By Fiona O’Brien
Robert Emmetts had a disappointing end to their season as they were knocked out of this year’s All-Ireland Intermediate Hurling Club Championship after falling at the quarter-final stage to Galway’s Abbeyknockmoy. The London champions never seemed to rise to the occasion with uncharacteristic shooting inaccuracy and a lack of possession where it mattered.
Abbeyknockmoy ended up comfortable winners having put their marker on the game from its early stages, and despite a comeback of sorts in the second half the Emmetts never really challenged the Connacht champions.
A red card for Tadhg Healy, one of his team’s star players this season, mid-way through the second half left his side with too much to do in order to claw back at Abbey’s then four point lead.
The Emmetts’ management bench were left frustrated with the underwhelming performance from their attacking players, with calls of ‘forwards’ attempting to spur them on, and it was their lack of authority in the final third that sealed their fate.
Great performances from veteran Fergus McMahon and the back three were not enough to progress to the semi-final stage.
The game looked as if it would be a low scoring affair to start, with battles on the ground occurring thick and fast in the opening stages and Cork referee Colm Lyons hesitant to halt play.
The first score did not come until eight minutes when Paul Flaherty gave the visitors an early lead with a pointed free, which Eoin Chawke negated immediately afterwards with a successful ‘65’ attempt.
It would be their only score of the first half, as they conceded a further three over the next twenty minutes.
They were to come from a fine self-made point by Brian O’Donnell who saw off his markers to run toward goal, and another Flaherty free before man-of-the-match Fionnan Garvey got his side’s fourth from a tight angle.
There was nervousness from the away team however when free-taker Flaherty was forced to retire with injury just before the break, as travelling supporters questioned who would take the responsibility of the set plays.
But it was a good lead for the Galway champions, who had been playing against the wind with a low-facing sun obscuring vision behind the Emmetts goals.
And now the London side had to try to make up the 0-04 to 0-01 deficit while playing into the harder conditions.
It seemed to have an effect as Emmetts talisman Eoin Chawke put his first free attempt wide in the second half ’s opening moments, which was swiftly capitalised on from a Coleman Maher point from play.
The Emmetts would then lose their star goalkeeper Sean Ryan to injury, which was a blow, as his powerful puck-outs have been a well-used tactic for the side throughout their London campaign.
They would get two points on the bounce through a long-range free from McMahon, before Rory Costello’s great effort from play brought them to within two of their rivals.
Abbeyknockmoy responded immediately with a Garvey free, which was to be the pattern of play for the game’s remainder, the Galway side never allowing the Emmetts to build momentum on any score.
They would soon go four points up again as half- back Brian Flaherty found himself in position with his back to goal to skillfully shoot on the turn, but Emmetts continued to push on to find a way back.
But it wasn’t to be as powerful midfielder Tadhg Healy received his marching orders when attempting to attack Abbey’s goal, and when his shoulder challenge flattened his opponent there was a lengthy break in play as both sets of players got involved in the melee before Healy was forced to leave the pitch.
Their attempt to play catch-up would prove impossible now without the Corkonian feeding ball from the middle of the pitch and providing an extra passing option for his side.
Garvey scored another free to widen the gap to five, before Chawke responded with his solo point from play.
Sean Finn would get the next score for the Londoners, but it would be their last, but again, Abbey followed it up with their own score as Brian O’Donnell stepped up to the mark to maintain their five-point cushion.
The Emmetts continued to look for a way through however, and started flooding the Abbey half with bodies as they desperately sought a goal. A goal chance would fall to Chawke as he was awarded a penalty, but it never really left his hurl as expected, and his low effort dragged along the Ruislip pitch before Declan Molloy stretched to his right to protect his goals.
They were awarded a few more frees at the death of half-time, but it wasn’t enough to make up for their earlier performance, and Abbey held on to book their place in January’s semi- final against Ulster champions Creggan Kickhams of Antrim.
ROBERT EMMETTS: Sean Ryan; Mark Conroy, Paul Horkan, Stephen Griffey; Sean Finn (0-1), Fergus McMahon (0-1, 1f), Paddy Breen; Michael O’Laochdha, Tadhg Healy; Cathal Keogh, Mick Dwyer, Eoin Chawke (0-2, 1 ’65); Daryll Roberts, Rory Costello (0-1), Denis O’Regan. SUBSTITUTES: M Traynor for Sean Ryan, Danny Buckley for Keogh
ABBEYKNOCKMOY: Declan Molloy; Tommy Farragher, John Culkin, Ronan Cooley; Trevor Mullins, Brian Flaherty (0-1), Caelom Mulry; Paul Flaherty (0-2, 2f), Damien Rooney; Eoin Blade, Coleman Maher (0-1), Danny Mullins; Brian O’Donnell (0-2), Padraig O’Donnell, Fionnan Garvey (0- 4, 3f)
SUBSTITUTES: Liam McCarthy for Danny Mullins, Stephen Ruane for Paul Flaherty, Craig Kennedy for PadraigO’Donnell