The Irish World SHC Rnd 1
Kilburn Gaels 0-27
By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park, Ruislip
Aaron Sheehan showed just why he could be the man to propel Kilburn Gaels to back-to-back senior titles for the first time in the club’s history, as the holders booked their place in Round 4 with victory over a spirited but outgunned Cuchulainns.
Having helped London to reach a Christy Ring Cup final, Sheehan displayed his class with some truly sublime and almost effortless scores on his way to a 13-point haul.
And while Kilburn never truly hit top stride, they flexed enough muscle to confirm that they will be there or thereabouts again.
But immense credit must go to Cuchulainns, who went into this championship opener on the back of some heavy defeats.
After a facile opening quarter in which the champions eased into a 0-8 to no score lead, Cuchulainns rolled up their sleeves and made a real fist of it and Karl Rogers’ goal two minutes before the break was far from against the run of play.
It had been all hands to the pump defensively for Cuchulainns early doors, as Sheehan picked off scores almost at will, while Brian Regan was revelling in the space been afforded him as Kilburn’s spare man.
But as the first half wore on Cuchulainns slowly began to grow in confidence. Joe Cashman got Cuchulainns on the board in the 19th minute with the score 0-8 to 0-1.
Employing Sean Connaughton as an extra man at the back left the willing Rogers and Fionn Byrne ploughing a lone field at times, but they stuck to their task manfully, scrapping for everything and making life as hard for Kilburn’s backline as possible.
But what Cuchulainns wouldn’t have given for a finisher of Sheehan’s calibre, or someone with the electric pace of Jody Troy, who made a huge impact off the bench.
Only Alan Nagle’s leg denied Sheehan a goal, but at the other end Padraig Buckley was called upon to turn away Fionn Byrne’s powerful shot at his near post. Byrne despatched the resulting 65 for his side’s second point.
An element of sloppiness had crept into Kilburn’s play and they were punished in the 28th minute when Cashman’s long ball in was turned into the net by Rogers. Rogers immediately added a point and Kilburn’s lead was 0-11 to 1-3.
Dave Hennessy’s late score made it 0-12 to 1-3 at the break.
While a Kilburn win still looked most likely outcome, the holders now knew they were in a real scrap as Cuchulainns came out fired up for the second half and proceeded to get right in amongst them.
Suddenly the time and space on the ball Kilburn had enjoyed in the first half was gone, with white shirts hounding them at every turn, forcing errors and hurried clearances.
Kilburn, though, should have had a goal of their own when Ciaran Reid delicately lobbed the advancing Nagle, only for the ball to die in the long grass on the Cuchulainns goal-line. Cue mad scramble. Somehow Cuchulainns survived.
However, for all of their efforts, Cuchulainns couldn’t stop Kilburn from keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Kilburn just had too much attacking qualify, exemplified by Sheehan and Troy.
Indeed, Troy’s pace took him the long way around the Cuchulainns defence before forcing a good save from Nagle, who emerged with huge credit after a very busy evening.
At the other end, Aidan Power forced Buckley into a full-length dive to prevent a second Cuchulainns goal.
However, there was little Cuchulainns could do in the final quarter as Kilburn powered to the line. A winning start for the champions and a marker well and truly laid down.
In terms of effort and commitment, the Cuchulainns management could not have asked any more of their players.
Cuchulainns will now face Brothers Pearse in Round 2 with both sides knowing that the loser will be eliminated from this year’s championship.
Kilburn Gaels: Padraig Buckley; Padraig Brennan, William Campion, Kevin Campion; Kieran Lambert, Brian Regan, Vinny Staunton; Fergal Collins (0-3), Johnny Downey; Henry Vaughan (0-1), Sean Conlon, Seamus Carey; Chris McAlinden, Ciaran Reid (0-4, 1f), Aaron Sheehan (0-13, 5f). Subs: Jody Troy (0-5) for McAlinden, Dave Hennessy (0-1) for Conlon, Conlon for Carey.
Cuchulainns: Alan Nagle; Gary Walsh, Tom Brennan, Conor O’Keefe; John Brady, Chris Teague, Eoin Scally; Cathal Noonan, Brian White; Thomas McTiernan, Aidan Power, Joe Cashman (0-3); Fionn Byrne (0-4, 2f, 2’65), Karl Rogers (1-2), Sean Connaughton. Subs: Hugh Kelly for Brady.
Referee: Jimmy Howlin.