Captain Kerwick leads by example as Killenaule claim semi-final spot

South SHC

South SHC

Killenaule 3-15

CJK Mullinahone  3-13

A handsome gathering converged on Fethard Sportsfield on Friday evening last to witness Killenaule maintain their 100% record in the South SH championship so far against champions Mullinahone. 

Regarded by many as a dress rehearsal for this year’s South Final, a competitive battle was anticipated, and even if much of the play lacked the intensity of knock-out hurling, a very entertaining game ensued. On paper Killenaule appeared to be the more forceful outfit with two very impressive victories behind them, whilst Mullinahone were fielding without Tipperary captain Paul Curran and were also minus his brothers Niall and Alan amongst others.

A re-jigged Mullinahone drew first blood with the game in its infancy when corner forward Denis Connelly collected a long Paul Kelly delivery, evaded a number of challenges before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Gerry Kennedy. In response Michael Doyle had KIllenaule’s opening score a minute later, pointing after a John O’Dwyer pass, which was cancelled out when the next passage of play resulted in a Mullinahone free, which was scored by Eoin Kelly.

With the breeze slightly favouring Killenaule, Pat Kerwick caught a long Gerry Kennedy puck out and fired over the bar for his first score of the evening. Soon after, drama in front of Alan Walsh’s goal gave Killenaule the lead for the first time. John O’Dwyer opened up the Mullinahone defence with a scorching run, off-loading to Pat Kerwick whose rasper was incredibly saved by Walsh, only for the on-rushing Michael Doyle to finish low along the ground.

Eoin Kelly responded in the tenth minute, converting his second free, before a barren period of scrappy play followed for nearly five minutes, which was halted by another successful Kelly free to give Mullinahone the lead. Pat Kerwick equalised for Killenaule, when racing onto a clever diagonal ball from Declan Ryan and shooting over from a narrow angle, and Declan Fanning edged them back in front moments later, holding off the attention of two Mullinahone backs to score.

Killenaule were beginning to dominate in most sectors at this point, but were guilty of several wides and near misses at the same time. John O’Dwyer and Eoin Kelly traded frees twice in the space of five minutes as the half wore on, before Pat Kerwick had a point from play, which looked certain to be goal bound as Killenaule continued to threaten.

Killenaule looked relentless in their search for a second goal, with Keiran Bergin flashing over from close range after Pat Kerwick crashed his shot off the crossbar. Bergin pointed again with the half nearing a close, combining with Declan Fanning to put Killenaule four up. Eoin Kelly and John O’Dwyer once again exchanged frees, Kelly’s a particularly impressive score from inside his own half against the wind.

With Killenaule raiding in search of goals against the reshuffled Mullinahone rearguard, it was in fact Mullinahone who were next to raise a green flag. Kevin Walzer and Donal Cody engineered space for Eoin Kelly who shot low, which was stopped by the out-stretched Gerry Kennedy, but Sean Curran was alive to the rebound and made no mistake. However Mullinahone’s joy was short-lived. Killenaule responded immediately and emphatically, with a John O’Dwyer wonder-goal, leaving the defence in his wake and finishing clinically right on the half time whistle.

Sean Curran, who was quiet by his own standards in the first half, really upped the ante after the restart, sending over an inspirational score from out on the sideline, having risen high to gather possession from a forest of hurleys. That score left just two points between the sides before Kieran Bergin increased the advantage with a neat point from a Declan Fanning pass. That advantage was wiped out minutes later when Curran, now in the full forward line, ghosted in behind the Killenaule defence, and blasted past Gerry Kennedy to restore parity. Kieran Bergin was on hand once again to restore Killenaule’s lead, before John O’Dwyer doubled the advantage with a spectacular point from way out the field.

Eoin Kelly, who was struggling to get any change from full back Tony Doyle, had another free over the bar to keep Mullinahone in touch as the game began to ebb and flow. With Mullinahone growing in confidence as the game entered its final quarter, a tense and close finish was very much on the cards. Mullinahone seemed to have shored up the Killenaule goal threat with some tenacious and resolute defending. That is, until danger man Pat Kerwick seized on a breaking ball forty yards from goal, blazed off on a marauding run and finishing to the bottom corner of Alan Walsh’s net at the Rocklow Road end.

Kerwick tagged on another for Killenaule a few minutes later as their first half swagger looked like returning. Mullinahone though were showing great resilience and another Eoin Kelly free meant they weren’t going to be easily shaken off. Kelly then escaped the shackles of Tony Doyle and fired over to set up a grandstand finish. With time running out Mullinahone were looking the more likely, and when a Cathal Horan effort sailed over the bar there was just the minimum between the teams. But just as in first half stoppage time John O’Dwyer one more completed the score card, his free giving Killenaule a two-point victory.

Killenaule are sitting pretty, looking down on the rest as a result of their third successive victory, and will be delighted having secured a semi-final spot with a game to spare. They relied on big performances in this game from Tony Doyle, Niall O’Dwyer and Joe O’Dwyer in defence, while up front Pat “Festy” Kerwick and Kieran Bergin led the line well.

Mullinahone will take encouragement from their showing having been without so many regulars. Stalwarts Paul and Eoin Kelly were always involved and they were helped in no small way by younger players Cathal Horan, Luke Mullally and Denis Connelly.

Killenaule: Gerry Kennedy. Aaron Conran, Tony Doyle, Declan Ryan, Joe O’Dwyer, Niall O’Dwyer, Paddy Codd, Cathal Bergin, Peter Kennedy, Niall Bergin, Pat Kerwick capt (1-4), Michael Doyle(1-1), John O’Dwyer(1-5  4frees), Declan Fanning(0-1), Kieran Bergin (0-4)

Mullinahone: Alan Walsh, Philip O’Shea, AJ Cronin, Gary Cronin, James Connelly, Paul Kelly(capt), Chris Horan, Luke Mullally, Edwin O’Meara, Donal Cody, Sean Curran (2-1), Kevin Walzer, Cathal Horan(0-2), Eoin Kelly(0-10, 8frees), Denis Connelly(1-0).

Ref: Noel Cosgrove (Marlfield).