By Martin Mannering
For three quarters of this tie Warwickshire controlled matters with a degree of ease yet found themselves looking over their shoulders in the closing stages as Scotland somehow staged a Lazarus like recovery.
From the off the midlanders were sharper to the ball and composed in possession as they set about their task with gusto in the glorious sunshine that bathed the Didsbury venue.
James Connolly got them on their way with a well struck 45 in the third minute and Brendan Hickey doubled the tally when James McDowell created the opening. While Scotland were defending stoutly it was soon evident that they were going to have to work double hard to get any change from a tight marking Warwickshire defence.
Shane Moran did get them on the scoreboard after seven minutes following good work by Kevin O’Connor and Cian Geoghan.
Brendan Hickey replied instantly and Edward Blake stretched the lead to three when he fired over with the goal at his mercy. A pointed free from Moran on 12 kept his side in touch but it was to be Scotland’s last score for another thirty five minutes as Warwickshire took a solid grip.
From there to the break they added another six unanswered points and but for wayward shooting could have had more.
Michael Harrigan opened his account, another 45 from Connolly and a pointed free from Ted Duffy sent them clear.
Angelo Cataldi and Andrew Willis dominated the midfield area while behind them Niall Gilbride was superb at centre half.
Gilbride was the main orchestrator of most of his team’s attacks and was central in breaking up any forward moves that the Scottish lads attempted. James McDowell, Patrick and Brendan Hickey added to Scotland’s pain before the short whistle. The fact that those six points in the second quarter came courtesy of six different players tells its own story of the dominance enjoyed by the winners as they went in 0-10 to 0-2 ahead at the break.
Warwickshire resumed where they left off and Michael Harrigan had the ball in the net after three minutes and that appeared to be that. In truth the next quarter was a painstaking affair as Scotland appeared to have accepted their fate and Warwickshire went through the motions with some horrendous shooting.
Gareth Treacy came up from wing back to show his forwards where the posts were and soon Patrick Hickey and Ted Duffy took the hint to move thirteen points clear.
Whether Warks switched off or Scotland got an attack of pride salvaging the game took a twist seventeen minutes in. Shane Moran bundled the ball to the net and straight from the kick out he turned provider as he raced through and offloaded to Cian Geoghan to blast in another one.
A Geoghan free and suddenly the margin was only six. The midlanders soon regrouped however with Patrick Hickey and a Ted Duffy free steadying the ship.
Scotland fought on bravely as the clock ticked down but a third goal from the boot of substitute Gerard Caden either side of two Geoghan points was never enough and another Duffy free kept the margin at a safe four points as time ran out. The Scottish lads will need to regroup quickly for the qualifiers while Warwickshire showed enough to suggest they might give the championship a serious go but they will have to keep their concentration better for the battles that lie ahead.
WARWICKSHIRE: Macauley Felgate, Ciaran Clifford, Sean Meeney, James Connolly (0-2), Gareth Treacy (0-1), Niall Gilbride, Josh Ridley, Andrew Willis, Angelo Cataldo, Edward Blake (0-1), Ted Duffy (0-3), James McDowell (0-1), Patrick Hickey (0-3), Brendan Hickey (0-3), Michael Harrigan (1-1) SUBS: Ryan Mike for Angelo Cataldo, Michael Hartnett for Josh Ridley
SCOTLAND: Seamus Daly ,Eoin Dennehy, Michael Leonard, Kevin O’Connor, Charles Gallagher, Eoin Leonard, Brian Morton, Stuart McMahon, Conor Higgins, Shane Moran (1-2), Peter Smart, Damian Kellegher, Cian Geoghan (1-3), Aaron Watt SUBS: Gerard Caden (1-0) for Shane Moran