Nicky Rackard Cup Group 1 Rnd 1
By Caoimhín Reilly
Warwickshire host Monaghan on Saturday at Pairc na hEireann knowing victory will ensure them progression to the semi-finals of the Nicky Rackard Cup.
This follows last Saturday afternoon’s comprehensive nine-point win over Louth in Dowdallshill, and Monaghan’s hammering of Longford by 4-19 to 2-10 in Inniskeen.
Level, 1-9 apiece, at the end of an entertaining first-half, Tony Joyce’s Warwickshire seized the initiative after the break with goals from Garry Lennon and Kelvin Magee, alongside the fine marksmanship of Niall McKenna and Paul Hoban, allowing them to run-out comfortable victors.
Minus the Arthur brothers, Niall and Gerry, from their attack, the Wee County’s comeback hopes weren’t helped by Warwickshire ‘keeper Conor Robins’ save from Ronan Byrne’s penalty.
Although, had Byrne converted, the likelihood of anything but a win for the reigning Lory Meagher Cup champions was slim with the visitors impressing with the strong wind-element in the away sides’ favour.
Louth opened the scoring through a fine effort from captain Shane Callan and they remained that point ahead by the 12th-minute mark as the teams shared six points.
However, a fortuitous goal in the expats’ favour put them into the lead and, thereafter, they trailed only twice. A long-range free was flicked to the net by Shane Caulfield as the green flag was raised.
To their credit, Louth rallied with David Kettle finishing neatly to the net in between points from himself and Gerard Smyth as the home side went ahead by two, 1-7 to 1-5.
The next four points would go Warwickshire’s way with Paul Uniacke scoring the pick of them from a sideline cut. But Louth closed the stronger as Byrne (free) and Seaghan Conneely sent them to the dressing rooms on level terms.
And when Donal Ryan and Callan put Louth in front on two occasions early in the second-half, Philip O’Brien’s men led as their bid to avenge March’s league final defeat gathered pace.
They would score on only five further occasions, however, all through Paddy Lynch frees, as Warwickshire stepped it up a notch.
Lennon found the net on 40 minutes having escaped the Louth cover before Magee capitalised on hesitancy in the Reds’ full-back line to divert a third major past Stephen Hackett, who had earlier denied Niall Kennedy with an incredible save.
Hoban, brother of Dundalk FC striker Patrick, found the target four times in the second half, registering 0-3 in a period of 2-7 to Louth’s no-reply as the outcome of this round one encounter was determined long before the finish.
Free-taker Paddy Lynch was sharp from placed-balls throughout, but, whereas Warwickshire failed to miss any of their eight scorable frees, Louth had neither enough territory or possession to match these efforts.
Monaghan’s comprehensive defeat of Longford should have Louth heading to the Midlands in a positive frame of mind next weekend. It is, however, a must-win game and that will apply pressure in itself.
Warwickshire, meanwhile, look serious contenders to add to the National Hurling League Division 3A silverware they claimed earlier in the year. For them, Hoban, McKenna and Domhnall Nugent were most impressive.
Warwickshire: Conor Robins; William Allen, Dean Bruen, Michael O’Regan; Peadar Scally, Paul Hoban (0-4, 3f, 1 ’65), Donncha Kennedy; John Collins (0-1), Paul Uniacke (0-2); Niall McKenna (0-5f), Domhnall Nugent (0-5), Niall Kennedy (0-1); Garry Lennon (1-0), Shane Caulfield (1-1), Kelvin Magee (1-0)
Subs: Pádraic Crehan for Uniacke (60min), Tom Kelly for Michael O’Regan (61min), Breen Fallon for Lennon (63min), Robbie Curley for Donncha Kennedy (65min), Ian Dwyer for Magee (68min).
Louth: Stephen Hackett; Stephen Kettle, Mike Lyons, Mark Wallace; Feidhelm Joyce, Ronan Byrne (0-2f), Andrew McCrave; Donal Ryan (0-1), Mark Molloy; Paddy Lynch (0-6, 4f), Shane Callan (0-2), Seaghan Connelly (0-2); John Crosbie (0-1), David Kettle (1-1), Gerard Smyth (0-1).
Subs: Darren O’Hanrahan for Crosbie (48min), John Martin for Joyce (65min).
Referee: James Clarke (Cavan).