Allianz NHL Div 3A Rnd 4
By Larry Cooney and Tara Tolan
At Pairc ns hEireann
Warwickshire hurlers were given another stern test before finally prevailing after a thrilling one-point victory over Monaghan at Pairc na hEireann last Saturday afternoon.
Wing back John Collins hit the all-important winning point on the stroke of normal time and this result now sets up a place in a league decider for the Exiles for the second consecutive year.
After leading by 2-8 to 1-6 at half-time the Exiles had to withstand a fierce second-half rally from the Farneymen to keep their unbeaten record intact but the 2017 Lory Meagher Cup winners can now look forward to a final date on 11 March.
Warwickshire still have to play in Roscommon in the final round next Sunday and the Rossies could well be their opponents in the decider but a surprise defeat for the Westerners in Healy Park last Sunday has also left Tyrone and Louth with an outside chance of making the decider.
Two first half goals in two minutes for Warwickshire from Paul Hoban and full forward Donal Nugent was the perfect reply to an early fourth minute goal from the visitors and put the Exiles in control.
But Monaghan with a serious attacking threat up front were always capable of raising green flags and remained in contention right up to the final whistle mainly thanks to two second-half goals from full forward Eamonn Collins.
From the throw-in Warwickshire were soon on the offensive and it didn’t take the Exiles’ attack long to get acquainted with the Monaghan defence with Fermanagh referee Aidan Ferguson being forced to show an early yellow card to Warwickshire full forward Donal Nugent and Monaghan’s Kevin Crawley.
But it was the visitors who struck first with a scrambled fourth minute goal from Conor Boyle.
However Niall McKenna was on target a minute later and after a long range free from inspirational centre-back Paul Hoban the Exiles were right back on track in the eleventh minute.
And it got even better for the hosts two minutes later when Donal Nugent raised another green flag.
With their tails up Warwickshire began to dominate the exchanges in midfield and with Niall McKenna hitting a magnificent long range point the Exiles also dominated the remainder of the half on the score-board.
But scores from Fergal Rafter placed balls and points from Aaron Kenny and Conor Flynn always ensured the visitors remained in touch by the halfway stage when the score was: Warwickshire 2-8 Monaghan 1-6.
Warwickshire were given an early indication of what type of defensive pressure to expect soon after the re-start.
And after conceding an early 65 Fergal Rafter cut the Monaghan deficit to four points. By now Kelvin Magee had joined the Exiles’ attack and he did not take long to make an impression with a point four minutes after the re-start.
But after Niall Kennedy and Fergal Rafter (free) traded points the first of a second-half brace of goals from Eamonn Collins after 15 minutes made serious inroads into Warwickshire’s five-point lead.
But Warwickshire refused to panic with scores from Caufield, Nugent, Gary Lennon and a second point from Kelvin Magee.
However a third Monaghan goal from Eamonn Collins eight minutes from time set up a tense finish but Warwickshire never allowed the Ulstermen to overtake them as they pressed for the winning scores.
And when wing back John Collins kept his composure to hit a long range point on the stroke of normal time it gave the Exiles a vital two-point lead.
And although another Fergal Rafter pointed free closed the gap to the minimum Warwickshire held out for a narrow but deserved victory.
Warwickshire had many fine displays on the day from their solid midfield partnership of Paul Uniacke and Shane Caulfield and half-back line to their attack where Niall McKenna, Donal Nugent and Kelvin Magee all shone.
Scorers: Warwickshire – Niall McKenna 0-5 (0-3)f, Paul Hoban 1-1 (1-0)f, Donal Nugent 1-2, Shane Caulfied, Niall Kennedy and Kelvin Magee 0-2 each, Gary Lennon and John Collins 0-1 each. Monaghan – Fergal Rafter 0-10 (0-7)f (0-2)65s, Conor Boyne 1-0, Eamonn Collins 2-0, Aaron Kenny 0-2 and Conor Flynn 0-1.
WARWICKSHIRE: Conor Robins; Dean Bruen, Adrian Downey, Michael O’Regan; John Collins, Paul Hoban, Donnacha Kennedy; Paul Uniacke, Shane Caulfield; Niall McKenna, Niall Kennedy, Peadar Scally; Gary Lennon, Donal Nugent, Ian Dwyer. Subs: Kelvin Magee for Ian Dwyer h/t, Breen Fallon for Niall McKenna 50, Robbie Curley for Gary Lennon 65.
MONAGHAN: Patrick Bermingham; Jamie Guinan, Kevin Crawley, Brian Flanagan; Niall Garland, Patrick Finnegan, Martin Murphy; Mark Treanor, Peter Treanor; Fergal Rafter, Aaron Kenny, Conor Flynn; Conor Boyle, Eamonn Collins, Cormac McNally. Subs: Brian McGuigan for Conor Boyle 49.
REFEREE: Aidan Ferguson (Fermanagh).