Allianz NHL Div 3A – Rnd 2
By Hugh Maguire
At Pairc na hEireann
Warwickshire made it two wins from two with victory over Longford on Sunday, and in doing so extracted some revenge for their defeat in last year’s Division 3B Final.
The Birmingham boys came into the match with the wind in their sails off the back of a comprehensive and convincing win over Tyrone. Manager Tony Joyce ensured his men were eager to continue that form, and they most certainly delivered.
A swift score almost straight from throw-in, saw Donal Nugent put the home team in front. Kelvin Magee was the next player to register when he capitalised on an opening in front of goal and coolly slotted it home for the game’s only goal.
The Exiles had the upperhand in the opening exchanges, evidenced further by Magee’s steely determination to hound the Longford defensive line and win possession leading to Longford giving away a penalty.
Captain Donnacha Kennedy stepped up only to fire past the right-hand post, and a golden opportunity for a second goal was wasted.
— Warwickshire GAA (@warwickshireclg) February 3, 2018
Not disheartened by the miss, Warwickshire and Kennedy continued the pressure and buoyed by Joyce’s passion on the sideline, the hurlers pressed on.
Uniacke – a strong presence in the middle of the park from the very beginning until the final whistle – replied to his manager’s call for action and clipped a perfectly judged shot over the bar from the right-hand touchline from roughly 40 or so yards out.
Warwickshire were now most certainly in the driving seat. At times like these, some teams may become complacent and take their foot off the pedal. But not Warwickshire.
Although Dean Bruen did miss a scoreable free shortly after Uniacke’s superb point, the Mitchel’s man recovered and then played it straight into the eager hands of Niall Kennedy who comfortably struck it over the bar – normal service had resumed.
However, it was at this point, Longford settled into the match and quelled their nerves.
Patrick Walsh registered the visitor’s first score and within minutes, Daniel Connell pucked the ball goalwards only to see his effort thwarted by the crossbar.
Next to score was Longford’s captain Daire Duggan, after he managed to capitalise on some fantastic and tenacious battling by full-forward, Cathal Mullane. Following this flurry of scores, Warwickshire seemed to lose their direction and discipline somewhat – all of which free taker Mullane and ever-present Walsh were happy to capitalise on.
Nonetheless, Warwickshire were still the dominant force and some sublime scores from Shane Caulfield, Niall McKenna and Niall Kennedy saw the Exiles go in at half-time seven points up, 1-9 to 0-5.
Warwickshire’s lack of discipline resurfaced after the break, with the dismissal of Donal Nugent for a swipe of the hurl to Sean Stakelum’s face. Nugent, though, looked visibly shocked at the decision of referee Nathan Wall.
Nugent’s sending off was also a key turning point. Longford’s task suddenly became a realistic one.
Longford’s man of the match, Mullane, seemed to be the individual best able to exploit his side’s numerical advantage and Warwickshire’s failing discipline – registering three scores from frees and one from open play.
Bart Hanley also got on the scoresheet with a perfectly executed point, after handing over possession and turning on a sixpence to clip the sliotar over the bar.
Stakelum came close to scoring a goal when he reacted quickly to a loose ball that should have been dealt with by Warwickshire, and hit a bullet of a shot down toward Eoin Ryan’s bottom right-hand corner.
Ryan was equal to the task, however, and pulled off a fantastic save. But Joyce’s men are nothing if no resilient and they quickly recovered to finish strongly.
McKenna registered the home side’s first point of the half, Caulfield sank three frees and McGee managed a fantastic point from the lefthand side. In the end, the home side comfortably saw the game out.
Joyce and his men will look to continue their good start when they travel to Louth on 18 February.
WARWICKSHIRE: Eoin Ryan; Dean Bruen, Adrian Downey, Mícheál O’Regan; Donnacha Kennedy, Shane Caufield (0-6), Colm McBride; Paul Uniacke (0-1), Kieran Boxwell; Niall McKenna (0-2), Niall Kennedy (0-1), Donal Nugent (0-1); Kelvin Magee (1- 2), Ian Dwyer, Breen Fallon. Subs: Gary Lennon, Chris Brough, Kieran Phelan, Padraic Crehan, Mark Nolan, Tom Kelly, Robbie Curley, Conor Robbins (0-1), Peadar Scally.
LONGFORD: Conor Gallagher; Karl Murray, Aidan Sheridan, Jody Leonard; Gerard Moore, Seamus Hannon, Patrick Walsh (0-2); Bart Hanley (0-2), Daniel Connell; John Mulhern, Reuben Murray, Johnny Casey (0-1); Sean Stakelum, Cathal Mulane (0-5), Daire Duggan (0- 1). Subs: Nigel Rabbitt, Paddy Corcoran, Cian McLoughlin, Paul Leonard, Mícháel Farrell, Shane O’Brien, Ray O’Brien, Paul Barden, PJ Masterson, Shane Campbell, Mark Howlin.
REFEREE: Nathan Wall (Cork).