Mullinahone goalkeeper Eoin Kelly clears his lines despite the best efforts of Robert Doyle. PHOTO: EAMONN MCGEE

Strong start key to Clonoulty’s progression

GAA: FBD Insurance County Senior Hurling Championship Preliminary Quarter Final

Clonoulty/Rossmore 1-23

Mullinahone 1-20

Report: Michael Dundon in Templetuohy

Clonoulty-Rossmore set aside the spectre of a possible relegation battle to claim a place in the county senior hurling quarter finals at the expense Mullinahone following an engaging preliminary quarter-final on Sunday.

The West lads propped up group four in the round-robin series and are scheduled for the relegation play-offs unless they win the Dan Breen Cup. They took a significant initial step towards safety with this win which was never comfortable though they made the running all the way.

A strong last quarter by Mullinahone reduced an eight point deficit to two going into injury time and Clonoulty were relieved to see Conor Hammersley point in the 63rd minute, with the long-whistle on the puck-out.

Clonoulty laid the groundwork for victory in the opening six minutes when they jumped into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead with smart scores from Hammersley (2), Cathal Bourke (2), Jack Ryan and Stephen Ferncombe. Everything they touched turned to gold and the prospect of a rout loomed.

Conor Hammersley’s goal in the 13th minute, when he reacted quickest to a rebound off the woodwork with Mullinahone goalie Eoin Kelly caught out of position, put them 1-8 to 0-4 clear but the South side, with Mikey O’Shea on song in attack scoring four points, kept in touch to reach the interval five points adrift, 1-14 to 0-12.

Clonoulty continued to set the pace in the third quarter extending their advantage with five points to Kickhams’ two but Mikey O’Shea’s goal for Mullinahone after 39 minutes threw down the gauntlet, closing the gap to 1-19 to 1-14. They followed up with a brace of Jack Shelly points and another from Eoin O’Dwyer to be just two adrift with ten minutes to play.

The momentum was with Mullinahone but Robert Doyle, who was outstanding for Clonoulty at full forward, steadied the ship with a point to which Jack Shelly replied.

Then Jack Ryan, coming more into the game after a quietish first half, pointed for Clonoulty with Shelly again countering. Next Cathal Bourke put Clonoulty three clear only for Shelly to again respond as the game moved into injury time.

Mullinahone pushed forward for a winning goal, but Clonoulty held firm and after Stephen Ferncombe spurned a point opportunity Conor Hammersley whipped over the last point of the game to ensure their involvement in the quarter-finals.

No question, Clonoulty-Rossmore deserved to win. They will ponder over how they let their eight point lead dwindle but the object of the day’s work was to qualify for the last eight and this was achieved – job done, with time now to reflect on how the overall performance can be improved.

Robert Doyle was their stand-out man profiting from the enforced withdrawal through injury of Paul Curran, to hit four points and to win another three frees which resulted in points. Ronan Heffernan got through a huge amount of work at midfield and John O’Keeffe, Cathal Bourke, Ciaran Quirke, Sean O’Connor, and Conor Hammersley were others to drive the West men on.

Mullinahone’s season is at an end, and they will wonder how things would have gone had Paul Curran not been injured so early in the game. Mikey O’Shea was the star of the show for them with Michael Dunne, Jack Shelley, Eoin Shelly, and Daire O’Brien all doing their bit to further their cause.

Former All-Star Eoin Kelly had a fine outing in goal (where he began his under-age career), stopping a piledriver from Clonoulty’s Jimmy Maher in the 50th minute as his side chased down their rivals.

Player of the Match: Robert Doyle (Clonoulty/Rossmore)

Clonoulty/Rossmore: Jason O’Dwyer (6); Tommy Ryan (6), Enda Heffernan (0-1, 7), Danny Slattery (6); Ciaran Quirke (6), John O’Keeffe (7), Sean O’Connor (6); Ronan Heffernan (7), Michael Ryan (0-2, 6); Stephen Quinn (0-2, 6), Conor Hammersley (1-3, 7), Jack Ryan (0-2, 6); Cathal Bourke (0-7, 4f, 7), Robert Doyle (0-4, 9), Stephen Ferncombe (0-2, 6).

Subs: Jimmy Maher (6) for M Ryan (47); Aaron Ryan for T Ryan (53), James Hammersley (NR) for Quinn (58).

CJ Kickhams, Mullinahone: Eoin Kelly (7); Danny Dunne (6), Paul Curran (6), Conor O’Brien (6); Eoin Fennelly (6), Sean Curran (0-1, 6), Eanna Ryan (6); Colin Shelly (0-1, 7), Daire O’Brien (7); Eoin O’Dwyer (0-1, 6), Michael Dunne (0-2, 6), Enda Keane (0-1, 6); Martin Keogh (0-1, 6), Jack Shelly (0-8, 4f, 7), Mikey O’Shea (1-4, 8).

Subs: Conor Whelan (0-1f, 6) for P Curran (19 inj); Alan Curran (6) for C O’Brien (46).

Referee: Kevin Jordan (Thurles Gaels).