Survival was the name of the game at Holycross on Sunday as Portroe and Mullinahone sought to preserve their Dan Breen Cup (Roinn I) status in the Tipperary Water County Senior Hurling Championship relegation play-off. And, at the end of a fine contest Portroe were the ones smiling; their three-point win ensured that they compete in the top flight in next year’s championship.
Tipperary Water County Senior Hurling
Championship Roinn Relegation Play-Off
Portroe 0-21 Mullinahone 0-18
This could have gone either way and both sides were at times wayward in their finishing, but a four0minute spell from the 53rd to the 57th minute, which yielded Portroe four points and helped them to go three clear, was decisive.
Despite a huge Mullinahone effort to redress the situation in a tense and exciting finish the North lads held their nerve with Mullinahone now dropping down to the Séamus Ó Riain Cup in 2019.
With a serious prize at stake both sides went about their business with determination and there was very little between them at any time. Eoin Kelly led the Mullinahone charge in the opening quarter - his freetaking (four) steering them toward a 0-7 to 0-2 lead after sixteen minutes.
Slower to settle, Portroe then found their feet and in John Sheedy they also had a fine marksman as they battled their way into contention - Sheedy landed four frees to leave them only one point adrift at the break (0-8 to 0-9).
Ruadhan Mulrooney, with three points from play during that period, was also a significant contributor to the Portroe cause.
THREE QUARTER STAGE
And, there was little change in the pattern after the break as they reached the three quarter stage tied at fifteen points each - the Kelly frees were still the main source of Mullinahone scores with Sheedy doing likewise for Portroe.
Enda Keane edged Mullinahone ahead in the 49th minute, but then came a flow of Portroe scores as Kevin O Halloran (two), John Sheedy and Aidan Willis sent Portroe three clear with three minutes to play; that brief purple patch eventually decided the tie. Now it was advantage Portroe with time on their side.
Mullinahone had former inter-county full-back Paul Curran now operating in attack as they sought a levelling goal. Eoin Kelly opted for a point off a 59th minute free which Mark Gennery cancelled a minute later. And, in injury time Colin Shelly pointed for Mullinahone, but Kevin O’Halloran negated that in the 63rd minute as Portroe stoutly defended their three-point advantage to the last.
Relief was probably the most immediate emotion in the Portroe camp. They have had a difficult year, but they came through in the finish and the challenge facing them now is to ensure they don’t find themselves in such a precarious position again. They surely have the talent to compete with the best and in this encounter the excellence of Robert Byrne, Kevin O’Halloran, Michael Breen, Ruadhan Mulrooney, Michael Creamer and Mark Gennery was crucial, but the tipping point in their favour was the free-taking of John Sheedy which carried the day for them.
Mullinahone now face into the Séamus Ó Riain Cup (Roinn II) competition next term and while they will fancy their chances of coming through that test successfully their big difficulty is that they rely too heavily on Eoin Kelly’s free-taking for their scores.
The absence of inter-county man Seán Curran was sorely felt and indeed might well have meant the difference between winning and losing, but Colin Shelley, Eoin Fennelly, Enda Keane, Luke Mullally, Jack Shelley and the Currans gave it everything.
Portroe: Darren Gleeson, Michael Breen, Colm Gleeson, Cormac Keating, Michael Creamer, Robert Byrne (0-1), Jimmy Creamer, Kevin O’Halloran (0-3), Paddy O’Flaherty, Ruadhan Mulrooney (0-3), Mark Gennery (0-2), James Ryan, John Sheedy (0-10, 0-8 frees), Aidan Willis (0-2), Anthony Bourke. Subs: (56th) Kyle Creamer for Bourke.
Mullinahone: Kevin Bolger, Eoin Fennelly, Paul Curran, Luke Mullally, Enda Keane (0-1), Niall Curran, Alan Curran, Jack Shelly, Colin Shelly (0-3), Graham Horan (0-1), AJ Cronin, Paul Kelly (0-1), Michael Dunne (0-1), Eoin Kelly (0-10, 0-10 frees), Alan Walshe (0-1). Subs: (47th) Kevin Walzer for Cronin.
Referee: Séamus Delaney (JK Bracken’s).