Senior Hurling Championship Final
Mount Leinster Rangers 3-17
Naomh Eoin 0-17
By John Foley
MOUNT Leinster Rangers are the champions of Carlow for a seventh time after an at-times masterful display of hurling against Naomh Eoin at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday. Three and a half years after they represented Carlow and Leinster in the All-Ireland club final, they regained their county title with a display which in many ways reflected the qualities which took them all the way to Croke Park in March of 2014.
Rangers were clever in possession and they took their scoring opportunities well with man-of-the-match Denis Murphy imperious over placed balls, but most importantly they brought an intensity to their game, most noticeably in the second quarter, which the men from Myshall could not match.
The Rangers half-back line in particular, inspired by their veteran captain Eddie Coady, was the rock on which so many Naomh Eoin attacks perished. Time and time again, dropping balls were attacked with aggression by Coady, David Phelan and Gary Kelly and either gathered first time or flicked away to a supporting player.
The fact Naomh Eoin scored only seven points from open play tells you all you need to know about the dominance of the winners’ defence on the day.
But this wasn’t just about a stern rear-guard action. In attack, Denis Murphy’s clinical score-taking was ably supported in particular by Chris Nolan, winning his first senior championship medal, and the more experienced Eddie Byrne who caused Naomh Eoin plenty of problems.
Rangers gave a warning of things to come as early as the first minute when Diarmuid Byrne raced clean through and it took a great save from Naomh Eoin keeper Brian Tracey to deny what looked a certain goal. Denis Murphy slotted the 65.
Padraic Nolan replied with the first of his nine points for Naomh Eoin a couple of minutes later. Although the scoring was tit for tat in the opening quarter, Rangers were already settling the quicker of the two teams and finding space a little easier. A feature of that first quarter were two absolutely mammoth frees from Brian Tracey, both from around the 100m mark, the second of which had the added difficulty of being out near the sideline. The level of power and accuracy required would grace any hurling stage.
By the 15th minute they were five points apiece and it was then that Rangers really began to motor.
Denis Murphy found Chris Nolan with a snappy pass up the wing and the youngster showed his marker a clean pair of heels before firing over his first point of the afternoon.
Murphy added a free before Diarmuid Byrne flicked over another after Eddie had won a huge puckout and barrelled forward before offloading to his brother.
Nolan landed another great score from wide of the left and Eddie Byrne put his name on the scoresheet to make it 0-10 to 0-5 by the 23rd minute. Then another hammer blow to Naomh Eoin’s hopes came when Kevin McDonald followed a delivery into the square and cleverly diverted it low into the net. In the space of 11 minutes, Rangers had opened up an eight-point lead and this scoring spree proved to the winning of the game.
Peter Abbey manfully lifted the siege for Naomh Eoin with two fine scores from play but further points from Jack Murphy and Chris Nolan, after great work from Eddie Coady in the half-back line, made it 1-12 to 0-7 at the interval.
The game came off the boil somewhat at the start of the second half with Denis Murphy and Padraic Nolan exchanging frees and by the 40th minute Rangers were leading 1-15 to 0-10.
You sensed Naomh Eoin needed to make a move and it came when they fashioned two massive goal chances. First a lovely move involving the lively Ross Smithers and Eoin Redmond released John Michael Nolan but his shot on goal wasn’t clean and Frank Foley easily batted it away. But moments later Peter Abbey had a chance to shoot from the right of the square and he too was unable to find the net. It looked like an opportunity lost and so it proved because within five minutes Rangers found the net twice more to put the game to bed.
First an Eddie Coady delivery was batted down by Denis Murphy to the onrushing Diarmuid Byrne and he calmly slotted it into the net. Then Eddie Byrne raced through and offloaded to Denis Murphy who pulled on the sliotar first time into the net. At 3-15 to 0-13, there was no way back for Naomh Eoin.
Kevin Foley and Smithers found the posts with late points from play to complement two more Padraic Nolan frees but there was never any doubt about the result. After a solid season, Naomh Eoin once again lose a final, their third since they last claimed the cup in 2005.
Rangers were in a different class here. Next for them is the Leinster championship where Laois champions Camross await in Portlaoise on 5 November. The journey continues.
Mount Leinster Rangers: Frank Foley; Willie Hickey, Richard Kelly, Michael Doyle; Edward Coady, David Phelan, Gary Kelly; Diarmuid Byrne (1-1), Richard Coady; Paul Coady (0-1), Jack Murphy (0-1), Edward Byrne (0-1); Denis Murphy (1-10, 0-7 frees, 0-1 65), Chris Nolan (0-3), Kevin McDonald (1-0). Subs: Ted Joyce for J Murphy (31 mins) Derek Byrne for K McDonald (45 mins), Michael Malone for E Coady (48 mins), James Kelly for P Coady (52 mins), Gary Lawlor for G Kelly (55 mins)
Naomh Eoin: Brian Tracey (0-2, frees); Ronan Nolan, James O’Hara, Tommy Nolan, Shane Kavanagh, Eoin Nolan, Micheál Mullins (0-1); Eoin Redmond, Peter Abbey (0-2); John Michael Nolan (0-1), Ross Smithers (0-1), Conor Foley; Donal Smithers, Padraic Nolan (0-9, 0-8 frees), Jack Kavanagh. Sub: Kevin Foley (0-1) for J Kavanagh.
Referee: Pat Kehoe (Rathvilly)