What has been a very disappointing senior hurling year for Mullinahone was extended further on Saturday evening in Templemore with a ten-points defeat suffered at the hands of Nenagh Éire Óg.
Tipperary Water County Senior Hurling Championship
Nenagh Éire Óg 2-22 Mullinahone 1-15
With both sides completing their three-game programme in what was effectively a dead rubber game, the result was a third successive win for the North Tipperary side and a third defeat in-a-row for the Kickhams.
Even beforehand the result of the game was of no consequence with Éire Óg safely through to a quarter-final spot regardless and Mullinahone doomed to a relegation battle even if they could win against Nenagh. And, in fairness, although they tried gallantly, that scenario was never really likely with the Northerners having that bit extra in reserve all through, one felt.
That said, with fifteen minutes to go the game was tied at 1-15 to 0-18 as Fintan O’Connor’s side desperately tried to upset all expectations. However, inside the last quarter Nenagh Éire Óg shifted up a gear and brushed aside a tiring South Tipp side when scoring 2-4 without reply during the final fifteen minutes.
Both goals came from corner-forward Adam Healy - both were similar in style; low to the corner of the net, the first from the left and then from the right hand sides.
The full-time scoreline may have flattered Nenagh a little, but there was no doubt they were the better team - slicker, pacier and with far more options in the bag if needed.
Already without the services of Sean Curran (cruciate), the CJ Kickhams had also to field without Paul Kelly (back injury) and the unavailable Alan Walsh and Kevin Walzer and they looked in big trouble early on when trailing 0-5 to 0-1 after ten minutes. Nenagh had some fine early scores from play from Michael Heffernan (two), Adam Healy and Jake Morris with Mullinahone’s sole reply a free from veteran Eoin Kelly.
The CJK settled themselves in the second quarter and with the aid of two long-range points from Michael Dunne they had it back to 0-6 to 0-5 by the 20th minute with Eoin Kelly (two) and Michael Heffernan converting frees for their respective sides.
Following a poor puck-out Tipp senior player Jake Morris scored his side’s first point from play in almost ten minutes to double Nenagh’s lead, However, Mullinahone forced parity at 0-8 each by the 25th minute following two excellent Enda Keane points and another from Jack Shelly from half-way in reply to yet another free from Éire Óg captain Michael Heffernan.
But Nenagh would finish the first half the stronger continuing to force the Mullinahone defence into conceding frees which Michael Heffernan punished with two more white flags. They complemented two good points from play, one from Tommy Heffernan, and their last of the first half by Jake Morris after an intelligent crossfield pass from Conor McCarthy. AJ Cronin in reply got one back for Mullinahone who went in at half-time trailing by 0-12 to 0-9.
It was pretty much tit-for-tat for the opening minutes after the resumption. Four points apiece inside the first seven minutes saw Nenagh still lead by 0-16 to 0-13. The Éire Óg points during this period came from Jake Morris, James Mackey, Hugh Maloney and Killian Gleeson. In reply the hard-working Colin Shelly (two) and Michael Dunne added points from play for Kickhams with Eoin Kelly scoring a free from sixty-five metres.
The game came alive in the 38th minute when a delivery from Eoin Kelly into Enda Keane was controlled at the second attempt and Keane gave Shane Hennessy no chance with a well-taken goal which tied matters for the second time.
And,during an exciting period of the game when it seemed we might yet have something to shout about the sides were level twice more with nice scores from James Mackey and a superb point from Luke Mullally adding to frees from Graham Horan and Michael Heffernan.
With fifteen minutes to go the match was all-square for the fourth time. But crucially Mullinahone had never once hit the front and they had their chances during this spell. And, they paid dearly for this profligacy ten minutes from time when a flowing movement from defence by Nenagh was delivered into corner-forward Adam Healy and with a ground stroke he beat stand-in 'keeper Kevin Bolger with a low effort to the far corner.
That knocked the wind out of Mullinahone and over the next ten minutes the fresher-looking Nenagh added four more points before the coup de grace was delivered. A long delivery by Daire Quinn was picked up by Adam Healy and he hit a low drive past Bolger.
Nenagh Éire Óg: Shane Hennessy, Mark Flannery, Adam Carey, John Brennan, Conor Ryan, Daire Quinn, Andrew Coffey, Killian Gleeson (0-1), Conor McCarthy, Hugh Maloney (0-1), Michael Heffernan (0-8, 0-6 frees), James Mackey (0-2), Tommy Heffernan (0-1), Jake Morris (0-7, 0-2 frees), Adam Healy (2-2). Subs: Pearse Morris for Maloney (38th), Niall Madden for Brennan (41st), Killian Malone for M Heffenan (51st).
Mullinahone: Kevin Bolger, Luke Mullally (0-1), Paul Curran, Chris Horan, Niall Curran, Eoin Fennelly, Jack Shelly (0-1), Colin Shelly (0-2), Alan Curran, Graham Horan (0-1 frees), AJ Cronin (0-1), Eoin Kelly (0-4 frees), Martin Kehoe, Michael Dunne (0-3), Enda Keane (1-2).
Referee: John McCormack (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams).