Impressive display againdt Rathnure in All-Ireland Club Semi-final
County champions Athenry faced a trip into the unknown when they met English Champions Glen Rovers of Watford in the All-Ireland Club quarter-final at Ballinasloe. It was, however, a case of bringing the lambs to the slaughter as Athenry dismissed a weak challenge by 2-14 to 0-4.
The All-Ireland semi-final against Wexford and Leinster champions Rathnure was another trip into the unknown again at Ballinasloe. On this occasion they faced far more experienced campaigners on the club championship trail. But the visitors met an Athenry side with a ravenous hunger for victory. The early intensity of their effort had a shell shocked effect on their opponents who never recoverd from that early blytz. Athenry without doubt reached a height of excellence which surpassed any of their performences in the county championship success. In the process they made a giant stride in disproving the theory that they were a one man team. ' It was next to impossible to find fault with the Athenry performence which was always efficent and frequently spectacular' wrote Francis Farragher in the Connacht Tribune.
Rathnure despite bringing a big reputation with them into the match never showed the hallmarks of a side capable of reaching the Final. The spirit of the Athenry side was encapsulated in the performence of full-back Billy Caulfield who reigned supreme on the edge of the square. There was also much to admire in the sweet striking of Pascal Healy and Gerry Keane while in the right corner Anthony Jennings put the shackles on Rathnure dangerman Mark Morrissey.
Pascal Healy turned in a powerful display when moved to midfield and used his physique to dominate the area and into the bargain hammered home an opportunist goal which put his side on the road victory. He got great support from John Hardiman while up front Declan Higgins and Seamus Kearns enjoyed a particularly fruitful outing. Overall it was a performence of the highest standard from Athenry and regardless of past and future display's this will live long in the memory of over 3000 apprectitive supporters who were present. The final score read Athenry.............Rathnure
Team: Mattie Gannon, Anthony Jennings, Billy Caulfield, Dermot Monaghan, Pascal Healy, Michael Cahill, Gerry Keane, Paul Hardiman, John Hardiman, Gerry Dempsey, Sean Keane, P.J. Molloy, Seamus Kearns, Pat Higgins, Declan Higgins. Subs: Mixie Donohue and Joe Rabbitte.
Munster Champions Middleton prove too strong Club Final
Middleton, after several dissappointments overcame Athenry in a splendid All-Ireland Club Hurling Final at Croke Park on St. Patrick's Day. Having performed honourably against such excaltd company an eight point margin of defeat hardly reflected their contribution. The Galway champions gave as good as they got for long periods but were unable to cope with the physical precence of a Mideleton side whose trump card was their full forward line and Kevin Hennessy in particular.
In a clever tactical move he was given a roving commission with Colm O'Neill and this gave the Cork star the space to strike for goals in 12th and 14th minutes from which Athenry never recovered. His marker Dermot Monaghan could not be faulted for either goals, indeed, his defensive display for the entire game made him Athenry's man-of-the-match.
Despite the goals Athenry began to reassert themselves thanks to the hard grafting of Pat Higgins around midfield and P.J. Molloy's accuracy up front. He sent over five of his side's six first half points as Mideleton led at the break by 2-5 to 0-6.
Athenry restarted in determined fashion and hardworking midfielder John Hardiman first timed a groung shot over the bar for one of the best scores of the game. After Pat Higgins added another it was still anybody's game but two godd saves by keeper Ger Power from Pat Higgins and Mixie Donohue were opportunities that Athenry could not afford to miss.
The failure to deliver quality ball to their forwards was proving costly for Athenry but they were still in the game by the 48th minute and trailed by only four points 2-6 to 0-8. Around that time P.J. Molloy had two 21 yard frees saved by the outstanding Power and that seemed to knock the heart out of the Galway side.
In the Connacht Tribune John McIntyre wrote "Athenry went down with pride intact and had they showed more punch and variation in attack they might well have secured victory. However, losing to Mideleton does not seriously detract from what has been a great year for the Club and they can be imensely proud of their achievements". Three players stood out according to McIntyre, they were P.J. Molloy, Dermot Monaghan and Pat Higgins and they were the Athenry stars. Others who had their moments were Mattie Gannon, Pascal Healy, Michael Cahill, Paul Hardiman, Seamus Kearns and young Gerry Keane who outplayed the great John Fenton with a powerful display. The final score was 3-8 to 0-9 in favour of the Munster Champions.
Team: Mattie Gannon, Dermot Monaghan, Billy Caulfield, Anthony Jennings, Pascal Healy, Michael Cahill, Gerry Keane, John Hardiman, Paul Hardiman, Gerry Dempsey, Sean Keane, P.J. Molloy, Seamus kearns, Pat Higgins, Declan Higgins. Subs: Mixie Donohue, Joe Rabbitte and Brian Feeney.
