Nenagh Eire Og’s Philip Hickey and Clonoulty Rossmore’s John O’Keeffe compete for possession. Photo: Odhran Ducie

Nenagh dig in to earn draw against Clonoulty

GAA: FBD Insurance County Senior Hurling Championship Group 1

Nenagh Eire Og 3-10

Clonoulty/Rossmore 0-19

Report: Shane Brophy at FBD Semple Stadium

Nenagh Eire Og had to dig into their reserves of grit once more, and it helped them earn a share of the spoils with Clonoulty/Rossmore in the opening round of the County Senior Hurling Championship on Sunday.

For long spells, Nenagh struggled to make headway against a physically powerful Clonoulty side that used the ball better and found it easier to get scores. However, despite going lengthy periods without scoring, Nenagh always hung in the battle and with their ability to get goals, was the reason they earned what was a good point from their point of view, while Clonoulty will feel they did more of the hurling to have taken both.

Yet, but for Clonoulty keeper Martin Sadlier making three superb saves in the first half, Nenagh might have been able to play the game on their terms, but for a lot of it they were chasing a Clonoulty side who are building a new team under Tipp great Declan Ryan, but it was one of their old reliables in Conor Hammersley who led the way with five points from play, with Jack Ryan, Dillon Quirke, and Danny Slattery also to the fore, while Enda Heffernan was a powerhouse at midfield.

Ahead of the game, one of the issues with Nenagh was how they would cope without injured skipper Barry Heffernan. With Daire Quinn also injured, it was Conor Hennessy who got the centre back spot and did well in negating Dillon Quirke for the most part. Nenagh were also boosted by having Conor McCarthy available after his red card in the North final was rescinded and he made a brilliant block deep in injury time to prevent James Hammersley scoring a winning goal for Clonoulty.

The game started at a good pace with blocking a feature of the early play with the sides level at one point apiece when Nenagh pierced an open Clonoulty defence for the first time in the sixth minute as Ben West won possession on his own 65. Soloing forward an intended handpass to Jake Morris rebounded back into his path and arriving at the fourteen-yard line with the goal open, fired to the net.

However, as they would throughout, Clonoulty responded well to the concession of each Nenagh goal with Jack Ryan and Conor Hammersley adding a brace of points each before Tommy Heffernan point on fifteen minutes, after the Clonoulty defence was opened up easily again.

Prior to that on ten minutes, the Martin Sadlier had denied Jake Morris and Tommy Heffernan with a fine double, before two minutes later he stood tall to deal with a blistering Heffernan drive.

Nenagh looked like they could get joy against the Clonoulty full back line, but it was the West champions who pressed on with five unanswered points up to the 28th minute from Ryan (2 frees), Enda Heffernan, and two from Dillon Quirke, including a side-line cut.

Trailing by five, Nenagh needed something positive to take into the break and it came in terms of a Jake Morris goal, with Clonoulty leaving him one on one with Ronan Heffernan and Morris made the finish look easy. Points from Conor Ryan and Tommy Heffernan brought the sides level before Clonoulty reeled off two quick points from Jimmy Maher and Danny Slattery to a Michael Heffernan 65 as Nenagh trailed 0-12 to 2-5 at half time.

The quality of the game deteriorated after half time, not helped by the arrival of misty rain. Both sides only managed a point each up to the 42nd minute when Cian Crowley scored Nenagh’s third goal, but it owed as much to Jake Morris’ burst in from the wing.

But as with the other goals, it seemed to inspire Clonoulty who levelled with two Jack Ryan frees and following a similar Michael Heffernan effort for Nenagh, pressed on with Conor Hammersley adding two fine points from play with Jack Ryan adding another for a two-point lead on 53 minutes.

Michael Heffernan (free) and Jake Morris brought Nenagh level before Conor Hammersley broke onto a ball and his first-time shot was deflected over by goalkeeper Mark Tuite.

Nenagh levelled in the third minute of added time from a Michael Heffernan 65 and subsequently both sides had chances to win the game, but a point apiece was the final outcome.

Player of the Match: Conor Hammersley (Clonoulty/Rossmore)

Nenagh Eire Og: Mark Tuite (6), Sean Phelan (6), Adam Gratton (6), Conor McCarthy (8); Conor Ryan (0-1, 6), Conor Hennessy (7), Adam Healy (6); James Mackey (6), Josh Keller (6); Ben West (1-0, 7), Michael Heffernan (0-5, 4f 1 65) 7), Cian Crowley (1-0, 7); Jake Morris (1-1, 8), Philip Hickey (6), Tommy Heffernan (0-3, 7).

Subs: Killian Malone (6) for Keller (40 inj); Hugh Maloney (6) for Hickey (44 inj); Paddy Murphy (6) for Crowley (53); Jamie Cottrell (NR) for West (60+4).

Clonoulty/Rossmore: Martin Sadlier (8); James Ryan (6), Robert Doyle (7), Ronan Heffernan (6); Enda Heffernan (0-1, 8), John O’Keeffe (7), Ciaran Quirke (6); Sean O’Connor (7), Jimmy Maher (0-1, 7); Aaron Ryan (6), Dillon Quirke (0-2, 1 s-cut) 7), Tommy Ryan (6); Danny Slattery (0-2, 7), Conor Hammersley (0-5, 9), Jack Ryan (0-8, 7f) 7).

Subs: Stephen Ferncombe (6) for A Ryan (45); Padraig Carew (6) for C Quirke (51); James Hammersley (NR) for Maher (60+1).

Referee: John Dooley (Thurles Gaels)