Allianz Hurling League Division 3A
FINGAL hurlers gave Warwickshire a rude welcome to life in Division 3A of the Allianz Hurling League last Sunday afternoon.
The debutants showed a lack of pre-season fitness and sharpness, falling behind to a goal after just two minutes.
Fingal midfielder Ross McGarry’s long ball was missed by Warwickshire backs Tom Kelly and Chris Brough, leaving captain Luke Kelly to slam the ball past keeper Michael Cremin in the game’s first attack.
Colm McBride brought a stunning save from Fingal goalkeeper Mark Cullen sixty seconds later, Cullen diving low to his left, but player-manager John Bergin should have done better with the rebound, flashing his shot wide.
Fingal very nearly had their second goal with four minutes on the clock. J.M Sheridan’s 40-metre puck into the square looked tame enough only for Cremin to misjudge the ball, scurrying to clear off his line.
It would take 13 minutes for Warks to register their first score, Ross McGarry landing two points for Fingal before Shane Conlon’s free had the visitors up and running.
Warks grew from that first score, their lack of sharpness evident in the opening stages before corner forward Keith Dwyer came close to landing a goal, though Fingal did enough to clear their lines.
The game sprung to life and turned into an end-to-end contest, taking place on the 3G pitch in DCU Sports grounds, the firm under foot ensuring a spring and speed to the game.
Cremin somewhat redeemed himself with a point-blank save on 18 minutes, T.J. Howard’s kick pass finding captain Kelly, but Cremin was quickly out on top of the full forward’s strike.
Two quick scores for the hosts proved more evidence of Warks’ lack of fitness. Kieran O’Sullivan’s short ‘65 to Paul Graves allowed Fingal to land a long range point on 19 minutes.
Two minutes later O’Sullivan got on the scoresheet himself with a cool finish, racing into the large rectangle to collect a long ball, and finishing his strike high into the right hand corner of the net.
To their credit the visitors’ heads didn’t drop and within 60 seconds Shane Morrissey’s shot across goal found the net, deceiving Cullen and sparking a mini-revival for the Warwickshire men.
Morrissey then added a point from 65 metres out with John Reddan and Keith Dwyer both adding points before half-time with Ross McGarry and Kieran O’Sullivan scoring for Fingal, meaning the hosts led 2-5 to 1-4 at the break.
Fingal’s sharpness told after the restart with J.M Sheridan landing three early points and midfielder Paddy Sheridan scoring from close to half way as Fingal pulled away.
Eamon Ogie Long responded with a free for Warks on 42 minutes but it took until the final two minutes of normal time before the visitors would add to their tally.
Kieran O’Sullivan grabbed his second goal of the game for the hosts after 64 minutes as the Warwickshire backs tired, Owens racing through the defence and clipping the ball into the corner of Cremin’s net.
With the game now very much one-way traffic, Fingal substitute Dean Cullen landed his side’s fourth goal in the final minute of normal time, the Warks backs failing to deal with Stephen Goff’s long ball and Cullen’s connection found the bottom corner as Fingal landed a 21-point victory.
Warwickshire player-manager John Bergin was honest in defeat, pointing immediately to the lack of game time his players had under their belts.
“We knew three or four weeks ago, when we got together as a group that we were behind in our preparations” explained Bergin.
“They would have had three Keogh cup games under their belt, maybe a challenge game or two, today was our first game of the year, a lot of the lads haven’t hurled since October, September time.”
“We need more games” explained Bergin, “we are going to have five or six games in the next seven weeks and were hoping in three or four weeks that we would have a settled team.”
“That we would be sharper and we would get out of the blocks quicker and we would be more consistent throughout the game” added Bergin.
Bergin was quick to explain his targets for the year, aiming to retain division 3A status for 2017 and a good championship campaign.
“We’re planning our home games to be big” explained Bergin. “When you travel, you obviously are going to be at a little bit of disadvantage, travelling all morning doesn’t help, but our two home games are key to staying in this division.”
GAME AT A GLANCE
Scorers: Fingal: L Kelly 1-0, R McGarry 0-4, P Graves 0-1, K O’Sullivan 2-6, 4f, J.M Sheridan 0-4, P Sheridan 0-1, S Owens 0-1, S Goff 0-1, D Cullen 1-0. Warwickshire: S Conlan 0-1, 1f, S Morrissey 1-2, 1f, J Reddan 0-1, K Dwyer 0-1, E O Long 0-1, 1f
Fingal: M Cullen, D O’Brien, D Fitzsimons, N McCaffrey, E O’Connor (B Kelly 65, 6), P Graves, S Goff, P Sheridan (P Quinn 60), R Swift (D Cullen 58), S Owens, R McGarry (W Lambe 68), K O’Sullivan, T.J. Howard, L Kelly, J.M. Sheridan (C Kelly 70)
Subs not used: D Renehan, E McCarthy, E Thynne, J Fay Watt, J Redmond, I Furlong
Warwickshire: M Cremin, T Kelly (E Toomey 65), W Allen, M O’Reagan, C Broug, J Meagher, J Quinn (F O’Callaghan 50), S Morrissey, S Conlon, J Boxwell (O Coffey 42), J Reddan, C McBride, K Dwyer, E O Long (D Murphy 65), J Bergin (D Kelly HT)
Subs not used: S Brough, J Hughes, T Joyce
Man of the Match: Kieran O’Sullivan (Fingal)
Referee: M Murtagh (Westmeath)