Naomh Eanna’s Cian O’Tuama tries to block Adam Screeney of Kilcormac-Killoughey. [Inpho/James Crombie]

Easy for Offaly champions KK against rusty Naomh Eanna

Kilcormac-Killoughey 2-22; Naomh Eanna 0-14

Offaly champions Kilcormac-Killoughey advanced on double score from Wexford Park for a battle of heavyweights against Kilkenny kingpins O’Loughlin Gaels in the Leinster semi-final on Saturday week  with the winner of that duel favorites to lift the provincial crown.

Before going so far down the line though, let’s spare a thought for Wexford champions Naomh Eanna, who tried their hardest to make this game competitive but were suffering under the handicap of having completed their county final back on August 20 - some 84 days or 12 weeks before they trotted out against a KK side who won their title in Birr on October 15, 27 days or less than four weeks ago.

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That is one of the problems now facing dual counties who are trying to balance the demands of club hurling and football as one of the effects under the newly truncated intercounty season.

 If one code is played to a conclusion early in a county, it means the champions have no meaningful game for months before trying to get up to speed for a provincial series. This has led to a number of clubs in similar positions giving walkovers to other counties where the championships are played closer to the time of embarking on the provincial games.

So what was seen as a major reward for a club achieving the pinnacle within their county - a crack at other county champions in their province - is now a serious drawback.

Just talk to any of the Wexford club’s mentors this week or indeed for many weeks previous and they will tell you it is nigh on impossible to keep a squad ticking over so long with a series of challenge games.

When KK shot over four points without reply in the opening ten minutes of this game in Wexford Park on Sunday, it looked like this game would be a rout because of the delay facing Naomh Éanna.

However, to their eternal credit, the Wexford boys showed amazing grit to fight back and by sheer doggedness they fought their way back not only to parity but to lead by two points 0-11 to 0-9 at the interval. Yes, they had the wind at their back in that moiety, but still the leaders got a great reception as they went in for the interval break.

They got a break of another kind shortly after the restart when KK ultimately killed the game off with two goals inside 60 seconds. Firstly a long delivery into the home goalmouth was feinted touched by James Gorman  to enter the net. From the puckout the visitors  gained possession and fed the ball into  the force of hurling nature that Adam Screeney is. He placed the ball elegantly beyond the despairing dive of goalkeeper Jack Cushe to end the game as a contest with still over 23 left on the clock. 

Both goalscorers had pointed in the opening minutes of the second half to level matters and once the Offaly side had established that six point cusion, they succeeded in widening the margin to the point where they ended winners on double score margins - 28 points to 14.

Shane Hand’s  side have been the class act in the Faithful County for some time and this year made up for last year’s surprise county final defeat by Shinrone by hammering the same opponents out the gate in Birr on a scoreline of 3-26 to 3-8 .

Kilcormac-Killoughey: C Slevin; B Kavanagh, O Mahon, T Spain; J Quinn, C Kiely (0-3, 0- 2f), E Grogan (0-1); C Spain (0-2), D Kilmartin; L Kavanagh, C Mahon (0-1), J Screeney (0-1); C Mitchell (0-2), J Gorman (1-3), A Screeney (1-7, 0-5f) Subs: T Geraghty (0-1) for . Mahon (51), T Guinan for  Kavanagh (55), L Kavanagh (0-01) for Gorman (55), J Mahon for  Kavanagh (59), G Healion for Mitchell (60+2).

Naomh Eanna: J Cushe; C Molloy, T Stafford, C Ó Tuama; C McGuckin (0-1), C Stokes, B Travers; S Doyle, A Doyle (0-1); C Browne, Cl Dunbar (0-3), J Doran (0-2); P Doyle (0-2f), C McDonald (0-1), J Cullen (0-4, 0-2 ‘65, 0-2f) Subs: R Fitzpatrick for Stafford (49), S Whelan for Browne (52), E Conroy for Travers (59), D Canavan for McDonald (60+3)

Ref: Seán Cleere (Kilkenny).

Watty Graham's, Glen (Derry) 0-11; 

Erin's Own, Cargin (Antrim) 0-7

As Ulster club games go, this was more a workout than a true test for holders Glen  who advanced to the semi-final without having to dig deep at Celtic Park on Sunday.

Cargin were in part architects of their own downfall as they were fighting an uphill battle from the moment in the 27th-minute Tomás McCann was sent off for a dangerously high tackle, followed fairly quickly by the loss of  Sean O'Neill to a black card in stoppage time.

It was a game where no less than 10 yellow cards were branded in a feisty clash between two sides who also met last year with the Derry side winning by five points in that encounter.

