Provincial (Britain) Junior Club Hurling Championship Final – The Billy Collins Cup
John Mitchels: 2-20
Thomas McCurtains: 1-7
Larry Cooney at Glen Rovers GAA, Watford
The provincial junior hurling crown is back in Birmingham for the first time in ten years after John Mitchels completely overwhelmed London intermediate champions Thomas McCurtain by a margin of sixteen points.
Although score-lines seldom lie, last Sunday’s fixture, played at the home of Glen Rovers’ new home on Radlett Road, Watford was always entertaining before the winners eventually pulled away in the final quarter.
But that will be little consolation to the London champions who had genuine hopes of doing well beyond this year’s domestic championship.
And although Thomas McCurtains trailed by six points at the interval when the score was 1-9 to 0-6, the Da-Dagenham-based men were still well in contention with the aid of the wind and sunshine to follow in the second half.
But from a Thomas McCurtains point of view, the second half will be best forgotten after an inexplicable capitulation that saw them add just a further 1-1 to their first-half score.
By contrast, the winners, after a nervy opening, went from strength to strength and if John Mitchels can re-produce this level of form in their remaining games then the Warwickshire champions could be well on course for a possible Croke Park final appearance next February.
A sizeable attendance were treated to a competitive opening half but although the winners had first use of the wind it was Thomas McCurtains who made an early statement of their intentions with a point from Craig Doyle after an assist by Jimmy Byrne in their opening attack.
But a fine long-range effort from Micheal O’Regan tied the scores by the third minute.
Another point from the impressive Jimmy Byrne edged McCurtains back in front by the fifth minute before a superb delivery from Emmet McCabe dropped in the McCurtains square where Niall Kennedy was lurking on the edge to finish to the net a minute later.
It was the score that really settled the Warwickshire champions, even after midfielder Sean Murphy hit another fine point for McCurtains because four unanswered points, including three from frees, and one from the busy Kelvin Magee finally opened up a useful 1-5 to 0-3 lead after twelve minutes.
Although a Mark Russell pointed free cut the deficit for McCurtains three minutes later, three more points from Ian Dwyer, Kelvin Magee and another Niall McKenna free had Mitchels now firmly in the driving seat by the twenty-fourth minute.
And the men from the Midlands could have been in an even better position had they taken a fraction of the eight wides they hit in the first half.
But with Thomas McCurtains hitting two late points from the bustling Alan Clancy and another pointed free from Mark Russell in reply to Kelvin Magee’s third point of the half, the London champions were just six points adrift at the short whistle with the wind advantage to come in the second half when the score was: John Mitchels 1-9 Thomas McCurtains 0-
The second half was a bitter disappointment for all neutrals as well as the huge London following because a McCurtains second-half rally really never got ‘off the ground’.
And when John Mitchels added a point from Emmet McCabe in the thirty-sixth minute followed by a goal from the same player after a Niall Kennedy assist it was already ‘game, set and match’ to the Warwickshire champions just ten minutes after the restart.
But although Mark Russell added another pointed free in the forty-second minute, it appeared that Conor Hogan’s goal two minutes later had already come too late to rescue the Dagenham-based team as they trailed by 2-10 to 1-7.
Instead, it was Mitchels who responded to dominate the entire last quarter with a procession of scores while Thomas McCurtains just failed to raise a flag or indeed even a gallop.
Four points from Niall McKenna, who was now really beginning to enjoy himself in his midfield role, including two from play, piled on the misery for Thomas McCurtains with five minutes remaining.
Those scores were soon followed by a brace from Niall Kennedy, another McKenna effort from play and a superb long-range attempt from Willy Allen before another McKenna finish and one from wing back Peadar Scally finally completed the scoring to leave the full-time score: John Mitchels 2-20 Thomas McCurtains 1-7
John Mitchels – Philip Crean; Micheal O’Regan (0-2, 1f), Dean Bruen (capt.), Robbie Curley; Peadar Scally (0-1), Willie Allen (0-1), Padraic Crehan; Garry Lennon, Niall McKenna (0-9, 6f); Ian Dwyer (0-1), Domhnall Nugent, Breen Fallon; Emmet McCabe (1-1), Niall Kennedy (1-2), Kelvin Magee (0-2). Subs: Des Kelly for Fallon, John O’Shea for Magee.
Thomas McCurtains – Shane Kelly; Diarmuid Lonergan, Ciaran McAuley, John Donohoe; Liam O’Brien, Kieran Dowling, Joe Maguire; Dean Corrigan and Sean Murphy (0-1); Jimmy Byrne (0-1), Craig Doyle (0-1), Mark Russell (0-3, 3f); Eoin Caldwell, Alan Cleary (0-1), Conor Hogan (1-0). Subs: Roger Irish for Lonergan, CJ Gavin for Caldwell, Stephen Cronin for Doyle.
Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy, Antrim)