By David Hennessy and Liam Tunney
All-Britain Junior Hurling champions John Mitchels’ assault on the All-Ireland ran aground at Derry’s Celtic Park on Sunday. The Birmingham team found themselves up against a superior team and were 13 points down before twenty minutes had been played. There was to be no way back for them from there. Losing Robbie Duggan to a red card and then Dean Bruen to two yellows put the final nails in their coffin. This is the sixth time John Mitchel’s have bowed out of the All-Ireland at the quarter-final stage making it look like an obstacle they can’t over.
However, John Mitchel’s have still had a great year, retaining their county and provincial championships. With Des Kelly’s leadership going forward, they can keep building.
John O’Shea of John Mitchel’s told The Irish World after the match: “There was a definite step up from what we played in Britain. They got a couple of early breaks and then we never really recovered from it.
“To be fair, we battled on. We came out in the second half and we kind of gave it to them for ten minutes or so. Then Robbie Duggan got sent off, that kind of killed it.
“That completely killed whatever chance we had: They just pucked the ball around with the extra man. Then towards the end Dean Bruen got the second yellow and we finished with thirteen.”
This was John Mitchels’ sixth appearance in an All-Ireland quarter-final and there were hopes this appearance would be different from the last. Although it is not the heaviest defeat they have bowed out of the competition on the end of, it is also not the closest they have been either.
On the day, the Warwickshire champions just found themselves up against a stronger team. They fell behind early on and were never going to make up the deficit. They battled to try and get themselves back into the game but the dismissal of Robbie Duggan after half-time really killed this match as a contest. Dean Bruen’s dismissal for a second yellow was almost coincidental to the afternoon.
By contrast, Eoghan Rua showed little sign of fatigue from their bruising Ulster final win over Newry Shamrocks last weekend to return to the last four of the championship.
Mitchel’s had come into the game with some confidence having competed well at this stage last season, but their defence came under intense pressure immediately and yielded a fortuitous third minute goal as Sean Leo McGoldrick’s long range free slipped through the fingers of Phil Crean and into the net.
Sean Leo McGoldrick was devastating with 1-9 but he was far from a solitary influence in the Eoghan Rua forward line. Six different players etched their name onto the scoresheet, including half-back Aidan Boyle who landed a superb effort in the closing stages.
The early goal triggered an avalanche of scores and the Derry champions added a further 1-6 before Mitchel’s recorded their first score in the 21st minute. By half-time, Des Kelly’s team trailed by by 14 points.
The Birmingham team’s fortunes took a turn for the worse when they were reduced to 14 men on 34 minutes as Robbie Duggan’s wild swing on Ciaran McGoldrick resulted in a red card for the Mitchel’s half-forward.
The Ulster champions continued to push forward and added a third goal in the closing stages as they booked their place in the All-Ireland semi-final.
McGoldrick followed his opening point with the game’s first goal, his long-range free dropping through the fingers of Mitchel’s goalkeeper Phil Crean and into the net. The signs were already looking ominous for the British champions even at that early stage.
The visitors then had an opportunity to settle the nerves from a free of their own, but full-forward Emmet McCabe’s effort dropped short and McGoldrick punished the error immediately by converting a 65 at the other end.
When Ruairí Mooney collected a Colm McGoldrick pass and broke clear of two men in the 18th minute to fire past Phil Crean at point blank range, the Derry side led by thirteen points.
Breen Fallon opened the Mitchel’s account on 21 minutes but this was bows and arrows against an army tank. Eoghan Rua responded through a Niall Holly brace and points from both Mooney brothers to quell any potential rising.
The Birmingham side did register late first half scores through Padraic Crehan and Emmet McCabe but they imploded at the beginning of the second half when they had half-forward Robbie Duggan dismissed after just four minutes.
The hosts punished Mitchels’ dismissal by opening up an 18-point gap.
Breen Fallon fired over his side’s best score on 53 minutes as he rounded his man and slotted between the uprights before Ruairí Mooney was left scratching his head in disbelief after failing to turn the ball into an empty net from point blank range.
Aidan Boyle then shipped a big tackle under the stand and shot over from distance from the left flank as the half-back became the first Eoghan Rua defender to trouble the score board in the 54th minute.
Eoghan Rua then finished the game with a flourish. Substitute Ciaran Lenehan battled to win possession before finding Ruairí Mooney with a neat hand-pass. Mooney made amends for his earlier sitter by haring into the six-yard box and dispatching the ball into the bottom corner of the Mitchel’s goal.
For the second year in a row, John Mitchel’s have bowed out of the All-Ireland at the quarter-final stage. However, both the quarter-finals may be lessons that stand to them as they learn just how much of a leap up in class the All-Ireland is.
This John Mitchel’s team were just not prepared for what Eoghan Rua hit them with. This was a thoroughly professional performance from the Eoghan Rua men who look primed for another push at an All-Ireland title. Their back line has not conceded a goal in over 240 minutes of hurling, their midfield provides energy and steel and their forwards’ work rate and accuracy can demoralise a defence.