Pascal Healy played at midfield on the Galway team that defeated Wexford in the Oireachtais Final by 4-15 to 3-11 at Enniscorthy.
Senior Team fail to claim second County Hurling Title in Replay
Drawn in a group that included championship specialists Catlegar and Kiltormer county champions Athenry would need to call on all their resources to reach the play-off stages.
In their first appearence in the senior grade since 1972, Tynagh put up a spirited first half performence against Athenry at Loughrea. At the interval the county Champions led by a single point 0-7 to 0-6. But on the resumption they switched to overdrive and powered their way through the ranks of an outclassed opposition. The game was over long before the final whistle and at the end the score read Athenry 2-18 Tynagh 0-7.
A victory by 2-12 to 1-11 for an impressive Kiltormer side over Athenry at Loughrea left the champions with a 'do or die' battle with Castlegar to preserve their interest in the county championship. They could have no complaints about their long unbeaten run in domestic championship hurling being ended as their attack was well held in check throughout the hour while they also lost the midfield battle as well. In truth Athenry were more than a bit flattered to be beaten by only four points, at one stage in the second hald the score read 2-11 to 0-8 in favour of Kiltormer.
In their next game against St. Thomas's they again failed to regain their winning cohesion of the previous year and had to battle hard for the points. Anthony Cunningham scored an early goal for the southern side who were well prepaired to put it up to Athenry in the opening half leading at the break by 1-4 to 0-5.
They went further ahead with another Cunningham point before Pascal Healy and P.J. Molloy got Athenry going with well taken point and a victory by 0-14 to 1-8.
It was now crunch time for Athenry in the final round against Castlegar to decide which team made it to the quarter-finals. Neither team had had been really impressive in the championship so far and both had lost to Kiltormer.
Excellant displays by Pascal Healy and Pat Higgins disposed of the notion that Athenry were a tired team after twelve months of activity. Having overcome some early difficulties the Athenry display was competent if not spectacular but still enchanced the view that they might still retain their crown.
Played before a crowd of over 3,000 at Kenny Park the game developed into a onesided affair with Castlegar's lack of scoring power even more pronounced than in previous outings. A goal by Gerry Dempsey in the 25th minute was significent in that it opened a gap between the sides and gave Athenry a 1-6 to 0-3 lead at halftime.
Overall it was a fine team performence by Athenry with all fifteen contributing to a well deserved victory. When the final whistle sounded Athenry were a comfortable 1-14 to 1-7 ahead.
Facing a buoyant Kiltormer for the second time in the quarter-final was not an ideal way of completing the county championship. The decision of the Hurling Board to adopt an open draw among the eight remaining teams was the subject of considerable debate. The Connacht Tribune described the draw a joke and John McIntyre wrote " I am aware of no other county-or competition for that matter- where teams qualifying from a certain group can meet in the very next round. I just wonder when the clubs themselves are going to cry stop".
Those who had been writing off Athenry's chances of retaining their title when paired against Kiltormer were in for a shock. What could best be described as a splendid team performence enabled Athenry to repeat the prvious years' success at the same stage of the championship.
In a game that was often exciting and always intensely competitive goals were to prove invaluable to Athenry. One in the first half by young Joe Rabbitte and the other by the inestimable P.J. Molloy. Level at 1-4 to 0-7 the vetern Athenryman hit an impressive 1-5 in the second half. He fully occupied the attentions of county star Ollie Kilkenny who was moved from centre-back to try to curb him.
After the indifferent, almost letargic, form displayed earlier in the year Athenry appeared to be hitting peak form at the right time. Their younger players were showing great fighting qualities and an abundence of skill. Much of the credit for this wonderful victory went to a magnificent defence whose overall mobility was a huge asset. Their dominance was best reflected by the fact that the losers failed to score from play in the second half. P.J. Molloy made another immence contribution to Athenry's deserved win. Though not scaling the same considerable heights displayed in 1987 the back-up from his teamates was certainly more noteworthy this time around. It ended Athenry 2-9 to Kiltormer's 0-12.
Team: Mattie Gannon, Dermot Monaghan, Billy Caulfield, Anthony Jennings, Paul Hardiman, Michael Cahill, Gerry Keane, John Hardiman, Pascal Healy, John Kelly, Declan Higgins, Pat Higgins, Gerry Dempsey, Joe Rabbitte, P.J. Molloy.
The county championship took a sensational twist when Sarsfields objected to Turloughmore following their quarter-final defeat. On the grounds that Frank Burke had played senior championship hurling in London earlier in the year. But Sarsfields were in for a surprise when Turloughmore counter-objected claiming that one of their players Michael Cooney had also played in London in the same competition. The east Galway side had no option but to withdraw their objection.
