All Britain Junior Club Hurling Championship Final
Fullen Gaels: 1-15
Fr Murphys: 1-14
By Martin Mannering
Shane Jennings was the star turn as Fullen Gaels retained their All Britain hurling title with the narrowest of victories over Fr Murphy’s at Pairc na hEireann on Sunday.
It was a seesaw game which ended when Murphy’s late rally just came up short but it was the superb performance which yielded a nine point contribution from the Gaels wing forward that was the major difference.
The piper had barely left the pitch when Jennings signalled his intent by firing over from forty metres after he collected Darragh O Brien’s sideline cut. He added a second from a free after four minutes following a foul on Daire Maskey.
The percentages of possession were evenly enough balanced but Murphy’s struggled to find their range with a number of early wides and shots dropping short where Liam Knocker at full back and his sidekicks were only too eager to gobble up. Therefore it was a little ironic that it was one such effort that gave the Londoners a foothold in the game.
Stephen Bardon’s drive dropped down in the square and though keeper Vincent Morrissey batted it out Mick Gordon was sharpest to react and drilled a daisy cutter to the net. Undaunted Gaels went back on the attack and Jennings hit his third point before Thomas Duane put his side back in front. On both occasions it was Darragh O Brien who also had a fine game that created the openings.
Another Jennings free put them two clear while at the other end Murphy’s struggles to find the target continued. Even the usually ultra reliable Stephen Bardon was off target with a couple of efforts and it was a full seventeen minutes in before he raised the first white flag for his team with a close in free. It settled them and Keneth Watchorn fired over a peach from the middle of the field and Sean Cullen got in on the act. The game was picking up tempo and some of the tackling was fearless and fearsome although generally fair.
A number of players had to receive treatment causing the game to become a bit stop start. A Jennings free was followed up by a fine point from James Fitzmaurice but Bardon levelled things with a free. Fullen Gaels now caught the bug that was afflicting Murphy’s with a number of missed opportunities at either end and it wasn’t until the sixth minute of stoppage time before the next score arrived and it came from the stick of Fitzmaurice to send the defending champions in with an 0-8 to 1-4 lead at the break.
Fullen Gaels sprang from the blocks on the restart and within twelve minutes had surged eight points clear. Who else but that man Jennings that set them rolling.
Two pointed frees within four minutes and it was third effort that was to prove pivotal.Daire Maskey was tripped inside his own half and Jennings long range effort dropped short.
A short scramble for possession saw the sliothar pop out to Eamon Campion. Campion had came on as a sub for the injured Brendan Coady just before the break seized his chance and drilled it to the roof of the net.
Bardon pulled a point back for Murphy’s but it was all Fullen at this stage and further points from Fitzmaurice, O’Brien and Jennings put them well in command.
Looking down and out Murphy’s found their mojo and set about their recovery mission. Bardon finally found his range and hit two 65’s, Sean Cullen swung over a beauty before Bardon hit a monster from a dead ball from out on the right sideline and well inside his own half.
Meanwhile this period saw Gaels lose their radar and a series of wides allowed the Londoners to eat into their lead. Centre back Conor Kerr made it a two point game seven minutes out but Darragh O’Brien somewhat steadied Manchester nerves with an excellent point from the left wing.
As the clock ticked down Murphy’s poured forward but some terrific defending from the Gaels kept them out. Bardon did add a free but Jennings replied with the score of the game as he collected a ball on the right sideline and turned in a flash to lash it between the posts.
Sean Howlin closed the gap again and Shaun Brennan closed it to one as nerves jangled.
Gaels won the last all important puck out and though Jennings long range effort drifted wide of the right hand post time had expired and the Murphy’s lads sank to their knees on the whistle as Fullen Gaels were in jubilation mood.
It was a thrilling finale to a game that ebbed and flowed but that third quarter burst and that contribution from Jennings was just enough to see the Manchester side retain their crown.
FULLEN GAELS: Vincent Morrissey, Cathal McKillop, Liam Knocker, John Hughes, Seamus Richaedson, Patrick Coates, Nathan Unwin, Simon Wallace, Daire Maskey, Shane Jennings (0-9, 5f), Thomas Duane (0-1), Darragh O’Brien (0-2), Leon Connolly, James Fitzmaurice (0-3), Brendan Coady SUBS: Eamon Campion (1-0) for Coady, Ciaran Dunne for Connolly, Mark Potgeiter for Fitzmaurice
Fr Murphy’s: Tom Moore, Shay O’Donoghue, Tomas Higgins, Patrick O’Donovan, Conor Kerr (0-1), Shaun Brennan (0-1), Stephen Bardon (0-8, 5f, 2-65), Kenneth Watchorn, James Kennedy, Sean Howlin (0-1), Henry Ward, Sean Cullen (0-2), Michael Gordon (1-0), Conor Hallissey SUBS: Daniel Nolan for Hallissey, Dave Kelly for O’Donoghue, Ryan Meyler for Kenned