion, first Gareth Dunphy from a free and when he grabbed the puck out he returned it between the uprights.
Last year’s captain Ricky Quillinan saw a screamer of a shot just go over the bar. When Gareth Dunphy posted his third and Donnacha Hartnett added another the deficit was down to three.
Just as Ballyfin supporters were beginning to dream of a famous result, Pat Whelan grabbed a ball along the wing before firing a rasping shot beyond the Gaels’ keeper.
Fifteen minutes remained and Ballyfin needed a response, instead PJ Scully, quiet by his standards, landed the next three points.
Gareth Dunphy pulled one back but soon after watched another effort drift badly wide.
From the puck out the ball broke kindly for Aaron Dunphy and from close range he billowed the net behind Eamon Duff while points from Eoin Fitzpatrick and Pat Whelan gave the score board a one sided look.
Borris/Kilcotton will be delighted with the result but more so that they got a real test after their opponents had been written off. Borris/Kilcotton now face Abbeyleix on Saturday week and the clash of two of last year’s semi-finalists will be an intriguing affair.
The Gaels will reflect on a great contest for three quarters but know at this level you have to hurl for the hour. Next up for the Gaels is a meeting with Ballinakill who were impressive in their opening round but it will be an interesting contest.
BORRIS/KILCOTTON: Eoin Fleming (0-1f); Noel Delaney, Brian Stapleton, Stephen Finnan; Jim Fitzpatrick, Matthew Whelan, Conor Kilbane; Eoin Fitzpatrick (0-2), Colm Stapleton; Pat Whelan (1-2), Aaron Dunphy (1-3), Dan Fitzpatrick (0-1); Stephen Dunphy (0-2), Neil Foyle (1-1), PJ Scully (0-6, 0-4f).
Subs: Joe Campion for S Dunphy (35m), Bill Meade for Kilbane (47m), Conor Kilbane for Delaney (52m, inj)
BALLYFIN GAELS: Eamon Duff; Davy Connolly, Richie Downey, Cillian Rowney; Louis Duff, James Finn, Max Connolly; Darragh Connolly (0-2), Donnacha Hartnett (0-2); Gary Hoffmeister (0-1), Ricky Quillinan (0-1), Eanna Lyons (0-2); Michael Bermingham, Redmond McEvoy, Gareth Dunphy (0-6, 0-5f).
Subs: Nigel Murphy for Bermingham (53m), Bernard Rochford for Finn (54m), Ian Fennelly for Quillinan (56m)
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Rathdowney/Errill)