Allianz NHL Div 3A – Rnd 5
By Larry Cooney
At Dr Hyde Park
Warwickshire’s hurlers have set up a league final date with Louth following a thoroughly deserved seven-point victory over Roscommon at a sunny Dr Hyde Park last Sunday afternoon.
Only requiring a draw to qualify and inspired by the outstanding Niall McKenna, the visitors were always in control and apart from conceding three first-half goals they never looked in any real trouble against the Westerners who were fancied to get promotion when the competition first began at the end of January.
But consecutive defeats for Roscommon away to Tyrone and last Sunday ended their interest in this year’s league while unbeaten Warwickshire finished top of the table with nine points from five games.
The only point the Exiles dropped was against their final opponents who were held to a 1-13 each draw by Monaghan in their last fixture. However because Louth defeated Tyrone they progress to the final despite their inferior points difference.
And although Niall McKenna top-scored with 1-12, including 0-8 from placed ball, Warwickshire had many other fine displays throughout an impressive team performance.
Roscommon won the toss and elected to play with the wind advantage as they defended the St. Coman’s cemetery end in the opening half. And although they took an early lead through an opening minute pointed free from Daniel Glynn it was the visitors who dominated exchanges in the opening quarter.
Ian Dwyer soon cancelled out that early score and with the midfield partnership of John Collins and Shane Caulfield soon taking control the Warwickshire attack saw plenty of possession to test the Roscommon defence.
After Paul Uniacke was denied an early goal chance by goalkeeper Joe Keane Warwickshire’s Domhnall Nugent put the Exiles into the lead for the first time in the sixth minute.
And although that score was cancelled out in a rare Roscommon attack by Shane Curley from a Cillian Egan assist Niall McKenna made the first of his impressive contribution with the first of his eight successful frees by putting the visitors back in front in the tenth minute.
After McKenna added a second pointed free three minutes later Roscommon were then awarded a long range free after a foul on full back Peter Kellehan. Goalkeeper Joe Keane took on the responsibility from well beyond the halfway line to leave just a point in it.
However from the puc out Roscommon were immediately back on the offensive and when corner forward John Murray outwitted his marker to send over a cross into the Warwickshire square the unmarked Naos Connaughton was lurking to finish to the net for the opening goal in the fourteenth minute.
But Warwickshire recovered well to hit four unanswered points from Niall McKenna, Ian Dwyer and John Collins for a two-point lead before Shane Curley replied in the twenty-first minute.
Unfortunately for the Exiles another defensive lapse enabled Robbie Fallon to turn his marker for Roscommon’s second goal a minute later.
But on this occasion Warwickshire had the perfect reply when burly full forward Domhnall Nugent unsettled the Roscommon defence for Niall McKenna to finish the rebound to the net to leave the score Warwickshire 1-8 Roscommon 2-4 with eleven minutes remaining in the opening half.
Another Shane Curley point soon tied the scores before three unanswered points from McKenna (2) and Nugent put the visitors back in the lead.
But after Garry Lennon was denied by another great save from Joe Keane Warwickshire were rocked by a third Roscommon goal when Cormac Kelly raced through unchallenged to tie the scores with five minutes remaining in the opening half.
However when a Shane Curley pointed free looked as if was about to give Roscommon an undeserved one-point half-time lead Niall McKenna produced another moment of sublime skill to tie the scores at the interval when the score was: Warwickshire 1-12 Roscommon 3-6.
Having dominated possession in the opening half and now aided by a strong breeze Warwickshire were surely poised to push on for victory.
And although an early Shane Curley free put the hosts back into the lead in the opening minute of the half Warwickshire were soon back on the offensive.
Six unanswered points (including two more McKenna pointed frees) in the third quarter finally tipped the balance in the Exiles favour.
And with Shane Curley and Cormac Kelly offering the only real threat to the visitors’ rearguard Warwickshire outscored the hosts 0-11 to 0-4 in the second half and were home and hosed long before the final whistle as Warwickshire await details of their final date with Louth.
A miserable day for Roscommon was complete when inspirational captain Paul Kenny was dismissed on a straight red card just before the final whistle.
Scorers: Warwickshire – Niall McKenna 1-12(0-8)f, Domhnall Nugent 0-3, Ian Dwyer and John Collins 0-2 each, Garry Lennon, Kelvin Magee, Paul Hoban(0-1)f and Paul Uniacke 0-1 each. Roscommon – Shane Curley 0-6(0-3)f, Cormac Kelly 1-2, Naos Connaughton and Robbie Fallon 1-0 each, Daniel Glynn (0-1)f and Joe Keane (0-1)f 0-1 each.
Warwickshire: Conor Robins; Dean Bruen, Adrian Downey, Michael O’Regan; Peadar Scally, Paul Hoban, Donnacha Kennedy; John Collins, Shane Caulfield; Niall McKenna, Paul Uniacke, Gary Lennon; Ian Dwyer, Donal Nugent, Colm McBride. Subs: Kelvin Magee for Peadar Scally(inj.) 43, Padraic Crehan for Ian Dwyer 62, Tom Kelly for Adrian Downey 62, Mark Nolan for Garry Lennon 67.
Roscommon: Joe Keane; Pat Nolan, Peter Kellehan, Alan Moore; Jason Kilkenny, Paul Kenny, Micheal Byrne; Kerrill Hardiman, Shane Curley; Daniel Glynn, Cormac Kelly, Naos Connaughton; Robbie Fallon, Cillian Egan, John Murray. Subs: Eamon Flanagan for Daniel Glynn 43, Warren Boyle for Cillian Egan 55, Gearoid Egan for Kerrill Hardiman 62, Joe Brennan for John Murray 62, Darragh Heavey for Micheal Byrne 62.
Referee: Shane Hynes (Galway).