A week later than originally planned, Athenry put their county title on the line against great rivals Turloughmore at Pearse Stadium. In a report of the game in the Connacht Tribune John McIntyre wrote "Great is an often abused adjective in sports reporting but, on this occasion, the description scarcely does justice to the magnificent hours' entertainment by the teams. In truth, they don't come much better than this and, while the heavy pitch often hampered the quality of hurling, for drama and intensity alone I cannot recollect a superior match at club level in Galway".
Athenry remained on course to retain their title, but, typical of the way they had played all season left it until the final minute to snatch victory. Pat Higgins grabbed a dramatic match-winning goal in the 29th minute and added a point from the puck out to give his side victory by 1-13 to 1-11.
No quarter was given or asked in this gripping encounter of highly swaying fortunes which neither side deserved to loose.
Throughout the field Athenry had outstanding performences from several players. Struggling to stay with Turloughmore in the opening half they finished the half stronger to leave the minimum between the sides at the break. Aided by the influencial elements Athenry took a stanglehold of the game between the 6th and 17th minute of the second half scoring a total of five unanswered points. Two of the points, the first a magnificent effort, came from Billy Caulfield who had earlier switched positions with Michael Cahill. A brilliant goal by county star Martin Naughton put Turloughmore back in the driving seat before a hectic finish and scoring feat by Pat Higgins. It was undoubtly the best club match of the year in Galway with several indivuals gracing the occasion with top class performences. None more so than Billy Caulfield whose display did most to swing the game in his teams favour especially in the second half.
The balance of power in Galway club hurling had undergone a quite dramatic transition when the hurlers of Athenry and Abbeyknockmoy qualified to contest the 1988 county final. For years the destination of the county title rested between four or five teams, now, new pretenders were emerging almost every year. Inspired by Michael Coleman his side caused a major upset by beating Gort in their semi-final by five points to four in a dour game.
After an intence county final, an endurance test of the most gripping variety, in poor conditions at Duggan Park the game ended level at 2-8 each. Abbeyknockmoy looked set to win until, in the final minute, Gerry Keane landed a majestic point from inside his own half to force a replay.
The dreadful conditions took a heavy on the quality of hurling but the intensity of the exchanges and tremendous excitement compensated to a large degree. The poor officiating of match referee Andy Murphy deputising for John J Corcoran who had to withdraw due to a family berevement did Athenry no favours. The Connacht Tribune wrote 'The Clarinbridgeman made several quite baffling decisions over the hour and was particularly hard on Declan Higgins for overcarrying on more than one occasion'.
Considered to have blown it the first day Abbeyknockmoy confounded their critics with a display of fortutude and courage to end Athenry's reign as champions. Regarded as the biggest upheavel in Galway club hurling in modern times the Michael Coleman inspired side won their first title on a scoreline of 2-6 to 0-11.
Once more, both sides produced a fitting conclusion to the county championship in a game rich in entertainment. Even if the quality of hurling was sometimes mediocre in standard the drama and excitement was in plentyful supply. As in the drawn game there was little between the sides throughout the game. Athenry's early dominance should have yielded more scores and unsettled their opponents but Abbeyknockmoy began to trade on more equal terms as the first half progressed. A scrambled goal by Pat Blade in the 23rd minute steadied his side who ended the half only 0-7 to 1-3 adrift.
Three minutes into the second half Michael Coleman rattled the Athenry net with a well taken penalty. Gradually Athenry recovered with points Pascal Healy, Declan Higgins and P. J. Molloy which put them back in the driving seat. With Paul Hardiman outstanding in the halfback line it seemed that Athenry had finally got the measure of their opponents. But Joe Cooley put his side back in front before P.J. Molloy levelled with a point five minutes from the end. Centreback Michael Coleman was the games outstanding player and it was his long distance retaken free three minutes from the end that decided the destiny of the county cup. Gerry Keane was inches away from forcing the game into extra time with almost the last puck.
Athenry's initial reaction was of course dissappointment at having lost knowing from the previous year what winning the title for the first time meant to the people of the Parish. In a way seeing another new name on the county cup for the third year in a row took some of the sting out of the defeat.
Team: Mattie Gannon, Anthony Jennings, Michael Cahill, Dermot Monaghan, Gerry Keane, Billy Caulfield, Paul Hardiman, Pascal Healy, John Kelly, Brian Feeney, Declan Higgins, Joe Rabbitte, Gerry Dempsey, Pat Higgins, P.J. Molloy. Sub: Seamus Kearns.
Leading by four points with one minute remaining, Athenry the outsiders against a powerful Turloughmore side, were denied victory by a late Turloughmore rally that earned them a draw in a tremendously exciting under 14 hurling final at Kenny Park. Giving an exhibition of ground hurling the Athenry side looked set to cause a big upset with centre back Donal Moran in outstanding form.
