Individual brilliance can sometimes see off a team but not last Saturday in Ballinamore as Gary Hickeys man of the match display was not enough to stop a below-par St. Marys from claiming their tenth Leitrim Senior Hurling Championship title in a row.
LEITRIM SENIOR HURLING CHAMPIONHSIP FINAL
ST MARYS 2-9
Normally when one speaks of free-taking excellence in Leitrim hurling, it is Clement Cunniffe who takes the plaudits but the St. Marys man was over-shadowed by his Manorhamilton counter-part who landed nine points on the day, eight from places balls.
But in some ways, Manorhamiltons dependence on Hickey summed up their problems as a far from fully firing St. Marys still had too much strength around the field to be denied an incredible tenth Senior hurling title in a row.
Padraig McWeeney is a case in point – St. Marys normally rely on Cunniffe, Breian Carroll or James Glancy for inspirational scores but when Manor threatened with ten minutes to go, it was the unheralded McWeeney who produced two classic scores to close the game out.
It was those type of touches that killed a Manorhamilton team who made life uncomfortable for St. Marys in the difficult conditions.
The conditions nÓgated against skilful play and sweeping movements, the game becoming a tough battle where Manorhamiltons spirit and constant harrying of the Marys men meant that the champions never got moving.
But even under pressure, their class shone through in the little things – blocks and hooks, the ability to get the ball up on the stick and Marys refusal to give up goal chances meant Manor were fighting an uphill battle.
In fact, it was an uphill battle from the start as Manorhamilton fielded without the Poniard brothers, who were absent on holidays. It certainly made a difference to their challenge, although in some ways, it helped them.
Gary Hickey was definitely more involved in the play at midfield as his none-stop running and skill on the ball meant that Manor had a dominating presence in the middle of the field.
The move of Martin Reilly to full-back also tied up the free-Scóring St. Marys attack. In fact, few of Marys big-guns really got going – Breian Carroll found the going tough against Stephen Feeney while Clement Cunniffe had an uncharacteristic off-day from frees.
But what St. Marys had was a strong all-round platform and with James Glancy, James Keane, David Tiernan, Vincent McDermott & Padraig McWeeney all working their socks off, Marys still looked the more accomplished team.
Indeed, there seemed a sense of inevitability once Fergal Carroll goaled after six minutes as Manor chased and chased but lacked the forward penetration to really cause problems for the champions.
This full report is available thanks to John Connolly and Leitrim Observer
– its available in this weeks and online here
30-Oct-08 by John Connolly – LeitrimObserver.ie