Glen are being driven by last year’s heart-breaking All Ireland final defeat by Kilmacud Crokes and are fully intent on going one better this time around. However, their radar needs refixing as against better opposition kicking nine wides, some from easy positions, will prove fatal to their ambitions.

Indeed, it was Cargin who the bottle in their approach which was never-say-die but they lacked that little extra something which could have got them nearer their opponents, who despite having the extra man, found it tough going in most phases of the game.

They hit five wides in the first half as a brace each from Jack Doherty and Danny Tallon (frees) and one from Emmet Bradley was all they had to show for their efforts.

All the Antrim men had to show for their endeavors was Pat Shivers free and a sole point from play, ironically made by goalkeeper John McNabb after he had linked up with his midfield colleagues to send Paul McCann in half way through the moiety.

Behind by 0-5 to 0-3, with Shivers getting the other score, Cargin faced the second half knowing they needed early scores. Instead it was Glen who raised a white flag on the counter when Ciaran McFaul finished off a swift move up the pitch and they could have had a goal immediately afterwards if sub Alex Doherty’s first touch had found the net instead of rebounding off a post.

Emmett Bradley and Shivers  swapped scores from placed balls but then Michael McCann lofted a fine score to reduce the deficit and give the travelling supporters hopes of a real shock.

This vista appeared to wake up the champions who shook themselves down and another brace of Bradley frees followed a hard-earned point from Michael Warnock to put real daylight between the sides once more.

Young Player of the Year  Ethan Doherty  made sure for his side by kicking the insurance point to give Glen another chance to improve their credentials as genuine provincial and All-Ireland favorites.

Glen: C Bradley; M Warnock (0-1), R Dougan, C Carville; E Mulholland, C McFaul (0-1), C Mulholland; C Glass, E Bradley (0-4f); E Doherty (0-1), J Doherty (0-2), C Convery; D McDermott, D Tallon (0-2f), C McGuckian Subs: A Doherty for Convery (36), T Flanagan for Mulholland (49), S O'Hara for  Tallon (57), T Higgins for  Doherty (60+5)

Cargin: J McNabb; J Crizier, K McShane, K O'Boyle; J Laverty, P McCann (0-1), S O'Neill; J Carron, G McCann; M Kelly, T McCann, R Gribbin; P Shivers (0-3f), M McCann (0-2f), C Johnston Subs: D Johnston for  Kelly (44), B Kelly for G McCann (44), K Close (0-01) for Shivers (53), P McLaughlin for  Crozier (53), C Donnelly for P McCann (60+1)

Ref: Cr Doureen (Cavan).

Trillick 0-9 Crossmaglen 0-4

As sporting rivalries go, they don’t come much more heavyweight than Tyrone and Armagh and on paper this Ulster club match looked to have all the ingredients of a humdinger when both sides trotted out at Healy Park on Saturday afternoon.

Trillick had home advantage but were facing real national club royalty when welcoming Cross across their county borders as the once all-conquering Armagh boys brought a big support to boost their hopes of advancing.

And for the first 25 minutes, they seemed on target to complete that mission as they led by 0-4 to 0-2 and looked confident that they could go on and finish the job.

Instead, almost inexplicably, they collapsed from then on like a deck of cards and failed to register a score for the remainder of the half and the entire second half as well. When did you ever see a team for Cross underwhelm at such a rate?

Trillick already had shown us their credentials during their march out of the Red Hand county and now faced with an indifferent opening period, they found their feet and began to impose their style and stamina on proceedings.

From the moment they decided that the Cross challenge was more a hologram of old glory rather than actual present day ability, they drove on, scoring some fine points in the process and leaving their opponents so frustrated that  their captain Jamie Clarke was sent off five minutes shy of the hour mark.

The winners were a different outfit with a different outlook on the changeover as Ciaran Daly kickstarted their dominance with a superb white flag. Once the doors were opened, soon Lee Brennan followed suit with free, and then James Garrity put them ahead for the first time in the game. By the end of the third quarter, the home side were three points to the good and there was only one way the game was going once Lee Brennan scored the point of the day by classically finishing his own jinking run with a raised flag. Fittingly Ritchie Donnelly, who had been a colossus all through this year’s championship in the county, was again to the fore as he pushed the lead out to five points after moving up into attack to snatch his second score of the day.

Trillick: J Maguire; S O’Donnell, P McCaughey, D Tunney; S O’Donnell, R Brennan, D Gallagher; R Donnelly (0-2), L Gray; C Daly (0-1), N Donnelly, R Gray (0-2); D Donnelly, L Brennan (0-2, 0-1f), James Garrity (0-2) Subs: C Garrity for N Donnelly (46), D Kelly for Tunney (50), D McQuaid for S O’Donnell (55).

