Warwickshire Senior Hurling Champions 2009: John Mitchel’s
Second-half surge sees John Mitchel’s retain Championship
John Mitchel’s 1-12 v 0-07 Fullen Gaels
John Mitchel’s have once more ascended to the summit of Warwickshire hurling thanks to a strong second half display in Sunday’s Championship Final against Fullen Gaels at Pairc na hÉireann. A cagey opening half saw both sides going into the interval on level terms but it was Mitchel’s who took a stranglehold of the game in the opening stages of the second half, capped by Martin Morrissey’s goal on the hour mark. Despite a whirlwind closing effort by the visiting Gaels, they were unable to claw back Mitchel’s after Morrissey’s goal, indeed the acrobatics of both goalkeepers contributed greatly to only one major conversion.
Determined to make amends for defeat in the 2008 final, Fullen Gaels sprinted out of the blocks with two early Kevin Codd frees before Des Kelly replied in kind with the first of his eight points. Gaels were hustling well in the middle of the field and after collecting possession in a wide position, the speedy Dana O’Regan clinically landed his first point of the game with a well struck shot. Indeed the visitors were reacting the quicker and as a melee occurred in the Mitchel’s goalmouth, Aiden Murphy’s snap shot produced a fine reaction save from John Sheehan who also had his crossbar to thank for keeping the full forward’s strike at bay. A superb score from the touchline by half forward Wayne Healy looked to steady the ship for the home side but another Codd free retained his side’s single point advantage.
Mitchel’s upped their game and struck two quick points in succession to draw level another clinical strike by Kelly from a free was followed by a swift attack across the final third that released Wayne Healy towards goal, however his shot blazed over John Farrell’s crossbar. Codd was striking some inspired long range scores in the first period, the best of which coming on the half hour mark from fully seventy yards out. Yet Mitchels finished the half brightly thanks to a Kelly free that could have been accompanied by a Morrissey goal if not for the alert Farrell smother the full forward’s attempt to find the top corner of his net.
With the sides matched at five points apiece at the change of ends, Mitchels took a firm foothold scoring three of the next four points. The midfield pairing of Mark Lyons and Peter Healy were increasingly fielding possession and with the industrious half forwards Wayne Healy and Des Kelly making the running in attack, the home side looked to seize the initiative. Kelly was making no mistake with his frees, two more sandwiched a clever individual point from corner forward John Bergin. At the other end, full forward Murphy popped up from twenty yards to drive a shot over the bar and five minutes later another excellent acute score by corner forward O’Regan reduced the margin of deficit to a single score. Yet the visitors’ goal was coming under increased pressure from mounting Mitchel’s attacks; first Wayne Healy burst through to strike for goal, producing another superb save from Farrell before a clever pass from Sean Nash narrowly evaded the reach of the oncoming Morrissey. Healy was proving a handful along the left hand touchline and might have landed that all important first goal but for a brave block from Chris Conlon. Two further Kelly points, one a sublime long range effort from the touchline, extended the margin to three points before Morrissey provided the critical moment. Picking up possession from twenty yards out, the Mitchel’s full forward drove a bobbling effort awkwardly towards Farrell, who was unable to prevent the shot trickling into the back of the net. With the margin at six points and the visitors reduced soon after to fourteen men as midfielder Johnny Cleary picked up a second yellow card, Mitchel’s looked to have one hand on the title.
To their credit, Gaels fought back and could have grabbed a vital goal in response through Murphy’s crisp strike that was superbly tipped wide by Sheehan. A foul in the goalmouth on Murphy resulted in the awarding of a penalty in the closing minutes but as Codd stepped up and fired towards goal, his effort fizzed wide Sheehan’s right hand post. The Mitchel’s goalkeeper would be called upon one final time to prevent half forward Richard Abraham from claiming a last minute goal for Gaels but with two further points from Bergin and Kelly extending the lead to eight at the other end, time had ultimately run its course.
John Mitchel’s: John Sheehan, Damien Coffey, Richard Healy, Denis Kelly, Chris Brough, John Healy, John O’Flynn, Peter Healy, Mark Lyons, Des Kelly (0-8), Declan Leonard, Wayne Healy (0-2), Sean Nash, Martin Morrissey (1-0), John Bergin (0-2).
Fullen Gaels: John Farrell, Shane Kincad, Eamon Hansbery, Kieran Curran, Chris Conlon, Michael Kinsella, Paddy Breen, Kevin Codd (0-4), Johnny Cleary, Paddy O’Brien, Richard Abraham, Niall Morris, Alan Gray, Aiden Murphy (0-1), Dana O’Regan (0-2).
After the game, John Mitchel’s Captain Chris Brough paid credit to Fullen Gaels who once more fought right to the wire in the Warwickshire Championship Final: “Fullen Gaels deserve a lot of credit today, last year they played really well and probably should have won it, again this year they pushed us right to the limit. There was nothing in it at half time at five points each but we really pushed on in the second half. They gave us a good work out today and we were really tested, all credit to them.”
Brough paid tribute to the panel as a whole for once more securing the county title, as well as a mention for manager Tony Joyce: “A lot of credit must go to the people behind the scenes, the management and selectors. Also a lot of credit goes to our new manager, who has come in and done a great job for us”. All that remained was for Brough to be presented with the County Championship by Chairman Larry McAuliffe. Mitchels now advance to the Provincial stage where they will look to emulate last season’s triumphant march to All-Britain honours.