Allianz NHL Div 3B
By Larry Cooney
At Allen Park
League debutants Lancashire got their campaign off to the perfect start last Sunday with a comprehensive 17-point victory over Fermanagh at Allen Park, Randalstown Co. Antrim.
Although not the original venue for the fixture due to all the heavy weekend rainfall, the new state-of-the-art 3G pitch proved to be a more than adequate surface despite all the other line markings for other sports.
That pitch is just one example of some of the impressive sports and social facilities in the new sports centre opened in October 2016.
But the Exiles will have good reason to remember their visit to the Castle Road venue just outside Antrim town. And not for the first time in the short history of Lancashire intercounty hurling the individual display of Ronan Crowley was a major feature of the Exiles’ victory.
But although he amassed a grand total of 2-14 including 1-6 from play it would be most inaccurate to describe Lancashire’s league debut victory as being a one-man show.
Defending the pavilion end in the opening half in damp drizzly conditions Lancashire settled well and were off the mark through Ronan Crowley after just three minutes.
And although Fermanagh equalised through burly full forward John Duffy soon afterwards they took the lead through a fortuitous goal from Barry McPhilips in the tenth minute.
However, that score was no reflection of the Exiles’ early dominance and by the 20th minute Lancashire were back in the lead through points from Crowley (0-2), a James Fitzmaurice pointed free and a fine long-range effort from wing-back Nathan Unwin.
Although a Shea Curran pointed free tied the scores soon afterwards Lancashire continued to dominate possession and with Tommy Duane and another Ronan Crowley free nudging the Exiles back in front their domination was better reflected when the same player’s longrange shot dropped into the net in the 25th minute to open up a 1-7 to 1-2 lead.
That green flag stunned the Ernesiders who responded quickly with a point from wing back Matthew Teague following an assist from the lanky John Paul McGarry.
After Conor McShea followed with another Fermanagh point it was all Lancashire until the halftime whistle with four unanswered points from Martin Hawley, James Fitzmaurice, Tommy Duane and finally another Rona Crowley pointed free to leave the halftime score Lancashire 1-11 Fermanagh 1-4.
It was a case of so far so good for the league debutants at the half-way stage but surely Fermanagh would not be as bad in the second-half.
But the message from the Lancashire management was more of the same please and do not rest on your laurels and with centre forward JJ Dunphy soon increasing the lead to eight points after the re-start normal service was resumed by the Exiles.
Although Ronan Crowley and Shea Curran traded pointed frees Lancashire hit another three unanswered scores through JJ Dunphy, a Ronan Crowley free and Tommy Duane to open up a 1-16 to 1-5 lead before wing back Matthew Teague replied for Fermanagh with a point as the game entered the final quarter.
Leading by eleven points it was time for both sides to make changes with Fermanagh introducing Kieran Rafferty and Lancashire giving Patrick Duggan a run on the 3G pitch.
After Fermanagh reduced the deficit with a Conor Mc- Shea pointed free in the 51st minute Lancashire finally ‘killed off’ the contest with a further 1-2 in the next three minutes with scores from Patrick Duggan and Stephen Duncan and a second Ronan Crowley goal to lead by 2-18 to 1-7.
Lancashire’s Stephen Grace then joined the action followed by Fermanagh’s second substitution – Paul McGolderick with fifteen minutes remaining.
Two points from Shea Curran and a fine effort from midfielder Francis McBrien helped cut the deficit before Ronan Crowley punished some more poor Fermanagh discipline with two more pointed frees.
Although valiant Fermanagh midfielder Frank McBrien hit another fine long-range effort with six minutes remaining it proved to be the Ernsiders final score as the Exiles finished with a flourish with five unanswered points from Darren Crowley and a further four from manof- the-match Ronan Crowley.
— the Irish World (@theirishworld) January 28, 2018
Fermanagh were given a great opportunity to score a second goal when John Duffy was awarded a penalty with a minute of normal time remaining but the goal-keeper made amends for conceding the free with a fine save from the resultant penalty.
Besides the outstanding performance from Ronan Crowley Lancashire also had many other fine individual displays including goalkeeper Pa Coates, defenders Liam Knocker, Justin Cleere, Simon Wallace and Nathan Unwin, hard-working midfielders James Fitzmaurice and team captain Stephen Duncan while in attack Tommy Duane, JJ Dunphy and Martin Hawley all shone.
Fermanagh’s best performers included Mark Slevin, John Paul McGarry, Matthew Teague, Francis McBrien, John Duffy and Shea Curran.
LANCASHIRE: Pa Coates; Liam Knocker, Justin Cleere, Fearghal McKillop; David Power, Simon Wallace, Nathan Unwin 0-1; James Fitzmaurice 0-1, Stephen Duncan (Capt.) 0-1; Darren Crowley 0-1f, JJ Dunphy 0-2, Tommy Duane 0- 3; Shane Dunne, Martin Hawley 0-1, Ronan Crowley 2- 14 (1-8)f. subs: Patrick Duggan 0-1 for Tommy Duane 50, Stephen Grace for David Power 55.
FERMANAGH: Ciaran McTeague; Diarmuid Russell, Mark Slevin, Eoin Mahon; Thomas Cleary, John Paul McGarry, Matthew Teague 0- 2; Francis McBrien 0-2, Andrew Breslin; Conor McShea 0-2, Shea Curran 0- 4f, Eoin Cleary; Barry McPhilips 1-0, John Duffy 0-1, Dylan Bannon. subs: Kieran Rafferty for Andrew Breslin 50, Paul McGolderick for Conor McShea 55.
REFEREE: Chris Mooney (Dublin).