Crossmaglen: M Murray; O McKeown, R Kelly, T Og Duffy; A Kernan, C Cumiskey, C Crowley; S Morris, O O’Neill; A O’Neill, P Hughes, O Kieran; J Clarke (0-2), R O’Neill (0-2f), C McConville Subs: R Fitzpatrick for Hughes (h-t), O Caragher for Kelly (36), D Cumiskey for A O’Neill (45), C O’Connor for Kieran (50), P Blessing for Crowley (57)

Ref: B Cassidy (Derry).

O'Loughlin Gaels 2-16 Mount Leinster Rangers 0-13

Barring a fall, O'Loughlin Gaels were always going to win this Leinster encounter with their Carlow neighbors but credit to Mount Leinster Rangers for staying in the contest long enough to give their Kilkenny opponents some trying moments.

Ultimately it was a pair of goals from Own Wall and sub Luke Hogan plus the accuracy of Mark Bergin from placed balls which saw their opponents lose out by nine points.

It was the minnows who needed a goal to settle them but as often happens it was the stronger team which got that fillip thanks to Wall’s fifth minute strike to ease his side into a 1-3 to 0-1 lead.

By half-time the Kilkenny representatives were nine points to the good but those expecting a turkey shoot in the second half got a shock as the Carlow boys fought back to cut the lead to four points in the third quarter.

That was as near as they came though and with the dismissal of Diarmuid Byrne  on 53rd minutes, their last hopes extinguished. Up to then they had defied the fact that they won their county title back on August 13 and somehow had kept themselves fresh for this battle.

A giant question mark hung over the Carlow representatives and how they would fare following three months without a competitive game as their county final win over St Mullins was way back on 13 August.

They were fit and sharp and may look back on a failure to convert good opportunities into scores when their rivals were doing precisely that as the game progressed.

Mount Leinster Rangers were nothing if not game to give it a lash on the changeover and with brothers Chris and Jon Nolan delivering a series of fine scores, they had pegged the game back to 1-13 to 0-12.

Byrne’s harsh sending off came just at this time and when Hogan burst through to bulge the net from minutes shy of the hour, the goal punctured any hopes of a further revival by the underdogs.

O'Loughlin Gaels: S Murphy; M Butler (0-1), H Lawlor, A Forrestal; D Fogarty, P Deegan, J Molloy; J Nolan (0-3), C Loy (0-1); C Heary (0-2), M Bergin (0-8, 0-4f, 0-1 65), E O'Shea; O Wall (1-0), P Butler (0-1), S Bolger Subs: L Hogan (1-0) for O'Shea 38, J Ryan for Loy 45-f/t blood, C Kelly for P Butler 51, K Murphy for J Nolan 58.

Mount Leinster Rangers: D Grennan; S Joyce, J Murphy, M Doyle; T Lawlor, K McDonald, R Coady; F Fitzpatrick, E Kealy; T Joyce, D Murphy, J Nolan (0-3); C Kavanagh, E Byrne, C Nolan (0-9, 0-6f, 0-1 65) Subs: P Coady for Joyce h/t, D Byrne for Lawlor 41, D Tobin (0-1) for Byrne 51, T Brennan for Kavanagh 57, M Malone for Kealy 61.

Ref: E Furlong (Wexford).

Na Fianna 1-24 Raharney 0-19

Na Fianna star Brian Ryan finally put this game to bed  in the 59th minute of a keenly contested tie in Cusack Park against local favorites Raharney on Sunday.

Well supported from the off, the first time Dublin champions were always ahead but uncomfortably so until that final act gave the team and fans breathing space as they advanced to the Leinster SH club semi-finals.


 Ulster SF Club Quarter-Finals

Watty Graham's, Glen (Derry) 0-11; Erin's Own, Cargin (Antrim) 0-7

Scotstown (Monaghan) 0-12; Kilcoo (Down) 1-8

Naomh Conaill (Donegal)  2-8, Gowna (Cavan) 1-10

Connacht SF Club Quarter-Finals

Ballina Stephenites (Mayo) 3-11 Fulham Irish (London)  0-5

St Brigid’s (Roscommon) 0-13; Coolera-Strandhill (Sligo) 1-3

Leinster SH Club Quarter-Finals

Naas (Kildare) 2-17; Camross (Laois) 1-17

Na Fianna (Dublin) 1-24 Raharney (Westmeath) 0-19

Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) 2-22; Naomh Eanna (Wexford) 0-14

O'Loughlin Gaels (Kilkenny)  2-16 Mount Leinster Rangers (Carlow) 0-13

Munster SF Club Quarter-Finals

Clonmel Commercials (Tipperary)  2-7 Newcastle West (Limerick) 0-6

Castlehaven (Cork) 1-12 Cratloe (Clare) 0-11 – AET