WReilly Intermediate Hurling Championship Rnd 1
Fr Murphys 0-19
By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park, Ruislip
Fr Murphys got their quest for an immediate return to senior off to a winning start at McGovern Park, with victory over Granuaile.
Following last year’s relegation, Fr Murphys will hope to repeat their immediate title success of 2016 and those hopes will have been buoyed by the return of Stephen Bardon.
The former Westmeath and London star missed last year’s relegation battle, but was in brilliant form for Murphys in this mid-week win over Granuaile, contributing a match-winning 13 points.
That included some exquisite strikes, none better than the one just before half-time when under pressure he swivelled in a space no bigger than a phone box, before despatching the ball over the bar.
Comfortably the point of the game, and one that saw Murphys take a 0-13 to 0-4 lead into the break, with Murphys having had first use of the breeze.
Leslie Coughlan, from Midleton in Cork, was particularly prominent in the opening ten minutes as Murphys opened up a 0-6 to 0-1 lead.
Granuaile struggled to contain the midfielder’s powerful runs, which saw him account for three of those early Murphys scores.
Former Kildare U21 hurler Ryan McGrath replied with a huge, and much needed, point for Granuaile. McGrath would have a fine game for his side.
But Granuaile were their own worst enemies at times with Bardon ready to take advantage of any Granuaile ill-discipline.
Only an excellent save from Granuaile’s Kieran McCarthy denied Sean Howlin a goal. The goalkeeper from Ballybricken/Bohermore in Limerick, throwing himself full length to his right to turn Howlin’s shot away.
However, a Bardon free increased the lead to 0-11 to 0-4.
Concerned over the widening gap, Granuaile’s management acted by introducing Jack Woulfe and Aidan Callanan with half-time looming.
It had been a stop-start helter-skelter first half and Bardon added two scores (the second being the point of the game) and Granuaile had a nine-point deficit to turn around in the second half.
They did now have the wind and it looked like Murphys might have come up short when straight from the throw in Liam Cullen fired over.
Three minutes later the gap was reduced to just five points. Michael Burke was caught out of his goal when his clearance only found Woulfe, and the substitute kept his composure to fire to the empty net, with Burke only able to watch on.
It was the start to the second half Granuaile needed, but they weren’t able to build on it and Murphys claimed the next three scores to wipe out Woulfe’s goal.
The second half descended into another gruelling stop-start affair, with neither side able to gain any fluency. That suited Murphys more as the clock ticked down.
It was only in the last ten minutes that Granuaile were able to build up another head of steam. Woulfe’s point brought them to within seven and McGrath then produced a great strike.
But while Bardon stole the headlines at one end for Murphys, their back line of Patrick Tobin, Darren Howlin and Kenneth Watchron were outstanding at the other. Try as they might, Granuaile could get little change out of them.
Niall Madden thought he’d sealed it, but his goal was ruled out and when the excellent Kevin Bulfin pointed the score was 0-17 to 1-9 with three minutes to go.
That was as close as Granuaile would get, however, as Bardon made sure Murphys got off to a winning start.
Fr Murphys: Michael Burke; Patrick Tobin, Darren Howlin, Kenneth Watchron; Patrick O’Donovan, Alan Griffith, Ryan Myler; Lesley Coughlan (0-3), David Kelly; Conor Hallissey, Stephen Bardon (0-13, 9f), Stephen O’Neill; Richard Fleming (0-1), Sean Howlin (0-1), Sean Cullen. Subs: Colm O’Sullivan for Cullen, Niall Madden (0-1) for Myler, Shay O’Donoghue for Hallissey, Chris Weller for Fleming.
Granuaile: Kieran McCarthy; Mark Byrne, Brendan Keeshan, Dan Egan; Tommy Flynn, Gearoid Ahern, Richie Barnes; Ryan McGrath (0-3), James Haylin; Shane Skelly (0-2f), Kevin Bulfin (0-2), Donal Bulfin; Liam Cullen (0-1), Niall Carr, Tom Shea (0-1). Subs: Jack Woulfe (1-1) for Barnes, Aidan Callanan for Donal Bulfin, Alan Callanan for Carr, PJ Delaney for Flynn.
Referee: Jimmy Howlin.