Allianz Hurling League Division 3A
THIS season’s National Hurling League campaign was always likely to prove a tough assignment for Warwickshire.
Their promotion to Division 3A has brought a step up in opposition and after opening with a defeat away to Fingal they were hoping to bounce back against Louth at Pairc na hÉireann in a tight game that ultimately went the way of the visitors.
With only two of Warwickshire’s five games played at home, Saturday’s defeat leaves them at the foot of the table with trips to Tyrone and Monaghan sandwiched by the visit of Roscommon. Yet there were plenty of positives to draw from a game played in squally conditions, with Warwickshire in the ascendency for long periods until Louth’s late flourish pipped them at the post.
Shane Morrissey was Warwickshire’s star man, the Roger Casements wing-forward having recently joined from Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams in Tipperary. He traded three early points (two frees) with Louth as the sides remained on even terms until a long pass from John Reddan enabled Morrissey to edge away from the Louth defence and drill home the first goal of the game.
Morrissey returned the favour as Reddan extended the lead to four, yet they were immediately pegged back when Warwickshire failed to clear their lines and ended up conceding a goal as Turlough Hendry caused enough trouble to ensure a deflection rolled over the goal line.
Warwickshire hit back emphatically, Morrissey once again fielding possession and powering through to fire past James Connolly. He came close to grabbing a first-half hat-trick, almost latching onto a long free that needed a Louth intervention to turn away for a ‘65. Two superb saves just before half-time from Michael Cremin ensured the home side went back into the changing rooms three points ahead, a great return given that they were playing into the wind.
That advantage showed no signs of abating, a neat swivel from Pauric Crehan led to the first point of the second-half, while Ogie Long added a further score with a well struck free.
Cremin was called upon again to deny a low Louth effort but even so the home side looked relatively comfortable as the visitors grew increasingly frustrated.
Then came the game’s key moment: a long pass out of midfield dropped into a ruck of players competing in front of goal and with referee James Connors adjudging that Liam Dwan was impeded.
The resulting penalty was drilled home by the corner-forward. Two scores later, Warwickshire’s hard work had been wiped out, Dwan tucking over a free from the left to send his team into the lead for the first time.
Playing with increasingly less possession, Warwickshire needed to work hard to force scoring opportunities. A deft reverse pass from Morrissey presented Conlon with an equalising score, before Dwan belted over another free to restore Louth’s lead.
Morrissey hit back once more, a quick give and go from a side-line cut was swiftly ended with a sweeping drive high over the bar, and when an incisive pass out of defence fell to Reddan the half-forward restored Warwickshire’s advantage.
There was a sting in the tail though as Louth surged for a final time. Nigel Stanley’s fine score from the right flank was backed up by the winning score from that man Dwan, who was composed enough to make no mistake from 30 metres out and steal it at the very end.
A disappointing result, but a promising performance for a Warwickshire side still finding its feet in this division. Up next, a trip to Healy Park in Omagh to face Tyrone on Saturday week.
While Warwickshire’s hurlers were taking on Louth, the Ladies’ football side were enjoying a goal fest against a combined Gloucestershire/Hertfordshire side, finishing the victors by a score of 6-9 to 4-5.
The first silverware of the season was also handed out on Sunday, St Marys’ narrow defeat of Four Masters by 0-12 to 2-5 ensuring the Wolverhampton club took home the Joel Richards Memorial Trophy.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Man of the match:
Shane Morrissey (Warwickshire)
Yellow Cards: Louth 1 (Darren O’Hanrahan 29); Warwickshire 2 (Joe Meagher 8, Chris Brough 12).
Louth: J Connolly; C Matthews, J Costello, M Wallace; M Lyons, J Carter, A McCrave; D O’Hanrahan, S Callan (0-1); T Hendry (1-0), N Stanley (0-1), P Lynch; D Murphy (0-3, 3f), S Connelly, L Dwan (1-6, 1 Pen, 3f).
Warwickshire: M Cremin; M O’Reagan, W Allen, J Quinn; C Brough, P Treacy, J Meagher; L Reale, C Robbins; S Morrissey (2-5, 2f), J Reddan (0-2), S Conlon (0-1); O Long (0-1), P Crehan (0-1), K Dwyer. Subs: C McBride (for Long 40).
Referee: J Connors (Donegal)