In the replay, lucky to have snached a draw three days earlier, Turloughmore made the utmost of their second chance before another huge crowd again at Kenny Park. Aided by a strong wind in the first half they were 1-2 to 0-1 ahead at the break. Athenry went all out after the restart to reduce the deficit but were unable to get through for vital scores. Goals by Diamaid |Moore and David Shaughnessy sealed victory for Turloughmore by 3-3 to 0-3.
Team: Michael Crimmins, L Connell, Alan Clarke, P Higgins, D Lyons, Donal Moran, H Nolan, Eddie Treacy, Damian Hardiman, Gerry Flannery, Stephen Rynne, Dara Burke, Brian Higgins, Ian Connolly, Brian Hanley.
P. J. Molloy suprisingly declined an invitation to rejoin the Galway senior hurling panel for the All-Ireland championship. They defeated London at Ballinasloe by 4-30 to 2-8 and Offaly in the All-Ireland semi-final by 3-18 to 3-11 to reach their second succesive Final. It was joy all the way for Conor Hayes and his team as they went on to defeat Tipperary by 1-15 to 0-14 in a hard fought and tense game.
Dermot Monaghan was a member of the Galway panel.
The standard of the Galway minor hurling teams' performence continued to be a cause of concern when losing to Kilkenny by 3-15 to 1-6. Four Athenry players Brian Feeney, Brendan Keogh, Paul Hardiman and Joe Rabbitte played against a Kilkenny side that included D.J. Carey.
Galway under21 hurlers suffered another defeat a the hands of Kilkenny when series of unessary changes by the Galway mentors ten minutes into the second half went wrong. Up to that point the Galway side were well in the game but at the end lost by 0-19 to 2-9 with John Hardiman coming into the side.
It was decided to accept an Athenry motion at the County Convention that would prevent teams from the same group playing each other in the quarter-finals.
Athenry minor team, after a close first half, defeated Caslegar in the county semi-final by 2-18 to 4-2 to reach their fourth minor final in five years. They bridged a twentynine year gap by becoming only the second side ever to win three successive county minor titles. At Duggan Park there could be no doubting their superiority over Sarsfields where they recorded a comfortable 0-14 to 1-5 victory.
With three senior medal winners from the pevious year Paul Hardiman, Brian Feeney and Joe Rabbitte using all their experience and strength Athenry were in control throughout. Fourteen minutes from the end they led by 0-13 to 0-4 and with Brendan Morrissey, Gerry Treacy, Paddy Kelly and Neil Clarke in top form there was no way back for the east Galway side.
Team: Patrick Hession, Paddy Kelly, Brendan Keogh, John Feeney, Gerry Treacy, Paul Hardiman, Brian Hardiman, Brendan Morrissey, Brian Feeney, Cathal Moran, Joe Rabbitte, Terence Gannon, Finbar Sherdian, Richard Caulfield, Neil Clarke Subs: Francis Flannery, Pat Hoyne, David Crimmins.
Under 21 Team get past Castlegar to win County Title
With a hint of snow on the cutting edge of a chilling wind which brought sub zero temperatures to St. Brendan's Park Loughrea spectators at the county under 21 semi-final needed a good game to warm the cockles of their hearts. It was not to be as Athenry eased their way into the county final with a 2-10 to 0-1 victory over Sarsfields. With half a dozen of their side having played senior Athenry took control from the start and but for poor finishing would have been out of sight before Sarsfields recorderd a score.
In a winning grove they showed no signs of slipping out of it at Pearse Stadium in the county final against rivals Castlegar. With style purpose and resulation they won their second title in a row by 0-12 to 1-4.
As usual Castlegar tore into the game with venom and vigor which would have unsettled most teams but not this Athenry side that were well up for the game. Playing into a strong wind in the opening half they still led by 0-4 to 0-2 at halftime.
Joe Rabbitte showed little sign of an injury in the second half that kept him out of the starting fifteen as he plundered mercilessly through the Cashel defence. He sent over the best score of the game before Gerry Keane stretched the Athenry lead to five points. Castlgar struck back with a well taken goal but Brian Feeney, Martin Fitzpatrick and Gerry Keane added further points that gave Athenry victory.
Brendan and Eamonn Keogh made many telling clearences in front of a confident Patrick Hession. Paul Hardiman was solidness personified at centre-back while the most productive work at midfield came from Gerry Keane. Up front Brian Feeney led the attack with vision getting best support from Martin Fitzpatrick, Declan Higgins and Joe Rabbitte.
Team: Patrick Hession, Brendan Keogh, Eamonn Keogh, Barry Kearns, Tommy Morrissey, Paul Hardiman, Eddie Fox, John Hardiman, Gerry Keane, Kevin Coyne, Brian Feeney, Brendan Morrissey, Martin Fitzpatrick, Declan Higgins, Cormac Cullinane Subs: Joe Rabbitte and Neil Clarke.